George T. Sampson was an African-American inventor best known for inventing the automatic clothes dryer in 1892 and receiving a patent for it in 1893. He also invented a propeller for a sled.
Sampson’s personal life, such as his childhood and education, is unknown. Even his birth date and location are disputed. Sampson was living in Dayton, Ohio, and had invented and patented a sled propeller when we first see him in the public light in 1885. It was a pedal-powered device that made snow travel easier.
Sampson was born in the city of Dayton, Ohio. His clothes drier (US patent #476,416) was a frame that hanged clothing above a burner to speed up drying. Prior to Sampson’s innovation, clothes dryers were invented in the form of ventilators, which were essentially barrels with holes in them, in England and France. Over a fire, the barrels would be turned by hand. Sampson’s design was likewise a ventilator, but it didn’t require an open flame and instead relied on frames rather than a barrel.
George T. Sampson is credited with laying the groundwork for today’s dryers. Electric clothes dryers did not exist until around 1915, and in 1938, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company built the first completely automatic drier.
The #312,388, which was Sampson’s other known sled propeller invention, was submitted in 1885 and concerned the attachment of a propelling device to a tricycle. To make it work in the snow, the wheels were replaced with runners. The propeller would be controlled by the sled’s occupants using pedals. The schematics for this and Sampson’s other patents are still on file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.