The last time I ran a red light on a Cleveland street, I saw a flashing blue light in my rearview mirror. There had been a cop at the intersection who watched me go through. I was caught.
Really, it was more than the cop who caught me. An inventor named Garrett Morgan was the guy who got me. Many generations before the cop in his “blue light special” pulled me over because I had run a Cleveland red light which was going to cost me American greenbacks, Morgan had come up with the idea of a traffic light. The moment the idea struck him, he was watching a line of automobile traffic creating gridlock at an intersection. Pedestrians were running for their lives to stay out of the way. The year was 1923.
Morgan is celebrated in his hometown of Cleveland. At the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society, a replica of his first three-position traffic light is on display. It does not bear the red, green, and yellow lights, but it does announce in large letters when drivers would “Stop” and “Go.”
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