Ever since the first door was created, it is likely that human beings have understood how to use an object or device to keep it open. Heavy stones or bricks or metal cans or chunks of wood all work to prevent a door from closing. It was Dec. 10, 1878, that a person was given credit as the inventor of what is commonly known as the "door stop" or "door stopper."

The Mysterious Mr. Dorsey

Very little is known about Osburn Dorsey. Even his first name is generally reduced to "O." by those who surrender after attempts to learn more about this hard-to-trace gentleman. What we do know is that Mr. Dorsey was a 19th century African-American inventor. The door stop was his most famous invention. On Dec. 10, 1878, Osburn, or O., Dorsey received patent number 210,764 for this invention.

African-American Inventors

Little information remains about African-American inventors who lived and worked in the 19th century, particularly those who were active prior to the Civil War. While we are fortunate to have a larger body of knowledge about some of the more famous inventors, such as Garrett Morgan (inventor of the gas mask and traffic signal) and Lewis H. Latimer (who worked on carbon filaments for light bulbs), inventors such as Osburn Dorsey remain somewhat obscure.

Post-Civil War African American Inventors

As Portia P. James points out in her book, The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation 1619-1930: "Emancipation brought more recognition to black inventors, for after the Civil War significant numbers of black inventors began to patent their inventions." Osburn Dorsey was one such inventor and we are fortunate to have at least the official patent record for his door stop.

Accessing Dorsey's Patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be contacted and, provided you download an Apple Quicktime Plugin, you can view the image of Dorsey's patent. Do a "Number Search" for 210,764. The official U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website address is: http://www.ustpo.gov/index.jsp.

Door Stops After Dorsey

Since Osburn Dorsey patented his door stop mechanism in 1878, many other inventors have received patents for their own door stop ideas and variations. Floor-mounted door stops, door-mounted door stops, rotating door stops, electronic and magnetic door stops and the traditional "wedge" door stops are all in use. Additionally, door stops are now designed not only for building doors, but also for any other door one can imagine, such as car doors and truck doors.