Richard Spikes: The many faces of innovation


Innovation comes in many forms.

It can save lives, or change them forever.

Other times, an invention can simply make life more efficient and enjoyable.

Today we are celebrating an innovator who did all the above.

Richard Spikes was an African-American inventor, born in 1878, who began working as a public school teacher.

He ended his career with over ten inventions, many of which we still use today.

Innovation should make things easier

Following his beginnings as a teacher, Richard began working as a barber, before going into the saloon business.

It was here that he became frustrated with how draft beer came out of the keg.

So, he created a new pressure-dispense beer tap, which was soon purchased by the Milwaukee Brewing Company. Then Richard invented an automatic locking billiards cue rack.

These inventions helped make things more efficient. They made life easier for people.

But it was his later inventions that would not only help people save time, but save lives.

From the bar to brakes 

It's Richard's other inventions that we owe the most to.

As well as being a teacher, barman and barber, Richard also worked as a mechanic.

It was this experience that led to two of the most important developments in automotive history.

First, Richard invented a gear shifting device which kept the gears for various speeds in constant mesh. This helped the creation of the automatic transmission system. A feature that has defined modern transport.

Following this, Richard designed an automotive brake safety system. This provided a back-up braking action that would work if the normal braking system was damaged. This was soon used in every school bus, with the premise forming the basis of modern day systems. The original technology is even still found in some vehicles!

What makes this last invention even more remarkable is that Richard was losing his sight at the time. To help him finish his invention, he even developed a drafting machine for blind designers. Nothing was going to get in the way.

Innovation: A journey of discovery

What Richard invented represents the best of innovation.

It helps people.

At SMLL, we see the work that we are doing as having the same purpose.

 We want to make the future of transport safer, faster and more efficient.

We also want to make it a little more fun.

At SMLL, we want to give you the opportunity to make your own journey of discovery. 

What could SMLL inspire you to invent?

Join us today to find out how you can help continue the spirit of Richard Spikes.