On the night of July 24, 1916, a natural gas explosion near Cleveland trapped workers in a waterworks tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Rescuers sent in to recover the trapped men were themselves felled by “noxious fumes.”
The Cleveland authorities knew just who to call: Garrett Morgan, an inventor who had recently given a demonstration of his breathing contraption.
Morgan arrived at the scene still wearing his pajamas. With his strange breathing device strapped to his face, Morgan, along with his brother and another brave volunteer, descended into the muddy disaster site.