Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy, “The Real McCoy,” Inventor & Innovator

Have you ever referred to something of high quality as “The Real McCoy?” Well, there are a few different theories concerning the origin of this phrase, with Elijah McCoy’s groundbreaking invention being among the frontrunners.

Elijah McCoy was the son of slaves who fled Kentucky for Canada via the Underground Railroad and later returned to Michigan. As a teenager, he studied engineering in Scotland. Because of limited professional opportunities for Black people due to racism, despite their education and qualifications, McCoy struggled to find employment once he returned to the United States from his Scottish apprenticeship. The Michigan Central Railroad eventually hired him as a fireman and oiler, and it was there he created his first inventions.

McCoy invented a system that oiled train engines evenly, which enabled them to run for long periods without having to stop for maintenance; this was just of his many inventions. He received patents for around 60 inventions, and before his death, established his own manufacturing company. It is said that imitators tried to copy his design for the oil-dripping cup, but they didn’t work as well as the original, so customers started to ask for “The Real McCoy.”

Citation & Further Reading: https://www.biography.com/inventor/elijah-mccoy