Elijah McCoy
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Elijah J. McCoy (abt. 1843 - 1929)

Elijah J. McCoy
Born about in Colchester, Canada Westmap
Husband of — married 7 Feb 1868 (to 1872) in Washtenaw, Michigan, United Statesmap
Husband of — married 25 Dec 1872 in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan, United Statesmap
Died at about age 86 in Nankin, Wayne County, Michigan, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 27 Apr 2009
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Notables Project
Elijah McCoy is Notable.

Elijah McCoy was a Canadian-American mechanical engineer known as the "Father of Lubrication." In 1872 he first patented an invention for self-oiling machines. This automatic lubrication device became known as "the real McCoy." [1][2][3]

Elijah McCoy was born on March 27, 1843 in Canada. His parents were George McCoy and Mildred Gains, fugitive slaves from Kentucky.[4] He was probably born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada, where he was living with his parents in Colchester, Essex County, Canada West (Ontario) in 1851.[5]

He and Ann Elizabeth Stewart were married by John A Wilson, rector, on 7 February 1868 at Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Michigan. James and Rebecca Hood stood as their witnesses.[6] By 1870, their daughter Kittie had been born.[7][8] Four years later, he married Mary E. Delany on 25 Dec 1872, in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Michigan.[9]

In 1872, Elijah applied for and received his first patent.[10] He would go on to have many more.[11]

Elijah and Kitty (his daughter) were living in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan, in 1880,[12] most likely a site of Elijah's inventions-in-use.[13]

On 2 November 1895, Elijah was mentioned in a newspaper article, in The Afro-American, which reported that he lived in Detroit (Wayne County, Michigan).[14]

Elijah and Mary are found on the census for 1900, in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.[15] By 1910, Elijah reported he was married twice, once for 3 years and the next for the past 7 years.[16] His last census was 1920.[17] Elijah opened his own company, the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company, in Detroit, Michigan in 1920. They manufactured and sold his advanced graphite lubricators for air brakes.[8][18]

He died on October 10, 1929 in Nankin, Wayne County, Michigan, with his usual residence in Detroit (also in Wayne County). He is remembered in the Detroit Memorial Park East, Warren, Michigan.[4][19][20]

Research Notes

  • On the death certificate, the physician D.U. Sanders (best I can tell) wrote that he had attended to Elijah from October 17, 1928, through October 10, 1929; it seems that Elijah had been there at the Eloise Infirmary during that entire year.Weatherall-96 01:09, 22 January 2023 (UTC)
  • several birth dates are given- his death certificate says 27 Mar 1843 (uncertain who informant is... F. Schuler or similar, address "Eloise", as in Eloise Infirmary, as written at the top of the death cert) and his gravestone says 2 May 1844. I don't know if the gravestone was placed at the time of his death, 1929, or by whom it was ordered and placed. Weatherall-96 00:56, 22 January 2023 (UTC)


  1. “McCoy, Elijah J.", Notable Kentucky African Americans Database; citing NKAA Source: McGrath, Kimberley A. and Bridget Travers. World of invention: history's most significant inventions and the people behind them. n.d., accessed August 18, 2020.
  2. "McCoy, George and Mildred", Notable Kentucky African Americans Database; citing Detroit Free Press (newspaper), from "Subscription Database - Access World News (1982-present), n.d., accessed August 18, 2020."
  3. Wikipedia link to Elijah McCoy.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Elijah McCoy death certificate, #282 2335, 10 Oct 1929 Wayne County, Michigan; normal residence 606 Hendrik, Detroit, Michigan; place of burial Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan; born 27 Mar 1843; Engineer and Inventor; parents: George born Kentucky and Mildred Gains (or Garns) born Kentucky; Widowed; informant: staff member of Eloise Infirmary unreadable. Michigan History Center, on-line records Michiganology.org.
  5. 1851 census: "Canada Census, 1851," FamilySearch, Elijah Mccoy, age 8, Colchester, Essex County, Canada West (Ontario), Canada; citing p. 9, line 40; Library and Archives Canada film number C_11720, Public Archives, Ontario. Year: 1851; Census Place: Colchester, Essex County, Canada West (Ontario). See images of the census page at Ancestry Record 1061 #2040222 with attached Image ($) or Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, Census of 1851 (Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) for Image No.: e002347616.
    George McCoy 33/m, U States, W Methodist
    Emillia McCoy 34/f, farmer, U States,
    Aford McCoy 12/m, Upper Canada, Colchester
    Eloner McCoy 10/f, Upper Canada, Colchester
    Elijah McCoy 8/m, Upper Canada, Colchester
    Milton McCoy 5/f, Upper Canada, Colchester
    Peockay McCoy 3/f, Upper Canada, Colchester
  6. "Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3P9-5YM : 18 February 2021), Elijah Mccoy and Ann Eliza Stewart, 7 Feb 1868; citing Marriage, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan, , Citing Secretary of State, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 4207954.
  7. "United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHCG-QN9 : 3 January 2021), Elijah McCoy, household 215, page 26, Ypsilanti, ward 5, Washtenaw County, Michigan, United States; U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) micropublication M593
    Elijah McCoy Male 26 Canada
    Anna McCoy Female 21 Canada
    Rettie L McCoy Female 1 Michigan [review of other K (see occupations "Keeping House") and R (line 1) on the page indicates this was probably misindexed.]
  8. 8.0 8.1 Editors, Biography, "Elijah McCoy, (1844–1929)." A&E Television Networks, The Biography.com website, 2014, update 2020. Note: Second source of inaccurate birth date apparently from Find A Grave. Correction requested.
  9. "Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," FamilySearch, Elijah Mccoy and Mary E. Delany, 25 Dec 1872; citing Marriage, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan;Citing Secretary of State, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 4207572. [The FamilySearch image has the marriage crossed out because it was, presumably, written in the "White" index book, rather than that of the "Colored" per the notation. The Image attached to Ancestry Record 61374 #144769 is from a different book that has both white and colored persons indexed. Elijah and Mary are recorded as colored.]
    Name: Elijah Mc Coy
    Gender: Male
    Age: 28
    Birth Year: abt 1845
    Birth Place: Canada West
    Occupation: Engineer
    Marriage Date: 25 Dec 1872
    Marriage Place: Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan, USA
    Residence Place: Ypsilanti
    Spouse: Mary E Delany age 26 b. Indiana
  10. United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent #US000129843, E. McCoy, Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines, 23 July 1872
  11. Google Patents search results for Elijah McCoy.
  12. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWSD-CXN : 19 February 2021), Elijah Mccoy, Ionia, Ionia, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district ED 95, sheet 131D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,583.
    Also: Ancestry Record 6742 #22339757 with attached Image
    Elijah Mccoy head, 36/m, md, engineer, Can/KY/KY
    Kitty L. Mccoy dau, 11/f, school, MI/Can/MI
    Ella Gardner (roomer, dress maker) Female 22 Michigan/NY,NY
  13. MichiganRailroads.com, "Ionia was a crossing of two railroads, the Pere Marquette line... and the Grand Trunk Western..... The Pere Marquette line through town was originally their main route from Detroit northwest....."
  14. Ancestry.com, database with images, "U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947," > The Afro-American > 1895 > image 1 of 8, 20 November 1895, column 1-2, "?e African American Inventors," "Elijah McCoy" Ancestry Record 2346 #44675 with attached Image; Negro Newspapers for the American Council of Learned Studies. Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress. [Bottom of column 1, paragraph w/ the big ink splotch.]
  15. "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M91M-GJX : accessed 25 March 2021), Elijah Mc Coy, Detroit city Ward 6, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 67, sheet 8B, family 156, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,749.
    Also: Ancestry Record 7602 #25856991 with attached Image
    Elijah Mc Coy head, 56/m, Mar 1844, md 28yrs, Can/KY/KY, im1863na, engineer
    Mary E Mc Coy wife, 54/f, Jan 1846, md 28yrs, 1birth/0living, IN/WV/WV
    Andrew O Young nephew, 19/m, May 1881, MO/IN/MO, student
  16. 1910 census: "United States Census, 1910," FamilySearch, Elijah Mccoy, Detroit Ward 17, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 262, sheet 8B, family 170, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 680; FHL microfilm 1,374,693.
    Also: Ancestry Record 7884 #12674793 with attached Image
    Elijah Mccoy head, 65/m, md2, md 37yrs, Can/KY/KY, immigration 1858 naturalized, engineer, inventor
  17. "United States Census, 1920", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZWM-7K4 : 2 February 2021), Elizah McCay[sic], Detroit Ward 3, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_804; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 100
    See Also: Ancestry Record 6061 #41163336 with attached Image
    Elizah Mccay head, 75/m, Can/KY/KY, manufacturer, lubricator
    Mary E Mccay wife, 73/f, IN/VA/VA
    living next to Clifford Gaines family
  18. Memorial Plaque; photograph posted to findagrave, n.d.
  19. "Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952," FamilySearch, Elijah Mccoy, 10 Oct 1929; citing Nankin, Wayne, Michigan, United States, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,146
    Also: Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 Ancestry Record 60872 #1617927 with attached Image
    Name: Elijah McCoy
    Gender: Male
    Race: Black
    Marital Status: Widowed
    Death Age: 86
    Birth Date: 27 Mar 1843
    Birth Place: Canada
    Occupation: Engineer
    Death Date: 10 Oct 1929
    Death Place: Nankin, Wayne, Michigan, USA
    File Number: 002335
    Father: George McCoy b. KY
    Mother: Mildred Ganis b. KY (looks like Gains)
    NOTE: inventor is crossed out and engineer written in.
  20. Elijah McCoy (2 May 1844–10 Oct 1929), Find A Grave: Memorial #6807620, citing Detroit Memorial Park East, Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave. Note: Source of inaccurate birth date, correction requested.

See Also:

  • "Elijah McCoy, Inventor of the Week". Lemelson-MIT Program. May 1996. Archived from the original on 2003-08-23. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  • "The not-so-real McCoy." Archive.org, on-line, linked from Wikipedia.

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Comments: 5

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FYI - Wikipedia and Findagrave are listing his birth date as: May 2, 1844
posted by Kevin Schroeder
Thank you- looks like the death certificate says 27 Mar 1843, and gravestone says 2 May 1844. I'll add a research note about the discrepancy. I can't make out who the informant was on the death cert.
posted by Elaine (Weatherall) Martzen
edited by Elaine (Weatherall) Martzen
Anyone have objection to me doing some edits on this profile? It's got plenty of sources but most of the census records point to his daughter's record rather than his own. I would also like to make some formatting changes (removing redundant asterisks from the sources, etc.)
posted by Debi (McGee) Hoag
sure. go ahead. and thanks in advance
posted by J.t. Ussery Jr
This ancestor is on the Unconnected Notables page (https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Space:Unconnected_Notables&public=1#). In the table, click on the symbol after "Last name at birth."

I will be applying <ref> footnotes </ref> as in "A footnote needs to start with <ref> and end with </ref>," from this page (https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/1086929/challenge-of-the-week-correct-simple-errors-reference-tags).

To the PM: Just to let you know there is nothing personal about this edit. Thank you for your meticulous work. When the profile is ready for review by the Profile Improvement Project, I will add my category to above the Biography.

Thank you, again.

Sincerely, B.

posted by [Living Britain]