Richard Bowie Spikes an African-American inventor

Richard Bowie Spikes an African-American inventor

Richard Bowie Spikes an African-American inventor

Born 1884, from San Francisco, California. There is a general consensus that not much is known about Spikes’ personal life and childhood, which is strange since his inventions have had such fundamental impact on everyone’s lives.

Staring off, for all you party animals out there, you’ll be happy to know that the man behind your house party inebriation belongs to Spikes. In 1910, he patented a little device called the beer keg tap. It was later purchased and implemented by the Milwaukee Brewing Company.

In 1913, Spikes patented a version of the automobile directional signal, a piece of technology he is most famous for. Though he was second to invent it, it was his work that Pierce Arrow automobiles used in their car models, which soon became the industry standard.

In his later years, Spikes continued to innovate for the car industry with a number of innovations, including the automatic safety brake in 1962. While starting the project, he had already begun to lose his sight. So, not to let this handicap slow him down, Spikes invented a drafting machine for blind designer so could complete the project. The safety brake would soon be used nationwide in all school buses. This was his final legacy, as he died that year.

We’re not done yet however; Spikes has a long list of other very notable inventions worth mentioning:

  • railroad semaphore (1906)
  • automatic car washer (1913)
  • self-locking rack for billiard cues (1910)
  • continuous contact trolley pole (1919) – used on on the famous San Francisco Key Line.
  • combination milk bottle opener and cover (1926)
  • method and apparatus for obtaining average samples and temperature of tank liquids (1931)
  • improved automatic gear shift (1932) – licensed the patent for $100,000
  • transmission and shifting thereof (1933)
  • automatic shoe shine chair (1939)
  • multiple barrel machine gun (1940)
  • horizontally swinging barber chair (1950)



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