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Henry Blair

Henry Blair was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, in 1807. Blair was an African American farmer who patented two devices designed to help boost agricultural productivity. In so doing, he became the second African American to receive a United States patent.

He received his first patent — for a corn planter — on October 14, 1834. The planter resembled a wheelbarrow, with a compartment to hold the seed and rakes dragging behind to cover them. This device enabled farmers to plant their crops more efficiently and enable a greater total yield. Blair signed the patent with an “X,” indicating that he was illiterate.

Blair obtained his second patent, for a cotton planter, on August 31, 1836. This invention functioned by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades pulled by a horse or other draft animal. A wheel-driven cylinder behind the blades deposited seed into the freshly plowed ground. One of the benefits of the machine was that it quickly and evenly distributed seeds while removing weeds.

Henry Blair's seed planter
 Library of Congress
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