The inventor of the wooden golf tee began his education in Oswego and was one of the first children to use the Oswego Public Library. In 1857 George Franklin Grant was 11 when the library opened here in our Castle on the Hill.
Born in 1800, Tudor Elandor Grant, the father of George Franklin Grant, was a runaway slave from Maryland who settled in Oswego in 1832. When George was young, Tudor had a barber shop in the basement of the Welland Building and later in the Buckhout-Jones Building where the Children’s Museum of Oswego now resides. Tudor worked tirelessly to free slaves and outlaw slavery. The Grant family lived at 134 W. Bridge St. where George was one of seven children.
George began work at 15 as an errand boy for a local dentist and soon became the lab assistant, learning the basics of a dental practice. In 1867 George moved to Boston graduating from Harvard Dental School in 1870 — the second African American dental graduate in the country. Dr. George Grant went on to be the first African American faculty member at Harvard. He pioneered the treatment of cleft palates, an opening in the roof of the mouth, inventing an oblate palate prosthesis. The oblate palate helped patients around the world eat and speak well.
When he left Harvard, Dr. George Grant opened his own successful dental practice treating patients from as far away as Michigan. He also invented the wooden golf tee in 1899 which was made in an Arlington Heights shop. In Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf, George’s daughter Frances is quoted as saying “My father had burlap bags of golf tees, but he gave them away instead of selling them.”