An ingenious invention and the second patent warded to Henry Blair paved the way for today's popcorn treats

What inspired you to start your business?

I have always desired to have a business of my own. I had always heard stories of my grandmother being an Entrepreneur in Mississippi in the 1950s. That had a great impact on my decision to start my own business. I was always so impressed to know that someone so close to me ran her own business. I wanted to follow her legacy and to also be a great example of an entrepreneur for my son to witness.

Why did you choose Flossmoor to open your business?

I chose Flossmoor because it always felt like home to me although I grew up on the south side of Chicago. There was a sense of community and familiarity there. I knew that we would be a good fit for each of us.

As a business owner, what is your proudest civil rights moment or memory?

Brown vs. The Board of Education movement was my proudest moment. It was a breakthrough in the desegregation of public schools. Education has been a key factor in the growth and development of black people.

What has history taught you that could help someone else who is interested in starting a business?

History has taught me to be proud of what our ancestors have accomplished because they sacrificed even their lives for us to advance today. Continue to strive and continue to follow your dreams. We too are paving the way.

As it relates to your business, what is your favorite quote or saying?

"You are just one experience or person away from a breakthrough."

As it relates to Black History Month, what is your favorite quote, moment or memory?

"What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?" BY LANGSTON HUGHES


Henry Blair - In 1836, The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette announced the invention of an 'the ingenious machine' that the inventor predicted would save the labor of eight men. Henry Blair, a free man 'of colour' was only the second African American to be awarded a patent. Blair's Corn and Planting Machine, exhibited in the nation's capital, was described as 'a very simple and ingenious machine. As moved by a horse, it opens the furrow, drops (at proper intervals, and in an exact and suitable quantity,) the corn, covers it, and levels the earth, so as, in fact, to plant the corn as rapidly as a horse can draw a plough over the ground.' Both efficiency and total yield increased.

Blair, a successful farmer, was born in Glen Ross, Maryland in 1807. While little is known about his personal life, it is believed he was a free man who operated an independent business. In 1834 when his patent was granted, both free and enslaved men could be granted patents. However, in 1857, a slave owner successfully challenged this law in the courts; slaves were property and anything in their possession was the owner's property, also. Blair died in 1860, 11 years before the law was reversed, allowing both free and enslaved men to hold patents again.