The Street Letter Box
Another prominent Black inventor was Philip Bell Downing (1857-1934). He created several everyday items, including an envelope seal moistener and a desktop notepad, both of which can be found in some form in many offices today.
But his most successful invention was the street letter box, which was patented in 1891. Before Downing invented the sturdy curbside letter box, people wishing to send a letter usually had to travel to the nearest post office. But his design, a tall metal box with a hinged lid to keep out rain or snow, quickly changed that.
Downing’s letter box enabled people to skip the lines at the post office and instead drop their mail into the nearest box, where it would be collected by a letter carrier and sent on its way. Even today, the ubiquitous blue USPS metal boxes based on Downing’s design can be found in nearly every town in America.