George Franklin Grant, Black History Month, and Arlington

Dr. George Franklin Grant, Arlington Heights resident,  invented the golf tee in 1899, a lesser-known fact in Arlington history.


George Franklin Grant (1846-1910)

George Franklin Grant was an Arlington resident in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the first African American professor at Harvard University.  His father, Tudor Elandor Grant, was born a slave in Maryland and later  became an abolitionist helping smuggle slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

George Grant was the second African American to graduate Harvard University and became a renowned dentist, having graduated from Harvard Dental School in 1870.

The following is derived  from website:

In addition to Grant’s local renown as a dentist, he was a passionate golfer; considerable evidence points to Grant & his golfing partners as some of the earliest African American golfers in the post-Civil War era.  His daughter recalled caddying for her father in the 1880s in the Boston suburb of Arlington Heights, where her father had built a meadow course next to his home in the country.  The family had moved to Beacon Hill, but in his free moments Grant returned to the course in Arlington Heights.

One aspect of the golf game frustrated him:

He was unhappy with the imprecise process of teeing up the ball every time – which required pinching moist sand or mud into a cone-shaped tee before each shot.  Grant came up with an invention that would forever change the game of golf.  He received the very first patent for a wooden golf tee.   As an inventor rather than a businessman, Grant never marketed his golfing innovation.

  His golf tees were manufactured in Arlington, Massachusetts


Note:  George Franklin Grant’s home in Arlington Heights was originally numbered 48 Hillside Ave but was renumbered 118 Hillside Ave. in 1897.  In the 1883 street directory the listing says simply – Hillside Ave. 5th house on left from Wollaston Ave.

Arlington Heights, Mass. Wollaston Ave. in winter

This postcard is from Robbins Library’s Historical visual collection. All Library historical postcards and photographs are online via the Digital Commonwealth repository:

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