From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Urquhart, Henry H.

(born: 1873  -  died: 1937) 

Henry H. Urquhart, while living in Paducah, KY, was the inventor of the brake shoe for train locomotives, patent no. US800694A. This was his first patent, which was filed on July 20, 1905, and he received the patent on October 3, 1905. A few years later, on June 16, 1909, Henry H. Urquhart, still living in Paducah, KY, filed for the patent of his brake shoe improvement. It was Urquhart's third patent, which was granted March 8, 1910, patent no. US951350 A: "The object of the present invention is to improve the construction of brake shoes, more especially that shown and described in Patent N0. 877,748 [his second patent], granted to me Jan. 28, 1908, and to provide reinforcing means adapted to increase the life of the brake shoe, and capable in event of the breaking -or cracking of the shoe of retaining the parts thereof in place until the shoe is worn out or the broken parts removed." 

While his brake improvement was still being tested around the country, Henry H. Urquhart sold 1/10 interest in his invention to James Weille [sources: "Has sold an interest," The Paducah Evening Sun, 10/16/1907, p.5]. Urquhart, Weille, and other business associates were attempting to build a foundry in Paducah for the manufacturing of his brake [source: "Paducah, Ky.--...," Manufacturers' Record, October 24, 1907, p.55; and "Brake shoe," The Paducah Evening Sun, 10/16/1907, p.4]. By 1908, the company was doing business at 119-121 North First Street, Urquhart Brake-Shoe and Brake-Head Company, Inc. [source: p.626 in Caron's Directory of the City of Paducah for 1908-9].

Henry H. Urquhart did not hold a position in the company. Henry was employed as a switchman for the Illinois Central Railroad where he and his brother Thomas Urquhart had worked for many years. The foundary was managed by James Weille, who was the president of Urquhart Brake-Shoe and Brake-Head Company, Inc.; Abe Livingston was secretary and treasurer [source: p.478 in Caron's Directory of the City of Paducah, KY. for 1908-9]. It was thought that Urquhart's inventions would make a lot of money and the foundry would grow to employ up to 150 molders [sources: "Good invention," The Paducah Evening Sun, 01/11/1906, p.3; and "Brake shoe," The Paducah Evening Sun, 10/16/1907, p.4]. But, the company did not last but a few years. By 1914, James Weille had return to work at his family's department store, Weille B. & Son Inc., where he was the secretary and treasurer of clothing [p.556 in Caron's Directory of the City of Paducah, Ky. for 1914-1915]. James Weille's parents had immigrated to the U.S. from Europe; his father was from France and his mother was from Germany [sources: 1880 and 1910 U.S. Census]. Abe Livingston also returned to his family business, wholesale grocers named Livingston M. & Co., Abe was president of the grocers company [source: p.325 in Caron's Directory of the City of Paducah, Ky. for 1914-1915]. Both of Abe Livingston's parents had migrated to the U.S. from Germany [source: 1900 U.S. Census]. 

It is not known if Henry H. Urquhart profited from the brake-shoe company or how much he received for the sale of 1/10 interest in his invention. Henry H. Urquhart had come to Kentucky at the turn of the century, he and his brother Thomas were from Georgia, and Henry's wife Helen was from Louisville, KY. Henry and Helen had lived in Paducah as early as 1902 at 1036 Washington Street [source: p.281 in City Directory of Paducah, KY. 1902]. Both Henry and Helen's names are listed in the city directory with an * denoting that they were colored. They were the parents of Alma Urquhart, who was born in August of 1903 [source: paragraph near end of column "People and pleasant events" in The Paducah Sun, 08/11/1903, p.5]. Henry and Helen, and the Urquhart Company, are last listed in a Paducah city directory in 1913 [source: p.507 in Caron's Directory of the City of Paducah, KY. for 1912-13]. 

The Urquhart family left Kentucky. Henry and Helen Urquhart, and their daughter Alma Urquhart Winston are listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as living together in St. Louis, MO, on Cottage Avenue. Henry was the only one employed, he was working as a laborer at odd jobs. The family lived in a rented home. Henry H. Urquhart died September 1, 1937, he was born in Georgia, the son of James Urquhart and Mary Stewart Urquhart [source: Missouri Death Certificates Online (.pdf), Registration District No.791, Primary Registration District No.1003, Registered No.8343]. Helen Urquhart and Alma continued living in St. Louis, and Helen died on March 14, 1964 [sources: 1940 U.S. Census; and Missouri Death Certificates Online (.pdf), Registration District No. 318, Primary Registration District No.1003, Registered No.2541]. Helen Dickey Urquhart was born in Louisville, KY, June 20, 1877, the daughter of Charles Dickey and Malinda Boone. 

Assistance with this entry was provided by the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library in Kentucky.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Urquhart, Henry H.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 15, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-12-09 03:19:33