Edit Current Bio
UCB is written collaboratively by you and our community of volunteers. Please edit and add contents by clicking on the add and edit links to the right of the content

Oliver Thomas Barnes

Born on 7-11-1875. He was born in Tidioute, Pennsylvania. He later died on 8-23-1940.
  • Basic Info
  • Attachments
  • Relations
  • Organizations
  • Accomplishments
  • Schools
  • Employers
Oliver Thomas (O.T.) Barnes was born on July 11, 1875 in Tidioute, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Thomas H and Mary Belle Peoples-Barnes. He was one of three children, including a sister, Mable and a brother, Harry. Oliver was first black male graduate of Olean High School in 1895. Following graduation Oliver and his brother, Harry founded Barnes Brothers' Electric and Plumbing in Olean, New York in 1902. Harry later left the business to start his own catering business.

Other than his electric and plumbing work around Olean, the first big contract for Oliver was the installation of the electrical system in a large penal institution in Steubenville, Ohio. After the job in Steubenville was completed, O.T. and his crew were contracted to install the electricity in another penal institution in Newburg, New York.

In 1914 O.T. worked on temperature control for baking tile for the Olean Tile Company. He also worked on the coloring of the tile. The company was having a problem with the mixing of the clay and chemicals. Many wood chemical plants in the area were wired by O.T. Barnes and his crew. In the 1920's he installed the electricity for a power plant in Morris, Pennsylvania. The power plant was used by the local chemical company and as a local utility. O.T. installed the first electric lights at the local hotel in Morris.

Oliver married Olive Rebecca Cady. The couple had premature twins while they were living in Steubenville. O.T. built an incubator using light bulbs to keep the twins alive. Their son Oramel survived while their daughter Olive died. The Barnes had three more sons; Darwin, Charles and Robert and two daughters, Lois and Lorna. The couple also had 14 grandchildren. O.T. trained his four sons in the electrical business. His business name was changed to O.T. Barnes & Sons Electrical Contractors.

O.T. Barnes was considered by many to be a man ahead of his time." He seemed to know what was in the future for the electrical business. His sons claimed that he designed a pull chain light socket. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to interest electrical supply manufacturers in his idea. They felt nothing could replace the turn key type or push button socket. O.T. later sold the pull chain light socket patent for $25.00 In 1925 he made many blue prints, designing an idea for a television. In the 1930's while working on a design for an electric oil refinery O.T. had a slight stroke that impaired his speech. He had his son Darwin studied fractional distillation so that he could explain, in detail, to the many refining engineers from Texas and California about O.T. Barnes' theory of the large amount of energy loss through gas. He had a four foot contraption built from fire clay for demonstration which proved his theory.