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

Perpetual Motion Machine (Franklin, KY)

In 1874, the New York Times repeated a story from the Franklin Patriot newspaper about an African American man who had invented what he referred to as a "perpetual motion" wagon. The machine was to be shown at a fair in September, but a few days before the fair, the inventor was taking his machine to be registered and was thrown from the apparatus and killed. The machine was not damaged in the accident, and it was still scheduled to be shown at the fair.

Perpetual motion had been a scientific fascination for centuries, and the African American in Franklin was not the first to be killed by his invention: James Bagby, a Virginia pioneer from Scotland, also died while working with his perpetual motion machine.

For more see "A Kentucky Story," New York Times, 9/14/1874, p. 5. For more about the Bagby Family, see the Emmett Wooten Bagby entry in History of Kentucky, by Kerr, Connelley, and Coulter [available full-text at Google Books]. See also Perpetual Motion, by W. J. G. Ord-Hume and H. A. Ord.


Kentucky County & Region

Read about Simpson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Franklin, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Franklin patriot (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Perpetual motion : the history of an obsession

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Perpetual Motion Machine (Franklin, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 28, 2021,

Last modified: 2020-10-05 17:14:54