Have you heard the expression “The Real McCoy”?

It comes from the incredible story of Inventor Elijah McCoy.

In 1837, fugitive slaves George and Mildred McCoy escaped from Kentucky to Canada via Detroit’s Underground Railroad.

They and their 10 children risked their lives and returned to Detroit. Later, their son Elijah, who was born free, became a U.S. Citizen and the McCoys settled in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Elijah McCoy began his education in the black schools of Canada and at age 15, was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland, for an apprenticeship. He studied hard and eventually became a certified mechanical engineer.

Upon returning to Ypsilanti, where his father had founded a tobacco business, Elijah became a famous engineer. Considered the “Black Edison,” he patented more than 80 inventions including folding ironing boards, lawn sprinklers and an automatic lubricator for steam engines.

His inventions were so revered, people would ask “Is that the real McCoy?” as they prized his products above cheap imitations.