Black inventor Richard Spikes created beer taps and much more

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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Born in 1878 on Texas soil, Richard Spikes would become a family man of many inventions. Spikes has over a dozen patents to his name including the beer tap, which he created while running a saloon.

His patent, awarded in 1908, was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewing Company and is still presently in use in establishments across the world.

Black Excellence is limitless

Spikes later created modifications to the automotive directional signals which are used by drivers today. He also created the automatic gear shift, the billiard cue rack and automatic braking systems used by buses and schools.

The man was busy!

Professionally, he worked as a mechanic, a saloon keeper, and a barber, occupations that likely influenced the inventions themselves. The King of “work smarter not harder,” Spikes was clearly a visionary, yet because he was Black, he was often only employed in servile roles.

‘Black creativity makes the world go round.’

Born to Monroe and Medora Spikes on October 2, 1878, Richard Spikes came from a large family of at least six siblings. In 1900, Spikes married Lula B. Charlton. The couple had one son, born in 1902. During the early 1900s, the family moved often, living in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before settling in California.

On April 9, 1907, while living in Bisbee, Arizona, Spikes patented a beer-tapper (U.S. Patent number 850,070). Connected to a keg, the tap used tubing to ease the release of beer from the barrel, while also improving freshness over time. And the rest is Drunk History.

Richard Spikes beer tap kept the party goin’.

Spikes’ next invention was for a self-locking rack for billiard cues. He received the patent on October 11, 1910 (U.S. Patent # 972,277), while living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Spikes is also widely credited with patenting an automobile signaling system (turn signal) in the early 1910s.

A great man of ideas, Richard B. Spikes died on January 22, 1965 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 86, leaving the world with more than it gave him.

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