Henry Boyd was a skilled carpenter, born into slavery in Kentucky in 1802. At a young age, his master apprenticed Henry out to a cabinetmaker. Henry proved to have an impressive talent for carpentry.
He learned early that many Black carpenters used their skills to buy their freedom. At 18, Boyd was allowed to work extra jobs to earn money to buy his freedom. In 1826, after purchasing his freedom, 24-year-old Henry Boyd moved to Cincinnati.
Initially, he worked as a labourer and later teamed with a Caucasian carpenter to build houses. By the age of 31, he had earned and saved enough money to purchase the freedom of his brother and sister.
Facing continued discrimination in his search for work Boyd set up his own furniture shop at the age of 34, in which he sold the product of his invention, “The Boyd Bedstead”.
The Boyd Bedstead was a bed constructed with wooden rails and wood screws that connected the headboard and footboard giving the bed a firm structure compared to other beds in the early 19th century. This invention was patented in 1833. This durable and sturdy construction is common in bedding styles today.
In spite of the arson attempts at his plant by angry Caucasians, Henry Boyd ran a successful company with about 25 to 50 employees and went on to become one of Cincinnati’s famous furniture makers. To ensure customers received a genuine product, Henry Boyd stamped his name on every bed frame he made. African Americans weren’t allowed to patent their products so Boyd attempted to patent his invention by having a Caucasian apply for the patent. However, Henry Boyd like other Black inventors before and after him never received a patent for his invention.
Henry Boyd died in 1866 at the age of 64.