Elijah J. McCoy
Born in Canada, Elijah McCoy was educated in the black school system of Colchester Township due to the 1850 Common Schools act which segregated the Upper Canada schools in 1850. At age 15, in 1859, Elijah McCoy was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland for an apprenticeship and study. After some years, he was certified in Scotland as a mechanical engineer. After his schooling, he reunited with his family in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he worked with his father on a farm, assisting as a tobacconist. In a home-based machine shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan McCoy also did more highly skilled work, such as developing improvements and inventions. He invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the Steam engines of locomotives and ships, patenting it in 1872 as "Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines" (U.S. Patent 129,843).
McCoy continued to refine his devices and design new ones; 50 of his patents dealt with lubricating systems. After the turn of the century, he attracted notice among his black contemporaries. Booker T. Washington in Story of the Negro (1909) recognized him as having produced more patents than any other black inventor up to that time. This creativity gave McCoy an honored status in the black community that has persisted to this day. He continued to invent until late in life, obtaining as many as 57 patents.
This popular expression, typically meaning the real thing, has been associated with Elijah McCoy's oil-drip cup invention. One theory is that railroad engineers looking to avoid inferior copies would request it by name, and inquire if a locomotive was fitted with "the real McCoy system"
Elijah McCoy died on October 10, 1929, at the age of 85, after suffering injuries from a car accident seven years earlier in which his wife Mary died.
He is buried in Detroit Memorial Park East in Warren, Michigan.