Scientific American, v 50 (ns) no 2, p 17, 12 January 1884
Patent Office Affairs
Washington, Dec 31, 1883
That Congress not only made no increase in the clerical force of the Patent Office last year, but actually reduced their number by twenty, is being prominently brought to the attention of Congressmen. It is undeniably a strong argument for ample force in the Patent Office that there is now a surplus of $2,500,000 in the National Treasury belonging to the Patent Department. A system of lessening the cost of patents by a graduated scale of fees has been proposed, but excessive cost is not so often complained of as the sometimes inevitable delays, many of which might be avoided by a more generous use of the money of patentees in paying for help in the Patent Office.
The Commissioner of Patents is required by law to make a report to Congress at the close of each calendar year, and I have made some inquiries as to the statistics it will embrace. There has been an increase in nearly every branch of the office over last year, and the receipts for moneys paid in during 1883 over 1882 is, in round numbers, $135,000. This, however, does not equal the increase of 1882 over 1881, which was $155,556.66. The increase in correspondence has been about ten per cent, and in applications of every kind nearly twenty per cent. The number of patents forfeited during the year is about 2,000. These figures are not exact, for in none of the divisions have any steps been taken toward furnishing the data for the Commissioner's report, which must be presented to Congress within the next month, but they are sufficiently close to show that the patent business throughout the country is not retrograding; it is rather constantly increasing in importance and demanding more rigid attention of the lawmakers and those who administer the laws.
The Civil Service Committee has completed its rules for the examination of applicants for positions in the Patent Office, and they will be published on Thursday of this week. For the position of assistant examiner the applicant will be required to show a knowledge of arithmetic of algebra to equations of the second degree, of geometry and trigonometry, of chemistry and physics. For draughtsmen, drawing from mechanical models and explanations of certain rules for mechanical drawing will be required. For the position of assistant librarian, which is now vacant, a knowledge of French and German, and the ability to property translate those languages into idiomatic English, is required, as well as explanations of methods of cataloguing, and the proper arrangement of books by classification of subjects. The knowledge of German is also made desirable in those seeking positions as assistant examiners.
The controversy respecting the electric railway is now fairly inaugurated in the Patent Office. The proceedings have been somewhat delayed by the taking of testimony abroad under a commission in support of the claims of the celebrated German scientists, Dr. Werner Siemens, of Berlin. Counsel were heard in argument upon the merits of the case last week before the Examiner of Interferences. The point is to construct a commercially practicable railway, which can compete with the existing modes of transportation.
A small section of road was built and operated by Siemens, at the exposition at Berlin, in 1879, and there are now several short lines in operation in various parts of Europe, and notably one at the Giant's Causeway, in Ireland, familiar to travelers. Edison has a line two miles and a half long, at Menlo Park, N.J., fully equipped and in daily operation, for the benefit of visitors and pilgrims to the shrine. There is also an experimental road at Saratoga Springs, and another claimant is Stephen D. Field, of New York, a nephew of Cyrus W. Field.
The Commissioner, on Friday, gave a decision in a case which has been long pending, the application having been filed January 6, 1883, wherein it was claimed that John T. Berchers had discovered a method to effectually and fully preserve fish in cans. His method he described as cutting the fish longitudinally and in thin slices, instead of transversely and in thick lumps or chunks. Both the examiner who had the case in the first instance and the Board of Examiners-in-Chief decided that there was nothing patentable in the application, and the Commissioner, after fully setting forth the facts in the application, sustains the opinion of the examiners.
The new classification of subjects of invention, which is the official guide of the office in the distribution of applications for official action, when ready, will be published as a supplement to the Gazette.
The House Committee on Patents, as announced by Speaker Carlisle, is as follows: R.B. Vance, N.C.; O.R. Singleton, Miss.; C.S. Mitchell, Conn.; J.E. Haskell, Ky.; George W. Dargan, S.C.: J. Winans, Wis.; W.P. Hepburn, Iowa; H.L. Morey, Ohio; L.E. Alkin, Pa.; and W.W. Rice, Mass. This is considered a good committee, some of the members having had experience in the committee heretofore.
The Senate Patent Committee is as follows: Orville H. Platt, Mass., chairman; George F. Hoar, Mass.; John I. Mitchell, Penn.; Elbridge G. Lapham, N.Y.: Richard Coke, Texas; Wilkinson Call, Florida; and J.N. Camden, W.Va.
Already a number of applications for extension of patents, which can only be done by Act of Congress, have been filed, and they will all be carefully considered before action.
Affairs at the Patent Office
Washington, D.C., January 7
Although the Patent Office deals in dry, hard facts, and the applicant for a patent and the examiner who investigates his claim have generally no more humor than a graven image, there are many things that have a humorous side to them even here. In looking over the list of applications the other day, I made some curious discoveries which I think worthy of mention. Marc Antony wanted a patent for a fruit can; T. Allwood for a barrel platform; D.T. Apple had applied his ingenuity to the construction of a pie baker; W.B. Argue appeared as attorney of record for a claimant, and J. Broom got a patent for a refuse ejector. O. Bottles had discovered a new beer faucet, and S.A. Beer had invented a distillery worm. E. Buss wanted a patent for a gas engine; J. Bumhill for a planter; H. Boot for a shoe horn; A. Christ for a torpedo; Crofut & Knapp for felt hats; Car Carpenter for a car heater; L. Cutshawl for a churn; A.J. Dine for an earth auger; and a gentleman rejoicing in the extended name of Ludovic Charles Adrien Joseph Guyot D'Arlincourt applied for a patent for an improved magnet.
One Preserved Fish wanted a patent for a mast for vessels; while Lazarus Fried had turned his attention to toy watches. F.F. Foot very properly had turned his inventive genius to boots and shoes, and O. Faucet had looked after drain pipes. H. Goodenough wanted a patent for a horse shoe; M. Glasscock for a plow; J.S. Gold for a show case; I. Glassblower for a draught equalizer, and C.J. Glover of Gloversville, N.Y. for a glove fastener. C.X. Harmony had invented an improved cornet mouthpiece; T. January a fluting machine; E. Kiss an omnibus pole; and C. Lightsinger a harmonica. W. Legg was made happy by a patent for a boot upper; A. North has one for a refrigerator; E.B. Meatyard one for a butcher's saw; Modest Merke for a fly trap; F. Million for a gas engine; Mustapha Mustapha, of Zagazig, Egypt, for a cotton gin; and Rob Roy McGregor for a milk can. Every one knows that W.D. Puffer has patents for improved soda fountains, but J.D. Peck had invented a patent measure -- probably a peck measure, and Perry Prettyman, of Paradise Spring Farm, Oregon, has a lamp burner. H. Sandhop has a patent pavement driver; Scripture and Stackman a car heater; E.B. Turnipseed, a beehive; D.T. Trueblood, a medicine spoon; C.E. Plugge, a tobacco cutter, and Wall Work a car signal.
Among other curious names are V.C.A.P.D.G. Compte d'Ayapruck, Lio Louis Aime Elie Picot de la Peyrouse, Gallup and Hurry, Jackson Martin Van Buren Ilgenfritz, M.J. Laughter, E.S. Laughinghouse, J. Midwinter, J.D. Miracle, Return Jonathan May, C.E. Marychurch, W. Morningstar, J.E. Mustard, Return Jonathan Meggo Only, N.W. Playmate, F. Pickup, W. Rainbow, W.G. Rawbone, M. Rainwater, W.H. Rushforth, L. Soarback, J.M. Scantlin, B. Sloppy, J.F. Sheepshank, B. Silvernail, J. Snowman, W.S. Sharpneck, B. Shirtsleeve, W. Stonebreaker, A.T. Timewell, Liberty Walkup, Pleasant Witt, Twentyman Wood, M.C. Younglove, E. Children, Church & Chaplin, A. Colderhead, S. Cornfield, W. Clucken, T. Curbsetter, W.B. Cowlock, Cook Darling, O. Drinkwater, A. Doll, I. Edge, W.S. Earwig, P.T. Earlywine, Lewis Finger, S. Forehand, Amy Fullalove, D. Goodwillie, Wm. Goforth, W.H. Goodchild, J.L. Greatsinger, Sampson Goliah, C.M. Henn, T. Oxyard, W. Onions, B. Overstreet, and N.W. Playmate.
The Secretary has decided that where an applicant files two or more applications for patents for divisions of the same subject matter of invention, the references from one application to another required by rule 42 of the rules of practice relating to such cases must specify the applications particularly by stating the dates of filing and serial numbers.
There has been but little of importance done in the Patent Office during the past week, the holidays having interfered with the regular work.
The London Engineer gives quite an amusing account of the rush at the Patent Office on the first day of January, when the new English patent act came into operation. It says:
One enthusiastic inventor, hailing from north of the Tweed, took up his station outside of the door soon after midnight, and his patience was rewarded by the honor of appearing as "No 1" under the new law. Toward four o'clock he was joined by two others, and when the hour for opening had arrived a small crowd of about fifty eager applicants had assembled; but when they had been disposed of, business became slack. There was, however, a steady influx, and at four o'clock it was found that 266 applications had been recorded. This is by far the largest number every received in one day. The 1st of October, 1852, when the Patent Law Amendment Act -- the statute which has just expired -- came into operation, was a busy day, 146 applications having been sent in. On the last day of last year one person, who wished to have the last patent under the 1852 Act, after waiting about some time, handed in a specification at the last minute, satisfied that he had secured the peculiar pleasure he sought. Half a minute to four o'clock a small boy, from a dark corner of the office, sprung himself upon the astonished occupants and handed in two specifications. The man who thought he had got the last was heard to mutter something about the artful little boy, but what it was he muttered does not seem to be a matter of importance to history, as similar remarks have been made before. Contrary to general expectation, the falling off in the work of the office during last year, consequent on the superior advantages offered by Mr. Chamberlain's Act, has not been very great. In 1882 the applications reached 6,241, the largest number ever known, while in 1883 they amounted to 5,993, or a decrease of 249. The diminution first manifested itself in the week ending September 22, just a month after the passing of the act, when there was a deficiency of three, as compared with the corresponding period of 1882. From that time the number of applications fell off steadily, with the result above stated.
The Patent Committee's Error
One of the strongest safeguards of movable property lies in the fact that stolen goods are not readily salable. The market for stolen property is spoiled or greatly restricted by the circumstance that in law the receiver is as bad as the thief, and the innocent possessor of stolen goods is likely to loose the purchase money, if he does not get into more serious trouble, when the rightful owner's claim is made good. For a large class of patented inventions meeting popular needs this proper safeguard has been their chief safeguard. The infringing manufacturer is usually irresponsible, and the unauthorized vendor cannot be found when the infringement is discovered; but the fact that the wrongful user is also liable has made prudent men cautious in dealing in such things; and enough men are prudent to diminish materially the profits of infringers and so discourage the dishonest from making over-free with the rights of others.
In asking Congress to take away this element of protection, hitherto accorded by the law to property held under patent rights, the Patent Committee allege that they do so on the ground that it has led to grievous abuses. There has been, they say, much complaint of hardship arising from the practice of owners or pretended owners of patents in allowing infringements to go on for a term of years, and then sending around agents to demand damages under threats of lawsuits, to the distress and loss of many innocent people. This is the only excuse given for the legislation exempting the user of infringing manufactures, and confining the penalty for infringement to the maker and vender only. That the excuse would be inadequate, if true, has been amply shown in these columns. But is it true?
In what part of the country and in connection with what patents or pretended patents have the alleged abuses occurred and complaints arisen? And what proportion do the alleged complainers bear numerically to the fifty million people who in every sphere and walk of life are constantly surrounded by and dependent for occupation, income, convenience, or necessity upon articles patented or manufactured under patent rights? Have their come to the ears of the committee one complaint from each hundred thousand patent users; in connection with one in each thousand patents? And what proportion do the pretended hardships bear to the hardships complained of through disputed ownerships of other species of property?
If every person overreached, or who should think himself overreached and damaged, in a horse-trade, were to complain to Congress, the annual list of complainants would be a very long one; but that would scarcely be held a valid reason for legislation, destroying or impairing all property rights in horses.
The truth is, the pretext for the recent action of the House of Representatives, in connection with suits for infringement, is essentially a false one. There has been no general practice of the sort alleged; from the nature of men and things, there cannot be. As a class, patentees are not eager for law suits; indeed, suits at law are relatively fewer in connection with patents than with any other species of property of equal scope and value. And the proportion of all the patent suits that could by any forcing be brought into the class complained of by the Patent Committee must be and is extremely small. If pretended owners of patents harass people by threats of suits for infringement, the proper course is to turn the offenders over to the local authorities for punishment, as in the case of all other petty swindlers, and not punish all patent owners for the crimes of a few pretenders to patent rights.
It is not denied that there have been cases -- marvelously few, though, in view of the number of patents issued, and the important part which patents play in the industrial world -- a few cases in which patentees have been kept from the enjoyment of their rights by litigation, usually against powerful infringers, until other infringers have come to believe that the patentee had no rights or would never be able to enforce them; and then, after a struggle more or less prolonged, the patentee's rights have been established, they have proceeded to claim damages for the unlawful use of their invention. Sometimes the offenders have been morally innocent through ignorance; but more frequently they have discounted the chance of ever being called to account, and after infringing wantonly have complained of hardship when their miscalculation has reacted to their hurt.
It is, however, not this class of complainants whom the Patent Committee ask to have protected, but the victims of those who purposely allow the use of their inventions simply to gain ground for subsequent blackmailing operations under threats of lawsuits against innocent offenders against the law. The possible justice of the committee's requests hinges upon the existence of a considerable class of such evil-minded patentees. With all respect to the sincerity of the committee, we may say that evidence is lacking of the existence, or the possible existence of such a class; and consequently there is, on the committee's own showing, no ground for legislation such as they have asked for and obtained in the House.
The only hope that patentees can now have of protection against the proposed invasion of the rightful privileges they have hitherto enjoyed, lies in the superior knowledge of the Senate, both as to the facts of the case and the conditions under which a large part of the productive industry of the country has been established and is maintained. Senators can scarcely fail to see that the pretext of the House committee, if founded on real hardship and actual complaints, would not justify so grave and costly a remedy, while in the absence of such foundation the proposed legislation is utterly destitute of reasonable, even plausible, grounds to rest on.
Women as Inventors
A writer in the North American Review gives the following list of inventions recently patented in the United States by women. But the writer has omitted from his list a large number of patents which have been granted to the fair sex, some of which have proved of considerable value to the patentees.
The writer commences his list with a spinning machine capable of running from 12 to 40 threads; a rotary loom doing three times the work of an ordinary loom; a chain elevator; screw crank for steamships; a fire escape; a wool feeder and weigher, one of the most delicate machines ever invented, and of incalculable benefit to every wool manufacturer; a portable reservoir for use in case of fire; a process for burning petroleum in place of wood and coal for steam generating purposes; an improvement in spark arresters, to be applied to locomotives; a danger signal for street crossings on railways; a plan for heating cars without fire; a lubricating felt for subduing friction (the last five all rearing upon railroad travel); syllable type, with adjustable cases and apparatus; machine for trimming pamphlets; writing machine; signal rocket used in the navy; deep sea telescope; method of deadening sound on elevated railways; smoke burner; bag folding machine, etc. Many improvements in sewing machines have been made by women -- as, a device for sewing sails and heavy cloth; quilting attachments; the magic ruffler; threading a machine when it is running; an adaptation of machines for sewing leather, etc. This last was the invention of a practical woman machinist, who for many years carried on a large harness manufactory in New York city. The deep sea telescope, invented by Mrs. Mather and improved by her daughter, is a unique and important invention, bringing the bottom of the largest ships to view without the expense of raising them into a dry dock. By its means wrecks can be inspected, obstructions to navigation removed, torpedoes successfully sought for, and immense sums annually saved to the marine service. A machine which, for its complicated mechanism and extraordinary ingenuity, has attracted much attention both in this country and Europe, is that for the manufacture of satchel-bottom paper bags. Many men of mechanical genius long directed their attention to this problem without success. Miss Maggie Knight, to whose genius this machine is due, it is said refused $50,000 for it shortly after taking out her patent. Miss Knight has since invented a machine doing the work, the writer says, of 30 persons in folding bags, and herself superintended the erection of the machinery at Amherst, Mass.
Extracts from the Letter of the Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, Commissioner of Patents, to the Cincinnati Convention of Inventors
United States Patent Office
Washington, March 23, 1884
I feel a deep interest in the proceedings of the meeting. I realize the possibilities for good which wait upon its action. Careful investigation has made me more fully to realize how greatly this country is indebted to the inventors, and their practical coworkers the manufacturers, for its unexampled prosperity. A study of the facts warrants me in saying that no equal number of men have contributed more, if so much, as the inventors in building up our great industries, and yet no equal number of men have exerted less influence in the political field, where the needs of various interests are discussed, and the legislation in that behalf suggested and moulded.
... I want to notice for a moment the objection against the patent system by some of those who are most interested in sustaining it. I refer to the agriculturists.
I submit that no man need use an article of modern improvement, unless he finds it to his interest to do so. We may still plow with a wooden mouldboard. We may still drop corn with the fingers, and cover it with the hoe. We may still sow wheat 'broadcast,' and eschew the drill. And we may cut grain, wheat, and oats with the sickle, or, if our opposition to improvements is not radical, we may use the cradle. We may leave the reaper and mower, the raker and binder, severely alone if we choose. We may then resolutely thrash the grain with the flail or tramp it out with horses. We are under no obligation whatever to use a thrasher, and not the slightest to use a cleaner and separator.
We may still haul our crops to market in jolt-wagons. There rests upon us no legal obligation to utilize the railroad. None of us are compelled to use the telegraph. We may in case of sickness send fifty miles by messenger on a horse for a doctor, and bring him back in the same manner; and if the patient dies before he arrives, the relatives and friends need not be summoned by telegraph, nor come by railroad; they can be advised by the postman, and come in the old way, if at all. And in the mean time the corpse can be kept on ice, provided the ice is not manufactured by one of those patent ice machines. It is the right of the citizen to drown, if he prefers it, to being saved through the instrumentality of one of those patent life saving contrivances which are in common use along the coat. It is my lawful right, if I own a coal mine, to draw the coal up with the old fashioned windlass, instead of using steam power and modern appliances. I have an equal right to toil up seven stories in a hotel, instead of riding up in one of those patent elevators. I can pay a dollar a rod to fence my farm with posts and boards, instead of using barbed wire at half the cost.
What I want to show is, that the blood-bought privileges of sticking to the old way remain to us in spite of the patent law.
Had we better do this? Better stick to the old way, or encourage the genius of invention, and improve our methods, lighten our labors, increase our comforts, embellish our homes, and thus add to the sum of our happiness?
But those patents levy on the people. Yes, they levy a dime, and in return give a dollar, and often ten. I can mention half a dozen inventions which alone have saved more to the people of the United States than our whole population have paid in the shape of tax and royalty to inventors since the foundation of our government, and more than they will pay for the next century. I may name the cotton gin, the spinning jenny, the power loom, the locomotive, the telegraph, the reaper and mower. Then let me add the power printing press. All except one, with their aids and auxiliaries, produced and perfected in less than a generation -- less than fifty years. By the old methods there are not adult laborers enough in all the Southern States to prepare the present cotton crop for the loom. By the old methods it would take all the adult laborers in the North to plant, tend and gather the crops. Not a shop or factory could be spared a man or woman.
These assertions are not guesses nor wild assumptions, but the result of careful investigation.
I am astonished at the constant complaint made, that the agriculturist is oppressively taxed and burdened by our patent system; and this in the face of the fact that but for the hives of industry, the busy marts of our great cities which have their origin and grown in the production of the machines, implements, tools and appliances which are the fruit's of the inventor's study, research, experiment, and labors, the business of farming would not be worth following -- there would be no market.
Patents in Congress
The most interesting incident of the past few days relating to the patent agitation has been the delivery before the Senate, on the 31st of March,of a most remarkable oration on the "Reorganization of the Patent Office," by the Hon. Orville H. Platt, Senator from Connecticut, and Chairman of the Committee on Patents. We look upon this discourse as one of the most able, eloquent, and profound expositions ever pronounced concerning the nature of patents and the marvelous influence upon the country of new inventions. It is a wonderful essay, powerful in its reasoning, a great honor to its author; entitling him to the gratitude and respect of the nation.
Senator Platt begins at the very beginning of our patent system. He reproduces from the government archives records showing the gradual unfolding of the system, and tells us of the deep interest our fathers took in new inventions and new industries. He proceeds:
"Mr. President, to my mind the passage of the act of 1836 creating the Patent Office marks the most important epoch in the history of our development -- I think the most important event in the history of our Government from the Constitution until the war of rebellion. The establishment of the Patent Office marked the commencement of the marvelous development of the resources of the country which is the admiration of the world, a development which challenges all history for a parallel; and it is not too much to say that this unexampled progress has been not only dependent upon but has been coincident with the growth and development of the patent system of this country.
Words fail in attempting to portray the advancement of this country for the last fifty years. We have had fifty years of progress, fifty years of inventions applied to the everyday wants of life, fifty years of patent encouragement, and fifty years of a development in wealth, resources, grandeur, culture, power, which is little short of miraculous. Population, production, business wealth, comfort, culture, power, grandeur, these have all kept step with the expansion of the inventive genius of this country; and this progress has been made possible only by the inventions of its citizens. All history confirms us in the conclusion that it is the development by the mechanic arts, of the industries of a country, which brings to it greatness and power and glory.
No purely agricultural, pastoral people ever achieved any high standing among the nations of the earth. It is only when the brain evolves and the cunning hand fashions labor-saving machines that a nation begins to throb with new energy and life, and expands with a new growth. It is only when thought wrings from nature her untold secret resources that solid wealth and strength are accumulated by a people.
Concede all you claim -- free institutions, Christian civilization, industrious habits; grant respect for law; acknowledge all our vast natural resources; and then deduct patents and patented inventions from the causes which have led to this development, and you have subtracted from material, yes, from moral, prosperity nearly all that is worth enjoying. Subtract invention from the causes which have led to our growth and our grandeur, and you remit us, you remit our people, to the condition of the people of Italy, of Switzerland, of Russia. If "knowledge is power," invention is prosperity.
I am not a very old man, but recollection carries me back fifty years, when there was no railroad, no coal used, no steam power used, no woolen factories except of the rudest sort; no telegraph in Connecticut. Possibly there were one hundred tons of coal consumed in the state annually.
There was no carpet; no piano; few books; hand sewing only; hand knitting; the tallow candle; the unwarmed, unlighted church; the school house with its hard, rough benches; and the slow post route, the mail once a week; a weekly paper only. It was a week's journey from Connecticut to Washington; six weeks' journey from Connecticut to Ohio. Five thousand dollars in those days was a competence, and $10,000 was a fortune. What has accomplished all the transformation which we witness as we compare the conditions of the country fifty years ago with its condition at the present day?
I insist, Mr. President, that it is traceable directly to invention. The railroad, the child of patented inventions, the production of cotton, silk, broadcloth, and linen, is due absolutely and entirely to the perfection of machinery for their manufacture. The daily press, the teeming books, are part of our civilization. They are all dependent upon patented inventions. The carpet, the piano, and the carriage conduce to our comfort and our convenience, and they are also children of patents. Every comfort which we have, every convenience which we enjoy, every element of wealth which we acquire, has its root and development in the patent system of this country. They are born of patents, and they live only by permission of patents.
The author then traces the growth of population, of imports and exports, of railways, production of coal, wool, values of agricultural lands, and the same lands where manufactures are carried on; he gives multitudes of statistics and tables; he presents proofs for all his statements.
Every department of business, every pursuit of organized life, has been fed, nourished, and enabled to keep step in this wonderful march of progress by the patented inventions of the age... Imagine, if you can, how we should reach our agricultural regions, the great wheat fields of the West, without railroads; and I may say here that a railroad -- from the steel rail to the top of the smoke stack, from its locomotive headlight to the signal lantern on the platform of the last car -- is but one aggregation of patents. Think of the crops raised without improved plows, without seeders, without cultivators, without mowers, without harvesters, without thrashing machines! Think of the crops hauled to market by horses! Think, if it would be possible, of the wheat converted into flour without patented milling processes! and say what proportion of profitable agriculture in this country is not due directly to patents and to the patent system of the country. The truth is, and there is no avoiding it, that you cannot disconnect in this country invention, manufactures, and agriculture. The triumph and the success of the one is the triumph and success of all. They are interdependent, coequal factors, as it were, in producing our prosperity and our happiness; and so with regard to the other industries of the country, patents are directly connected with them all, and absolutely necessary to their successful pursuit.
We are a nation of 50,000,000 people, but we have the productive capacity of many more millions, how many more no man can estimate. Coal and water are now performing the work of human hands. What agents will perform them in the near future it is impossible to tell.
The steam power used in the manufactories of the United States, by the census of 1880, was equal to 2,183,488 horse power; the water power was equal to 1,225,379 horse power; making in all the horse power of the United States 3,408,867. Counting one horse power to be equal to that of six men, we have the power used in driving of our factories alone in this country the equivalent of the power of 20,453,202 men. The steam power used in driving our factories, not including the water power, is equivalent to the labor of 13,100,928 men; and of our 50,000,000 people, only 35 per cent are supposed to be capable of labor -- in round numbers, 17,500,000 laborers, persons capable of pursuing gainful avocations, in the country; and yet it would nearly take these 17,500,000 men to furnish the force that is exercised by steam in driving the engines of our factories, the wheels, the spindles, and the machinery of this country; and we do not begin to touch even then upon the saving of power by the use of the machines which are manufactured in these factories.
Take the capacity of locomotive engines as compared with the capacity of horses. We find that locomotives in the entire country are doing the work of 29,676,960 horses on common roads.
Remember that eight-tenths of the manufacturing in the country is dependent on patented process. Take the statement cited the other day by the Senator from Florida [Mr. Call], in which he quotes from Mulhall's Progress of the World, a book from which I have already quoted, as to the capacity of the sewing machine:
'In effect, the adoption of machinery and steam has given mankind an accession of power beyond calculation. The United States, for example, make a million sewing-machines yearly, which can do as much work as formerly required 12,000,000 women working by hand. A single shoe factory in Massachusetts turns out as many pairs of boots as 30,000 boot-makers in Paris.'
Mulhall here gives the total horse power in comparison with steam as 13,071,000, the horse power of the world dependent upon the use of steam, equivalent to about 78,000,000 men.
Take the loom and see what it has done in adding to the productive capacity of the country.
In one of our manufactories you will see a girl of fifteen minding a machine that spins 2,100 miles of thread a day -- a thread that would reach from Washington to California.
Take the figures which I have given of the wool production and consumption of this country. In 1880 the wool grown was 290,000,000; that imported was 70,575,478 pounds. We exported 4,074,517 pounds, which left for home consumption in the United States 356,500,961 pounds of wool. Now, imagine for a moment what kind of a figure the mothers and daughters of the land would make in carding it with the old hand cards, or spinning it with the old spinning-wheel, or weaving it with the old hand loom. Take the single matter of cleaning cotton.
Under the old process of cleaning cotton, before the invention of the Whitney gin, a man could clean four pounds a day. The gins now in use clean 4,000 pounds a day.
Whenever a machine is invented which does the work of ten men with one attendant, nine men are released from that occupation in which they have theretofore engaged to engage in other productive operation. The men so released do not remain idle, nor do they descend in the grade of labor.
I know the argument is often used that inventions are opposed to the labor interests of the country. It is not true. There is a redistribution of labor whenever a new labor-saving machine is invented, but there is no destruction of labor. There is no degradation of labor in invention. The man released from a particular kind of labor by the introduction of a labor-saving machine does not go down in the grade and scale of labor, but he ascends. He engages in some higher employment, in some more productive vocation, for patents elevate the laborer. New Inventions open new fields of labor. The laborer who lives and breathes the air of invention produces more, man for man, than he who does not live in such an atmosphere, for patents are educators.
Property in patents is a property which contains within itself the principle of the reproduction of property, and that is a characteristic which attaches to no other species of property. Every patent has in it the germ of a new patent, which in turn is property. Like that marvelous creation of God, 'the tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding see,' every patented invention contains the fruit of an invention yielding seed. For instance, the telegraph generated the telephone, and other motors are to be the progeny of the steam-engine. The children of the steam engine are already born that shall grow up to perform their work more easily, more expeditiously, more cheaply than the parent invention.
Nature is one vast storehouse of wealth, but it is a locked storehouse, and the human brain alone can unlock it. Invention is the magic key. Men seek gold in the bowels of the earth, but it lies in the air, in light, in the gases, in electricity. It needs no enchanter's wand, no talismanic words, to set it free -- only the processes of thought.
Let me give you an illustration of the saving of patents. I take perhaps as the most marked instance of the saving made by the use of patented inventions the Bessemer steel plant.
In 1888 the average price of steel rails was $165 per ton. The price since the commencement of 1884 is $34 per ton. The production of steel rails in 1883 was 1,295,740 tons. The same quantity made in 1868 would have cost more than they cost in 1884 by $168,446,200. That is the saving of a single year as the result of this invention.
But when we have thus considered the saving in the cost of production, we have just begun to consider the saving which was effected by this patent. The entire transportation question of the country has been affected by it. The life of a Bessemer steel rail is double the life of an iron rail; it is more than double, and it is capable of very much harder usage. Now take a single fact as suggesting the saving, aside from that of cost of the production of the steel rail which has been effected by this patent. In 1868 the freight charge per bushel from Chicago to New York was by lake and canal 25.3 cents, by all rail 42.6 cents. In 1884 by lake and canal it is 9 cents only, and by all rail 17 cents only. Now take the 119,000 miles of railroad in the United States which are used in the transportation of merchandise. Apply that fact to the reduction of the cost of transportation, a large portion of which has resulted directly from the use of Bessemer steel rail, and tell me if you can estimate, see if you can find the figures which will represent the saving to this nation by reason of the use of this one patented invention.
This leads me to speak of the value of patents as measured by their effect in enhancing the value of their products. Here we have no data and every one must judge from his own standpoint and from his own opinion as to how much has been added to the wealth of this country which would not have been added to it except for our inventions and our patent system. How much has been added to the value of land which otherwise would not have been fenced, how much to the value of urban property consequent upon the improvement and development of farms; how many cities owe their existence to the production of the Bessemer steel rail; how much, to come home to our own city, of the $5 per square foot of land near the outskirts of Washington is due to patented invention? These are suggestive inquiries.
For my part, I believe that two-thirds of the aggregate wealth of the United States is due to patented inventions. Two-thirds of the $43,000,000,000 which represents the aggregate wealth of the United States, in my judgment, rests solely upon the inventions, past and present, of this country. The only way to test the opinion is by imagining the effect upon values which would follow a prohibition of the use of patented inventions.
Take the expired and unexpired patents; prohibit the application of steam to the creation of power; prohibit the use of patents relating to agriculture and the production of the cereals, and of cotton; prohibit the use of the inventions relating to electricity in all its uses; prohibit the use of inventions relating to printing, and tell me how much you have subtracted from the value of the property of this country? Tell me what the property of the country would be worth with such a prohibition? Then banish the knowledge of them, and tell me how this wealth is to be reproduced.
I would gladly speak here of the addition to our comforts and our enjoyments by the use of patented inventions, but I forbear. If we can conceive a situation in which we should live in a home in the building or fitting up of which no patent was employed; eat our family meal in the provision or preparation of which there was no invention; be clothed in apparel into the making of which no patent entered; ride to our business in a conveyance in the construction of which all patents were prohibitory; read only such books and papers as were produced without the intervention of patented machinery, we may realize partially how much of our social and domestic happiness is derived from patents.
We protect all our personal property by patents, we lock it up with patented locks, and if anybody breaks through and steals our treasures we overtake the thief by a patented telegraph. We defend our national honor by patents. We heard only yesterday that an unfortunate riot occurred in one of our principal cities. It was the telegraph which summoned the troops of the State to Cincinnati; it was that subtle force, so intangible, impalpable, invisible, that we scarcely know whether it is material or spiritual, which the inventive genius of man has harnessed to do his business, which at an instant's time summoned soldiers from all sections of Ohio to the defense of Cincinnati.
A distinguished member of the Army told me within a short time that the only reliance of this country in case of war was upon the inventive genius of its people; that it had no Navy, that it had no sufficient Army, that it could only defend itself by a special exercise of the inventive faculty of its citizens in calling into immediate use and power new implements of warfare.
Is not this vast system of property worth protecting? Does not the patent system attain a dignity which entitles it to fair and generous treatment? Is it not large enough to be independent?
I have heard it said that we should have all these inventions anyway; that men would have invented them without regard to the encouragement which was given to them by our patent laws; that if this exclusive use of their inventions had not been secured to them for a term of years, that if their property in patents were not protected, yet they would have gone on and will go on inventing all the same; that there has been in some way a marvelous birth in this country of inventive capacity, and that it must grow whether it is protected or not.
Mr. President, it is not true. The inventor is no more a philanthropist than is the agriculturist. He works for his support. He works to achieve a competency. He invents, if you please, to become rich; but he is no more a philanthropist than any other man in any other walk or vocation of life, and you have no right to demand of him that he shall be a mere philanthropist. He is entitled to his reward. He is a laborer entitled to his hire, entitled to it more if possible than any other laborer, as his labor is higher in dignity and grandeur than that of any other laborer.
The universal testimony of all inventors is that it is the reward which they hope to secure which stimulates their efforts. Is it so that an inventor, of all the men in the world, has no right to his reward? Is it so that he has no right to be protected in his property? Is it the security of an inventor of his invention which makes it valuable, and which stimulates him to his effort to make new inventions.
Mr. President, every round of the ladder on which we have climbed to national pre-eminence is a patented invention, and every sign-board which points to a greater future of achievement and progress shows that the path continues to lead through the field of invention. We are nearing the end of the contest to which our fathers invited us, when they gave our Government the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. That contest was for the supremacy of the world, and the prize is now in full view.
Shall we forget, shall we neglect, the system which has enabled us to outstrip our competitors in the race, or shall we the rather perfect and develop it, that through its perfection and development we may attain still grander results?
We stand today in the gateway of a most marvelous future. Let us hope that eyes may be given us to see that the inscription over the gate reads, 'Protection to the American patent system and all that it comprehends and involves.'"
Our limited space forbids further quotations. For the full text of the oration, the reader is referred to our this week's Supplement, in which it fills nearly ten pages.
The Patent Bills Analyzed by "Puck"
"The Register" in Puck dissects the patent bills now before Congress, and draws the following apt conclusions and illustrations: "If these bills go through, the next edition of Webster's Dictionary ought to define "Legislation" as 'robbery by representatives.' Suppose a bill were introduced to shorten the term of all railroad company charters to five years -- a melodious outcry there would be, wouldn't there? But rob the inventor of a patent car wheel of twelve years' profit on his invention, and you find only six men in the House of Representatives to see the iniquity of the proceeding -- six out of one hundred and twenty voting. Truly, the age of pure reason has not dawned yet; and there is not so vast a distance between prehistoric man and the dude as the dude's shirt collar would imply.