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Andrew Jackson Beard
A J Beard
Andrew Jackson Beard was a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, a railroad worker, a businessman and finally an inventor.

Andrew Jackson Beard (1849–1921) was an African-American inventor of Rocketry and the Rotary Engine. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio for his work on railroad coupler design.


Born in Alabama in 1849, Andrew Beard spent the first fifteen years of his life as a slave on a small farm in Alabama. A year after he was emancipated, he married and became a farmer in a small city outside of Birmingham. While in Birmingham, he was able to develop and champion his first invention, a plow. Three years later, he patented a second plow. These two inventions earned him almost $10,000, with which he began to invest in real estate.

Following his stint in real-estate, Andrew Beard began to work with and study engines. In 1892, he filed a patent for an improvement to the rotary steam engine.

Andrew Beard is sometimes falsely cited as the inventor of the automatic railroad coupler, also known as the knuckle coupler, but this was invented by Eli H. Janney, a former Confederate Major who was awarded a patent for his revolutionary invention in 1873.U.S. Patent 138,405 Beard's patent relating to the automatic coupler was one of some 8,000 variant patents awarded between Janney's invention in 1873 and the turn of the 20th century.

Little is known about the period of time from Beard's last patent application in 1897 up until his death. He died in 1921.

Andrew Beard was born a slave on a plantation in Woodland, Alabama, shortly before slavery ended. Andrew Beard was a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, a railroad worker, a businessman and finally an inventor.

In 1881, he patented his first invention, a plow, and sold the patent rights for $4,000 in 1884. In 1887, Andrew Beard patented a second plaw and sold it for $5,200. Beard invested the money he made from his plow inventions into a profitable real-estate business.

In 1892, he patented a rotary engine. In 1897, Andrew Beard patented an improvement to railroad car couplers commonly called the Jenny Coupler (not to be mistaken for the Janney coupler). It did the dangerous job of hooking railroad cars together, Beard, himself had lost a leg in a car coupling accident. As an ex-railroad worker, Andrew Beard had the right idea that probably saved countless lives and limbs. Andrew Beard received $50,000 for the patent rights to his Jenny coupler. View the patent drawings for Beard's inventions.


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