Scientific American, v 25 (ns) no 4, p 56, 22 July 1871
(Special Correspondence of the Scientific American)
What is Doing at the Patent Office -- Great Number of Applicants for Extensions
Washington, D.C., July 11, 1871
The late extension of Kelly's patent for the manufacture of steel, referred to in your issue of July 1, is causing much excitement, the opponents making a fiery onslaught upon the Commissioner and Examiner, in the New York World and other papers. A vigorous reply is daily looked for, as well as the Commissioner's decision, in full, which has not yet been made public, though the extension was granted almost immediately after the hearing. Perhaps no extension was ever opposed by so many and weighty capitalists and corporation.
The current month carries a full share of extension cases, and some will be strongly contested, such as the patent to Joel W. Slawson, for the well known car fare box, used on street cars for the purpose of preventing fraud, and dispensing with the services of the toe-treading conductor; the patent to Arnton Smith (deceased) for a plow; the patent to Charles Winslow for elastic gore cloth, to be contested by the National Rubber Company; also, the patent to Levi Bissell for locomotive track, contested by the Brook Locomotive Works. Other applicants to be heard this month are W.R. Fee[?], for hulling cotton seeds; Baxter D. Whitney, for smoothing plane; Alfred Monnier, for manufacture of sulphuric acid; Beriah[?] Fitts, for planing machine feed roller; Wm. M. Welling, for factitious ivory; Isaac Hayden, for bobbins for roving and slubbing. The application for an extension of Smith's patent was made in 1868, and refused, but Congress, last winter, passed an act authorizing a re-examination of the case.
The patents issued during the last six months number 5,913 designs not including a falling off of about 500 from corresponding period of last year. Being curious to draw a comparison between the several States, as to their relative interests in the Patent Office, I have examined the issues of the last two months, as likely to give an approximately fair guide, and find that New York received 216; Pennsylvania 110; Massachusetts, 100; Illinois, 78; Ohio, 65; Connecticut 54; Indiana, 41; New Jersey, 33; Maryland, 26; Missouri, 22; Michigan, 20; Wisconsin, 19; Maine and Rhode Island, each 15; Iowa, 13; California, 12; Virginia, 11; Kentucky, 10; Vermont, 9; Louisiana, 8; Georgia, 8; Delaware, 6; New Hampshire, 6; Texas, 5; North Carolina, 4; Kansas, 3; West Virginia 3; Tennessee, 3; Mississippi, 3; Arkansas, 2, Oregon, 2; South Carolina, 1; Nebraska, 1; Florida, 1; Minnesota, 1, Alabama, 0, Nevada, 0.
It is encouraging to note that of these 926 patents, 113 were issued to inventors in the so-called slave States, and among them we find a great variety; not only cotton gins, cotton planters, cotton cleaners, and other machines pertaining to this particular branch of agriculture, but also a car coupling, a wood pavement, firearm, bridge truss, canal boat, steam engine plates, etc., etc. Gibbs, of the firm of Wilcox & Gibbs, is a Virginian, and Slawson, already referred to, is from New Orleans.
It is quite apparent that the abolition of slavery has stimulated invention at the South, especially in the class of mechanisms connected with agriculture, the records of the Patent Office showing that the applications for patents of this kind have increased from two percent, before the war, to nearly thirty percent of all cases filed; and the improved methods of cultivating cotton are already affecting the average yield.
In the class of inventors connected with railroads, there is no abatement of interest nor lack of talent. What greater boon to the traveling public than a well arranged sleeping car, or a Pullman palace car! Whole trains are now made up exclusively of palace cars, and they return immense profits, the company that owns most or all of them, from 200 to 300 per cent, it is said. Consideration for the comfort of human travelers, combined with a clear eye to the dividends, has given rise to equally substantial improvements in transportation cattle cars. Excellent contrivances have already been patented, and new applications are made. Under the old and still common mode of transportation, the animals suffer and average loss, or shrinkage, between St. Louis and Philadelphia, of fifty-seven pounds each; ten or twelve days are consumed in the transit; five or six stops, or even more, of twelve hours each, are required for unloading, feeding, rest and reloading; and, on an average, two animals in each car, are killed or maimed by falling and being trampled upon, or by some other accident. Under the new arrangement, at least one half the shrinkage is saved, no injuries are incurred, and the time is reduced to five, and even four days, as no stops are necessary, except for supplies of fresh water. The cattle are placed in separate stalls, necessarily narrow; but wide enough to allow of lying down. The partitions are thin, to economize room, and are constructed of wooden slats and ropes, or of canvas, so that they can be rolled up out of the way on the return trip, the cars then being used for ordinary freight and merchandise. These partitions are, however, so firmly secured as to support the animals, and prevent them from being thrown down by the sudden starting or stopping of the train, a very common occurrence in the old fashioned car. Food and water are supplied from the top of the car, through suitable openings and connections, and a tank of cold water is so placed as to give the cattle an occasional shower bath in warm weather.
A successful construction and arrangement of these devices presents an inviting field to the practical inventor. The railroads to the Pacific and Southwest are developing a large cattle trade with Texas, the cattle being driven in large herds across the plains to various points on the Kansas Pacific and Union Pacific roads, and even as far north as Sioux City. Such places as Cheyenne, Schuyler, Laramie, Abeline, Kansas City, and others, have already become great center posts for this traffic, and at some stations eight-five car loads are shipped daily. The Texas cattle, born and reared in woodland, or on the wide plain, and having the free range of an extended tract of country, are semi-wild creatures, very unlike the mild and domestic occupant of the farm yard; and an ordinary car filled with them, fretting under their imprisonment, and striking right and left with their wide branching horns, does not present a "happy family" for Barnum, but with a "stalled ox," and "a dinner of herbs," the "hatred therewith" is effectually banished.
The manufacturing establishments of the two companies who introduced these improvements are located at Chicago, Ill., and at Salem, Ohio, and negotiations with the railroad companies are in progress, which will soon establish them as essential parts of the transportation system between the West and the seaboard.
Mr. Amos Rank, the President of the Salem company, is a leading inventor in this class of improvements.
Last winter an attempt was made in Congress by some humane members to pass such enactments as should compel all railroads to make more merciful provisions for the provision of all live stock, both in the construction of the cars and in supplying food and water on the train at suitable intervals. The bill, however, was not passed. Did the members quote Paul's inconsiderate remark to the Corinthians: "Doth God take care for oxen?"
The allusion to Texas reminds me of a patent just granted to a photographer of that State. Can you, good reader, discover any close relation between the modern art of photography and the ancient amusement of swinging, a very ancient amusement, it having, no doubt, originated with our honored progenitors, the monkeys? You are aware that the long standing and momentous problem of the art referred to is, how to get good pictures of children. The Texan has solved it. He places the infant, whether of days or years, on a swinging platform, together with his camera, and both are then set in lively motion. To the innocent sitter peace and quiet are imparted, to the delight of the fond parent and abundant satisfaction of the operator.
Have you recorded another invention, illustrating the fertility of human genius, namely, a garter constructed of two dissimilar metals, in the form of delicate coiled wires, to create a galvanic current around the leg as an effectual cure of rheumatism?
State Interference with Patents
By the Constitution of the United States, sole power is conferred upon Congress to create proprietary rights in patents for inventions; with which rights no State government has any authority, either directly or indirectly, to interfere. Indeed, it is the bounden duty of State governments and State officials, if they are called upon to act at all in the premises, to support the laws of Congress in respect to patents and patentees, not hinder or distress them.
Cheats and villains are found in every community, and they resort to all sorts of devices for swindling purposes, patents amongst other things. If they sometimes succeed in duping the foolish or the unwary, that is no reason why honest men, in the exercise of legitimate privileges, should be subjected to indignity or placed under the ban of suspicion. The old maxim is a good one to the extent that it is better for the guilty to go unpunished than that the innocent should suffer.
The legislatures of some of our Western States, under pretext of protecting their citizens against patent swindles, have passed special laws that are not only obnoxious to honest people, but clearly unconstitutional.
Some of these laws make it almost a penitentiary offense for a man to appear on the streets with a bona fide patent in his pocket. It is as bad or worse than the carrying of concealed weapons. And if an inventor should so far forget himself as to open his mouth with reference to a sale of his patent, not having first conformed to the requirements of some absurd State law, he is at once arrested, imprisoned in a common jail, and robbed of his money by unjust fines.
The seal of the United States granted to him as a sign of honor and reward is thus perverted as an instrument of abuse, and the deserving inventor, instead of profiting by his discovery, reaps only ruin and disgrace.
It seems incredible that this state of things can exist; but it does exist, and we have had many complaints from victims in different parts of the country.
We would urge patentees and their agents everywhere, not tamely to submit to such outrages, but to resist them by all legal means in their power. The issue of a patent is a grant under the broad seal of the United States, declaring that holder may freely enjoy the right to make, sell, and use his invention, and grant similar rights to others, in all the States and Territories of the Union.
The attempt of any State Legislature or State Court to restrict, regulate, or in any manner interfere with the operations of patentees or their agents in selling their patents, is unwarrantable. We think it probable that any State official who engages in such interference, is liable to both civil and criminal prosecution under the laws of the United States.
In this connection and in corroboration of the views now and heretofore by us expressed, we republish on another page the able decision rendered last year by Judge Davis, in the United States Court at Indianapolis, Ind., in a case similar to those we have suggested. The patentee's agent was thrown into prison simply for having offered a patent right for sale. But he had spirit enough and money enough to resent the outrage, and, on habeas corpus proceedings, the Judge ordered his instant release, and declared the Indiana law to be unconstitutional and void.
A Patent Schemer Foiled
A few days ago, says the Washington Patriot, Marcus P. Norton, of Troy, presented to Mr. Wilson, the clerk having charge of the records of patent assignments in the Patent Office, what purported to be a release of certain rights, held by F.J. Ransford and Peter Low, in an application for a patent for a "post office post marking stamp," which was rejected in 1859, and which Norton has recently been endeavoring to get permission from the office to renew.
This document was dated July 20, 1859, twelve years ago, but bore undoubtable evidence of being of much more recent origin. The paper was fresh, clear, and bright, and the folds were not even settled, but, as released from pressure, sprung open, like newly folded paper. In addition to this, the writing of the body of the document, the signatures of the parties and the witnesses were all in one hand, slightly disguised, but recognized at once as Norton's It is said that even the color of the ink was not set, but that it grew blacker after the paper was filed in the office.
Mr. Wilson, of course, did not record such a document, but laid it before the Commissioner, who at once called upon Mr. Norton for an explanation. He admitted that it was not the genuine assignment, but claimed it to be a copy, of which he failed to produce the original.
Commissioner Leggett still holds the paper, but has taken no steps in the matter beyond issuing the following order:
United States Patent Office
Washington, August 23, 1871
Until further notice Marcus P. Norton will not be permitted to examine any papers, look into any files, or transact any business in the Patent Office, except by and through some respectable and accredited attorney.
M.D. Leggett, Commissioner