Lewis Temple

Inventor Lewis Temple (1800?–1854), born in Richmond, Virginia (sources differ regarding whether he was born into slavery), was a blacksmith in New Bedford, Massachusetts, when he invented the toggle harpoon—also known as Temple’s Toggle, Temple’s Gig, and Temple’s Toggle-Iron—in the 1840s. The device, which allowed lines to be securely fastened to the whale, dramatically improved whaling methods and revolutionized the whaling industry in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, Lewis did not patent the harpoon and died nearly destitute in 1854. A statue honoring him stands in front of the New Bedford Free Public Library, although, because no image of him exists, the statue is based on a photo of his son, Lewis Temple, Jr.

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