|Henry O Crippen|
Henry was my Grandpop Herbert's brother. Henry O. Crippen was born on Jan 11, 1914 in Princess Anne, Maryland to George and Laura(Corbin) Crippen. He was the fifth of eight children. Henry wasn't the type of person that stood out from a crowd, not physically anyway, he was average height, weight and complexion. Looking at Uncle Henry you wouldn't think he was an inventor, and a great one at that. You would think he was the average person except he wore sunglasses all the time (I think he had Photophobia: his eyes may have been sensitive to light, not really sure).
|Pictured from l-r 3 siblings Henry, Herbert and Louise Crippen|
Henry always dressed with suit, a tie and a hat but that wasn't unusual. My grandfather and all of his brothers dressed that way most of the time. Henry may have looked average but his mind and entrepreneurial skills were anything but average. Henry O. Crippen should be entered into the Encyclopedia of Black History for his most successful invention .
Henry O Crippen invented The Hot Pipe Bending machine which he said would basically revolutionize the industry. The Hot pipe bending machine did revolutionize the industry, but then the story takes a turn.
Henry Crippen completed the invention and started his own business. His business began to boom even though he had to endure some racial barriers. Henry was the only African-American in that industry at that time. The story below basically explains how successful his business had become, at one point he went from 6 employees to 31. He gained clients like Exxon, GE, Dupont, Amoco, Mobil and the list goes on. Even though his invention proved successful, he had to bid on the low end of jobs because "It is almost impossible to crack the large profitable jobs for which the plant is designed." Most often Henry was asked to bid on the low-volume, low profit jobs that other firms could not or would not do.
|Page from Black Enterprise Magazine December 1978|
I don't even know all of this legal mumbo jumbo, but basically Uncle Henry told us that they copied his invention process but he wasn't rich enough to fight back. Henry said "they would rather pay more money than to pay a black man in that industry to do the job." In the end my uncle was comfortable but not rich. He ended up bankrupt dealing with these large firms in an industry where at the time I reiterate he was the only African-American.
Henry Crippen was an inventor, innovator and visionary and way ahead of his time but I'm sure he has opened doors for other African Americans in that field and if I don't tell his story they will never know who actually came before them and on whose shoulders they stand.