Calling for the Real McCoy : The Story of Elijah McCoy (Black History 365)

Welcome readers,

Give it up to Elijah McCoy the real McCoy. Well, maybe. 

McCoy was an inventor who held 57 United States patents, most of them coming from the railways. His inventions, which were not groundbreaking outside the field of steam engines, were so associated with high quality and excellent function that people began saying “the real McCoy” to refer to superlative products. 

Like many other black inventors, McCoy had to endure racism and exclusion in his work, but that didn’t deter him from having a lengthy and successful career. McCoy was born in 1843 to George and Emilia McCoy, two former slaves from Kentucky who had escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. He lived with his family in Ontario for several years before they relocated to Detroit following the Civil War. While in Detroit, Elijah got an education as well as in Edinburgh Scotland. 

Furthermore, he returned to the States and ended up working for the Michigan Central Railroad. According to the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame, although McCoy was educated as an engineer, the discriminatory management of the railroad thought a black man wasn’t capable of being an engineer. McCoy was hired and relegated to work in the boiler room of trains. 

However, things changed for the better in 1872. McCoy invented and patented an automatic oiling device for the moving parts of steam locomotives, colloquially known as the “oil drip cup”. According to the University of Michigan, “McCoy’s patented device was quickly adopted by the railroads, by those who maintained steamship engines, and many others who used large machinery”. “The device was not particularly complicated so it was easy for competitors to produce similar devices. However, McCoy’s device was an original development, and apparently, had the best reputation”. That may well have been how the phrase “the real McCoy became popular” (end quote). 

McCoy used the profit he received from ventures associated with his first patent to continue inventing, mainly focusing his attention on railway-related inventions but making improvements on the ironing board. Moreover, he moved to Detroit from Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1882 with Mary McCoy, his wife, the railway hall of fame writes, where he consulted for firms and continued to brainstorm ideas. 

When McCoy was 72 in 1916, he patented the “graphite lubricator” which was composed of a mixture of graphite and oil that worked well in the period’s “super heater locomotives, but he didn’t establish his own company to make some of his inventions until 1920. Unfortunately, in 1922 he was injured in an accident that resulted in the death of his wife. McCoy died seven years later in 1929 after suffering financial, physical, and mental problems. 

McCoy’s legacy was enshrined when he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His former hometown Detroit named a patent office to honor him. In terms of the widely known phrase “the real McCoy”, the Canadian encyclopedia says the phrase has an ambiguous origin. It states quote “many have suggested that the phrase became common parlance among mechanical engineers who refused to install knockoff lubricators onto their locomotives, demanding instead the original McCoy design. However, parallel mythologies surround a number of other figures of the late 19th and early 20th century”. “There’s Charlie “Kid” McCoy and Joseph McCoy, and G. MacKay and Company, a distiller which used “the real MacKay” as a promotional slogan. All things considered, it would be safe to say they were all the real thing. 

Works Cited

Eschner, Kat. “This Prolific Inventor Helped Give Us the Phrase ‘The Real Mccoy.’” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 2 May 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/prolific-inventor-helped-give-us-phrase-real-mccoy-180963059/?fbclid=IwAR0QQnXiNxWTIJFwUgsG4gLIaW7Or7IVblzjPwWqE92XlNdeFsay4nEjqfk.

The Remains

Unanswered questions still remain,

But look ahead with hopeful eyes.

Rejection felt but not in vain.

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Empty the envy : Everyone is having fun but you.

Envy leaps in, a vengeful pest 

Its cruel quest can’t be denied

But when we look at what it brings 

We know that resentment never wins

Homie where’s the growth?

Ripe dreams expire

But you stay stubborn and hardwired

Finding it too comfortable to let go

Time for a new course of action

Let your heart be enveloped in grace 

And find a better place 

Where envy never finds its mark 

And emotions never darken

In a frenzy, it’s time to cleanse thee 

Wake up and empty out the envy 

It is understandable for one to feel envious when seeing someone’s life as “perfect” compared to theirs, and this feeling when left unchecked can become destructive. With that said, envy can often lead to damaged self-esteem and create resentment towards the person whose life we perceive as perfect. As a result, this gives way for an individual to constantly compare themselves to someone who has something that is bereft in their life, and in extreme cases want to sabotage it so satisfaction can be achieved, and with that, they create their intended level playing field. Moreover, once envy becomes destructive it prevents us from looking at our own lives in a positive light and instead allows the proverbial devil on the shoulder to take over our thoughts. 

Artwork credit – Rafi Perez

Social media has become a sort of vacuum and echo chamber for people to post, project, and propagate what they consider to be trendy or the ideal image of success. Therefore, these platforms facilitate data that is accessible for comparisons to be made by all users. It went from being a microcosm (pre-social media comparisons of those close to you) to a global assessment contest (strangers evaluating each other). In addition, if one doesn’t fit that criterion then they’re seen as doing something wrong and it gets exacerbated with a bombardment of imagery that erodes self-esteem. Furthermore, envy manifests itself as dissociation from the self. Not to mention, an individual will get frustrated after pondering on why they’re not involved in situations they’re missing out on (FoMO, Fear of missing out. Once this feeling of FoMO compounds one might begin vicariously living through the ones they envy and envisioning satisfaction. However, once reality sets in, a feeling of inauthenticity takes over.

  We carry around envy amplification devices and push buttons on fabricated images and stories. We internalize and rationalize them to the point where it becomes masochistic. In other words, when one voyeuristically scrolls (passive) they are shown stimuli that they lack in their lives. This in turn will elicit “comparisonitis”. In regards to that, this fixation becomes ingrained into the psyche to the point where it could lead to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, resentment, and comparisonitis are symptoms of envy but resentment comes last. The reason is, a person has to process what they have to do, and understand they’re as capable as the person experiencing what they desire, but they’re filled with doubt and fail to make a move. Moreover, if the feeling of envy isn’t confronted and rectified it can lead to depression and a sense of incompetence. An article that is the inspiration for this post (link included at the top of post) stated that envy is innate and I agree for the most part but I also think it can also be a learned behavior. For example, we have two brothers, and their parents get the younger brother better toys than his older brother. Not only that, the younger brother has to share them with him. From there the older brother gets frustrated that not only does he get subpar toys compared to his younger brother but has to share the better toys, which is something he wants (older brother) for himself. Hopefully, this example makes sense, because the point being made here is that even if you have something that will keep you satisfied, it’s never enough, and when you see someone you admire or is close to you receiving something that you’re deprived of, you can get consumed with resentment.

In summary, envy can be a destructive emotion that harms both the individual feeling it as well as those around them. It is important to understand why one feels envious and learn how to address those emotions without succumbing to the negativity of envy. If not, one will continue to meander through life as a malcontent individual who is not driven to find solutions. Once this point is reached it becomes insidious and habitual. Lastly, no matter how basic or lavish, everyone has something to be grateful for and strives to find the best for a positive life, and focusing on those reasons for living a life of gratitude and contentment will help to avoid the enviable trap.

Works Cited

Sarner, Moya. “The Age of Envy: How to Be Happy When Everyone Else’s Life Looks Perfect.” Pocket, 18 Oct. 2018, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-age-of-envy-how-to-be-happy-when-everyone-else-s-life-looks-perfect?utm_source=pocket_collection_story&fbclid=IwAR2HgqMVgc0lG1qXzJH-eW8ChiXt3p6pGoHSnH4atJeHR6twpulvfORr7sg.

Make Ubuntu Ubiquitous

“A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question, therefore, is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” – Nelson Mandela

Cold Instruments

Cold instruments drill

Creating fearful vibrations,

Nervous smile, 

Open wide

For the clatter off the drill

To collide with a surprise

A pain you’ll always recognize 

Don’t fret the pain will subside

Well, maybe…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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