Filed Under Inventors

Gravesite of Dr. Norval C. Vaughan

Physician who invented a system of personal armor

As a physician, Norval C. Vaughan had seen the effects of stab wounds and gunshot wounds, and he wanted to do something to help before a doctor was needed. So in 1899, he invented an unusual system of personal armor.

Vaugh’s armor was designed to be worn under clothing. It ws something like chain mail but made up of small metal plates, held together with circular loops for flexibility.

Vaughan was worried in particular about police officers, and he said that his armor was “intended for use by officials and such persons who, in the legitimate exercise of their certain duties, are exposed to such dangers.” Vaughan received a patent for his invention in 1900, and he pitched his idea to the Cincinnati Police Commissioners that April. Unfortunately, perhaps, there is no record of Vaughan’s armor going into production.

In 1901, Dr. Norval Vaughan was called on to treat an injury of just the kind he had tried to forestall. A police officer named Luther Brooks was the victim of an accidental shooting. Officer Brook’s spouse Mattie Brown Brooks dismissed the white doctors at the city hospital. She demanded that her husband be seen by a doctor who was a person of color.

Mattie Brooks asked Norval Vaughan to take the case, and so in 1901, Vaughan became the first African American physician to be allowed to treat a case at Cincinnati’s city hospital. (Vaughan was light-skinned but was referred to consistently as a “colored doctor” in news coverage. For more on the Brooks case, see here.)

Norval Vaughan and his spouse Victoria Powell Vaughan had a home and office at 2633 Park Avenue in Walnut Hills. (The home no longer exists.) In April 1935, Dr. Vaughan purchased a new car, and he invited friends over to go for an Easter ride. Just after returning home, Vaughan went upstairs and died of a sudden heart attack. He was buried in Union Baptist Cemetery. His obituary called him an “ardent motorist and traveler.”

Images

“Armor,” patent application by Norval C. Vaughan, granted 1900
Dr. Norval C. Vaughan Creator: The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race, 1919
Grave monument of Dr. Norval C. Vaughan, Union Baptist Cemetery Creator: Chris Hanlin Date: 2022

Location

Union Baptist Cemetery, 4933 Cleves Warsaw Pike, Cincinnati, OH

Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Gravesite of Dr. Norval C. Vaughan,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 8, 2023, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/108.