Black in the Day…A Fire Invention

September 30, 1975:

On this day Virgie Ammons was granted a patent for her invention, the fireplace damper activating tool. This tool prevents cold air and dust from blowing down the chimney and back into the house by allowing the chimney damper to be locked in the closed position. According to her patent abstract, her damper addressed the problem of fireplace dampers that flutter and make noise when gusty winds affected the chimney. Moreover, some dampers do not remain fully shut and Ammons was concerned that, “even a slightly open damper could cause a significant loss of heat in winter, and could even result in loss of coolness in summer. Both would be a waste of energy”. Ammons’ tool allowed the damper to be closed and held closed.

Virgie M. Ammons was born on Dec. 29, 1908, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. At a young age, her family relocated to West Virginia, where she spent the rest of her life. Ammons was a self-employed caretaker and a Muslim woman by faith, attending services in Temple Hills. She died on July 12, 2000, in Preston County, West Virginia.

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