Learn Everything About Mary Eleanor Delaney

Mary Eleanor Delaney was born on January 26, 1846, in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA, to her parents, Jacob and Ann Delaney. She was a philanthropist, club woman, and organizer. As an organizer, Mary organized the Michigan State Association of Colored Women. As a club woman, she was part of Willing Workers, the Lydia Association of Detroit, and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.

Personal Life

In her personal life, Mary Eleanor Delaney was married twice, first to Henry Brownlow. After her first marriage ended, she married Elijah McCoy, a Canadian-American inventor, and engineer. She did not have any children.

Her Husband

Elijah McCoy, his parents, and his siblings were fugitive slaves in Ontario, having escaped from Kentucky. He went to school and was sent to Scotland, where he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

After returning to Michigan from Scotland, he started working as an oiler and fireman at Michigan Central Railroad. Besides, Mary Delaney’s husband did some other work, including inventions. McCoy invented an automatic lubricator, patented in 1872, for oiling steam engines of ships and locomotives.

Mary’s husband also invented a displacement lubricator widely used in the 20th century. The lubricators invented by Elijah enabled trains to move faster; they were used widely in almost all North American railroads.

Given his creativity and inventions, Elijah McCoy was recognized and noted in the Railroad Gazette. He also attracted notice from the Black community; Booker T. Washington noted that Mary Delaney’s husband had produced more patents than any black inventor. McCoy was highly honored for his many inventions and obtained over fifty lubrication patents.

Despite having invented many lubricators, he lacked the capital to manufacture them in large numbers, so he sold them to investors and assigned patent rights to his employers.

The phrase the real McCoy, which means the real thing, is related to Mary Delaney’s husband’s oil-drip cup invention. It was used by railroad engineers who were looking to avoid substandard copies. Though the name originates in Scotland, it has been more associated with Elijah McCoy. Even though he left the phrase the real McCoy for his country, his name was his most famous legacy.

Mary Delaney’s Husband’s Legacy and Death

Given his many inventions, deemed very useful in the 20th Century, Michigan state put a historical marker by his gravesite at his former home, 5720 Lincoln Avenue. Detroit named a street after him.

Michigan also installed a historical marker at Elijah McCoy’s first workshop, and in 2001, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Virginia, United States of America.

Mary Delaney’s husband was with his wife when they were involved in a car accident. He died seven years later, on October 10, 1929, aged 85, from the injuries sustained in the accident.


Mary Eleanor Delaney and her husband were in a car when they were in a car accident. She died on November 17, 1923, as a result of the accident while her husband sustained injuries but died six years later.