Did You Know That A Black Man Invented The Fire Escape Ladder?



Joseph Winters was important to the safety of people who live in cities. On May 7, 1878, the fire escape ladder was patented by Joseph Winters. Joseph Winters invented a wagon-mounted fire escape ladder for the city of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.



Joseph Winters was born in 1816 in Virginia to an African-American brick maker and a Shawnee Indian mother. He later relocated to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 1830. During the time Winters lived in Chambersburg, he was active in the Underground Railroad. He was nicknamed “Indian Dick” by his friends due to his mixed race.


Winters noticed that firemen had to take ladders off of their wagons to climb to windows, rescue people, and spray water on fires. He thought they should have ladders that they could raise that were already mounted to the wagon. The ladders were easier to raise with Winters’ invention. It was harder to carry and put up regular ladders. He invented this fire escape in 1878 when cities were beginning to “grow up” instead of “growing out.”


Written by PH

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