Beulah Louise Henry


Beulah Louise Henry
Raleigh, NC, USA
Death date
Associated organizations
B. L. Henry Company of New York


Born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1887, Beulah Louise Henry was often dubbed the "Lady Edison" in the 1920s and 1930s. The prolific inventor received 49 patents, although she has been credited with as many as 110 inventions over the course of her lifetime. Little is known about Henry´s early life, though records indicate she attended Queens College and Elizabeth College, both in Charlotte, North Carolina. While still living in Charlotte, Henry received her first three patents. The first, awarded in 1912, was for a vacuum ice cream freezer. The following year brought two patents, for a handbag and a parasol, both with detachable cloth covers in a variety of colors.

Following the success of these early inventions, Henry moved to New York City, where she spent much of her adult life. Here she sold her popular umbrella through the newly established Henry Umbrella and Parasol Company, of which she was president, and by 1929 was also president of a second eponymous company, the B. L. Henry Company of New York. Henry was issued several new patents during the 1920´s, for a spring-limbed doll, and sponges that held soap in the middle, as well as for the machine that produced the sponges.

During the 1930s and 40s, Henry turned much of her attention toward machines, particularly improvements to sewing machines and typewriters. In 1930, she received a patent for a "protograph," which produced an original typed document and four copies without the use of carbon paper. She also received patents for a double-chain stitch sewing machine, a feeding and aligning device for typewriters, a bobbin-less sewing machine, a number of children´s toys, and another typewriter attachment for duplicating documents - well before the era of photocopying.

Having earned a reputation as a professional inventor of sorts, throughout the 1950s and '60s, Henry was hired by a number of companies to develop products for them, which ranged from household devices to envelope machines. While many of her inventions were patented in the names of the companies who hired her, Beulah Henry was atypical among early women inventors in that she was able to profit from her inventions, and received credit during her lifetime for her prolific work. Beulah Henry was well-known as a self-sufficient and enigmatic figure in New York City, never marrying and devoting her time to a wide array of interests, including writing, painting, and charity on behalf of animals.