Municipal Archives

Traffic Signals - Garrett Patents, 1937

​Collection 1998-010


Office of the City Secretary
Dallas Municipal Archives
1500 Marilla Street, 5D South
Dallas, Texas 75201
CreatorNational Electric Signal Company
TitleTraffic Signals - Garrett Patents
Quantity1/4 linear inch
AbstractPrinted correspondence.
Language Records are in English

Scope and Content

Collection contains a letter from Charles Henry Garrett, son of Henry "Dad" Garrett, giving the City of Dallas perpetual license for use of patents invented by Dad Garrett.

By the early 1920s, automobiles and horse-drawn wagons, particularly ice-wagons, were clogging downtown Dallas roads.  Police officers directed downtown rush hour, but no coordination existed across the officers and streets.  The Police Department looked into different solutions to create flow, alleviate traffic jams, and move police out of harm's way.  One option included electronic semaphores reading 'Go,' ' Move Slowly,' 'Stop,' and 'Stop--Clear Street."  Another proposal was to install a tower at Main and Akard Streets where a police officer could manually control traffic yet be safe from the cars.

A natural inventor, in 1923, Fire Department Superintendent Henry Garrett created a hand-operated traffic signal tower that used lights and bells to signal motorists. Installed at the three-way intersection of Elm, Live Oak, and Ervay Streets, this tower introduced Dallasites to the now-ubiquitous red, green, and amber signals.  Unwilling to leave it at that, the following year Garrett flipped the switch on Dallas' first electric signal control system.  No more police officers were needed for traffic flow management in downtown.  Garrett retired as the Chief of the Dallas Police and Fire Signal Department at age 81 in 1840, and he continued to consult with the department until 1947.

In 1931, Charles Garrett, and a relative named John Marley, formed the National Electric Signal Company to license his father's patents and collect the royalties.




Permission to publish, reproduce, distribute, or use by any and all other current or future developed methods or procedures must be obtained in writing from the Dallas Municipal Archives. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards.


Traffic Signals - Garrett Patents, 1937 (Box <x>, Folder <y>), Dallas Municipal Archives

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Index Terms

Dallas -- Texas -- History
Traffic flow -- Texas -- Dallas
WRR-FM (Radio station: Dallas, Tex.) -- History

Container List

​Description, Date
Letter from Charles Henry Garrett, son of Henry "Dad" Garrett, giving the City of Dallas perpetual license for use of patents invented by Dad Garrett, 1937