Walter Majors was born to Weaver and Payton Majors in 1879. He was an inventor and entrepreneur who is credited with building and driving the first automobile in Springfield, Missouri. Majors owned a bicycle shop in Springfield off Jefferson Street near the square. He used supplies at his shop, including wagon-wheel spokes and bicycle tires, to create the first automobile the town had seen. His invention became known as “Walter Majors’ Machine.” On a Sunday afternoon in 1901, Majors drove his “machine” down St. Louis Street around the Springfield public square and back to his shop.
Majors was an incredible inventor, responsible for registering at least 13 patents with the Library of Congress. These patents include beauty supply devices like the hair dryer and automobile inventions, including the taxi meter and car heater. Harold McPherson, a local historian, stated, “During a time of extreme racial tension and violence, Walter Majors became a symbol of what could be accomplished by resisting societal norms and stereotypes.” Majors later moved to St. Louis, where he worked with one of the richest African American Women, Annie Turnbo Malone. She owned more than 30 beauty colleges across the country, inspiring Majors’ beauty inventions. Majors died in Saint Louis in 1949 at the age of 70.
Subject: African Americans; Transportation; Inventions
Contributing Institution: History Museum on the Square
Accession Number: 2000-187.6
Rights: Written permission is required for any reproduction, distribution (including posting on social media, emailing, or transmitting by other electronic means), publication, or further use of the History Museum on the Square Images. For more information on obtaining/using this image, contact the archives of the History Museum on the Square.
Region: Southwest, St. Louis Metro