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Congresswoman Meng calls for commemorative stamp to honor Flushing inventor Lewis Latimer

Sep. 26, 2023 By Rachel Butler

Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced legislation that is calling for the creation of a commemorative stamp to honor inventor and electrical pioneer Lewis Latimer, who lived in Flushing in the early 1900s.

Latimer’s Flushing house now serves as a museum in the area which is dedicated to his legacy.

Meng announced her legislation while attending the Latimer House Museum’s 175th birthday celebration of Latimer earlier this month.

Latimer was a Black American who was the son of two escaped slaves who settled in Chelsea in Massachusetts. He joined the U.S. Navy when he was 16 and served on the USS Massasoit during the Civil War. Latimer had a passion for mechanical drawings, which aided in his work in a patent law firm. He eventually took to inventing, and some of his notable work included an evaporative air conditioner, an improved process for manufacturing carbon filaments for light bulbs and an improved toilet system for railroad cars. Latimer also worked with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.

Lewis LatimerCourtesy of Lewis Latimer House Museum

“Lewis Latimer’s life and story is a real-life example of the American dream and a commemorative stamp honoring that story is a great way to recognize an amazing person who spent over two decades living in Queens,” Meng said. “Latimer’s work, not only in the scientific community, but also for the advancement of civil rights for Black Americans cannot be understated. Despite his passing nearly a century ago, his contributions are still appreciated today, and honoring him with a commemorative stamp is just one way we can show that appreciation.”

Hugh Price, Lewis Latimer’s great grandnephew who also serves as vice chair of the board of the Lewis Latimer House Museum, was also present at the 175th birthday celebration.

“A commemorative postal stamp honoring Lewis Latimer would celebrate a great Black American who, despite never progressing beyond grade school, became a legendary inventor, esteemed Edison pioneer and author of the early ‘bible’ on incandescent lighting,” said Price. “He was a corporate trailblazer who helped light America and exemplified the indispensable contributions that those who all-too-often are marginalized and excluded can make when the gates of opportunity are open to everyone.”

Rep. Steven Horsford, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus added, “Black history is American history, and Lewis Latimer is a perfect example. Born to escaped slaves in Massachusetts, he served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a patent draftsman. That career led him on a path that included drafting the necessary drawings for Alexander Graham Bell to patent the telephone. In his own right, he innovated designs for the lightbulb, toilets on railroad cars, air conditioning and many other items.

“It’s an honor to play a part in recognizing Lewis Latimer and his trailblazing life,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks. “As a longtime resident of Queens, Latimer was able to build a legacy as a pioneering inventor, despite the racism and discrimination prevalent in 19th century America. I believe it’s critical we recognize the heritage of our intellectual leaders, and Latimer’s legacy of innovation is an exemplary example for our community.”

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