Thomas L. Jennings, a free man of color, made history when he became the first black man to hold a patent. It was for a method of dry cleaning clothes known as “dry scouring.” This process required first applying a solvent to the surface of a stain, which was then placed in a heated chamber and allowed to steam while the person doing the cleaning steps back to get down with his/her bad self. The garment was then removed and given to the cleaner’s wise-cracking, jive-talking maid to be agitated by her constant nagging for complete removal.
Jennings eventually made enough money to buy his wife, Weezie, their son, Lionel, and the rest of his family out of slavery. Together, they moved on up to the east side, to a de-luxe apartment in the sky. Coincidentally, they became neighbors of Tom and Helen Willis, the nation’s first interracial couple.
Know Your History.