25th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Reps
Doc. No. 112

Information in relation to the Duties of his Office for the year 1837.

January 17, 1838
Read, and laid upon the table

Patent Office, January 17, 1838
Sir: In obedience to the law for promoting the progress of science and useful arts, the Commissioner of Patents would respectfully report:

That, during the year 1837, four hundred and thirty five patents have been issued from the Patent Office, of which classified and alphabetical lists are annexed, marked A and B.

That, during the same period, one hundred and sixty eight patents have expired and become public property, as by list annexed, marked C.

That the receipts for patents, caveats, disclaimers, improvements, and copies, for the year, amount to twenty nine thousand two hundred and eighty nine dollars and eight cents; from which may be deducted three thousand three hundred and twenty dollars paid on applications withdrawn, as by statement annexed, marked D.

That the payments made for the restoration of models, records, and drawings, consumed by the late fire, amount to ten thousand seven hundred and five dollars and fifteen cents, as exhibited in the statement marked E.

That the ordinary expenditures of the office have been nineteen thousand four hundred and eighty one dollars and eighty three cents, as by account marked F. These expenses have been increased, for the year 1837, by the purchase of furniture, record books, etc., destroyed in the fire of December 1836.

The utmost economy has been used in replacing these articles, and no more have been procured than were indispensably necessary. The furniture has been selected with reference to the new building, when the same shall be completed and fit for use.

The number of patents issued during the year 1837 is less than in some preceding years. This is to be attributed chiefly to the operation of the new law, which subjects all applications for patents to a careful examination as to the originality of the invention claimed. Power is given to the Commissioner to refuse a patent, if the invention is not deemed sufficiently useful; but this power is seldom exercised, and is confined to cases where the patent may be in some way injurious, the improvement frivolous, or where an attempt is made to avoid a prior patent. It is the intention of the Commissioner to err (if at all) on the side of liberality, leaving the parties affected to the courts, to contest their doubtful rights. About one third of the applications made have been rejected, and very few pass without important alterations. In all cases of rejection, an appeal can be made from the decision of the Commissioner; but no such appeal has yet been taken.

The destructive fire, in December 1836, has occasioned unavoidable delay in discharging the duties of the office. The undersigned, however, has the satisfaction to state, that, by great exertions, the regular business is nearly brought up; but that, to accomplish this, he has been compelled to employ some extra assistance.

The business of the office has increased, and will doubtless continue to increase with the growth of the country; and the present number of clerks is inadequate to perform all the duties appertaining to patents. I would also remark, that the preparation of copies for judicial purposes, as well as other duties, often requires despatch. If the Commissioner were authorized to employ temporary aid in such emergencies, allowing no more compensation than is established by law, this authority would prevent such frequent interruption of the regular clerks, and secure the public against claims for services not performed.

The labor of the clerks employed in this office has, for the most part, been severe -- as much so as that of those who were embraced in the compensation act of last session; and I deem it but just to suggest their equal claim to the additional percentage which, by that act, was granted to others.

The revenue of the office will meet all its necessary disbursements, and it is highly desirable that its business be performed without delay.

Considerable progress has been made in restoring the lost models and records, in conformity with the act of Congress for that purpose; some of the most valuable of the models have been restored, and others contracted for. The collection already made is becoming interesting, and shows a great improvement in their construction.

The commissioners appointed to designate those models which are the most important, and the compensation to be given for the same, have adopted measures to accomplish this object. Notices on this subject have been published in almost all the newspapers in the Union.

The present accommodations do not furnish suitable protection to the models; hence, many of the best cannot be exhibited until suitable cases are provided for them in the new building; and patentees feel unwilling to send their models, until better accommodations are furnished, where the same can be preserved.

Each patentee (and the number exceeds ten thousand) has been addressed, personally, through the post office of the place where he resided when the patent was issued. Many, undoubtedly, in consequence of a change of residence, will fail to receive the communication; but since no patent granted before the fire can be given in evidence without being first recorded anew, this restriction will probably secure the return of the most important. Improvements offered on former patents will, in many cases, require the furnishing of models of old inventions; and in a short time the most valuable records, it is hoped, will be restored.

Two thousand patents have been restored, and recorded anew, since January last. The drawings of many of these have been executed by persons in this office, in a style and manner which reflects much credit on the skill of the draughtsmen; they form already a valuable collection.

Among the losses occasioned by the fire, most deeply regretted, was the destruction of all the papers deposited by Robert Fulton. His drawings were executed by his own hand, and formed an interesting part of the records of American genius, establishing for our country the honor of the first successful and practical employment of steam in navigation. This loss has been considered irreparable. I am happy, however, to state, that correct duplicates can doubtless be procured. The fame of Fulton attracted the attention of a foreign Government, for whom, on application therefor, complete copies of his drawings and transcripts of specifications and other papers deposited in this office, were made and transmitted to London, where, it is presumed, copies may be obtained to supply the place of the originals. Measures will immediately be taken to accomplish that object.

The necessity of a library of scientific works, to facilitate the discharge of the duties of the office, needs only to be mentioned to be duly appreciated. Under the former law, no examination as to the originality of inventions was made, and duplicates and triplicates of the same thing were often patented. The public were subjected to daily impositions, and the first inventors were driven into courts to maintain their rights. Now, each application undergoes a careful examination; it must be compared with caveats already filed, with other pending applications, with patents issued in this country and abroad, and also with the published inventions of the whole world. English, French, and German books must be at the command of this office, in order to make the proper examinations. Fifteen hundred dollars were accordingly appropriated, in the year 1836, for works to be purchased under the sanction of a committee.

This appropriation was designed to add to the existing library; but that library, with such books as had already been purchased, was unfortunately consumed; it therefore became necessary to use the remainder of that appropriation to replace books which were on hand before the fire, and to furnish others which were most needed. Additional works of the kind, contemplated when the appropriation was made, are greatly wanted to aid in considering applications for patents. Persons who offer their inventions to be secured by patent, can hardly be satisfied that others have gone before them in the same inventions; and nothing but the inspection of models and drawings which prove the fact, can ever induce them to relinquish the fond expectation of months, or even years. As the receipts of the office will allow an annual appropriation for a library, such appropriation is respectfully recommended.

The destruction of the Patent Office compelled the Commissioner to seek new accommodations, and an arrangement was accordingly made, with the approbation of the honorable Secretary of State, for the use of a part of the City Hall, where fire-proof rooms were found adapted to the purpose. Every facility on this subject has been afforded by the city authorities, and no rent is required or expected. Some alterations were requisite to accommodate both the Corporation and the Patent Office; for these, pecuniary remuneration is justly due; and the undersigned respectfully recommends that measures be adopted to satisfy this claim.

The records destroyed contained an alphabetical as well as classified digest of all the patents granted by the United States. A new record has been nearly completed from sundry authentic documents, with an improved classification. Several copies will be needed for reference in the Patent Office; and since printed duplicates will be cheaper than manuscripts, I here respectfully suggest the propriety of an appropriation for publishing a new edition as soon as practicable. The expediency of distributing a number of copies to the respective States is also suggested. This would enable those interested to obtain information with less delay to themselves, and much less interruption to the regular business of the office.

It is worthy of remark, that the provisions of the late law authorizing the reception of unpatented models and specimens of manufactures, will do much to increase the collection of the Patent Office. No exhibition in Europe, it is believed, can surpass that which will be found, in process of time, in the building now in course of preparation for this establishment. The beautiful collections of manufactured articles at the temporary fairs of our large cities may give a faint idea of that great gallery of arts and manufactures which will thus be permanently opened at the seat of Government, where all that is new and interesting will be added from year to year, and carefully preserved. Interest and patriotism will combine to multiply the articles deposited.

The exhibition will be continually increasing in beauty and utility; and all this, so honorable and advantageous to the country, will be accomplished without any other expense to the public than the trifling charge of transportation from the place of manufacture.

The Patent Office has been greatly subservient to the promotion of the arts and sciences, and its late reorganization will extend, in a much higher degree, its usefulness. Without the encouragement of the patent laws, few inventions would become practically useful. By this encouragement a stimulus is given to talent and ingenuity, and the result of human effort seems almost incredible.. The inventions of the day have proverbially overcome time and space. The numerous manufactories spread over all the country attest the patronage they have received from the Government.

Of late, however, inventors have directed their attention, with peculiar interest, to the improvement of the implements of agriculture, and many labor-saving machines have been patented, which are of the highest utility to the husbandman. These are rapidly increasing and it is scarcely possible to conjecture to what extent the labor of the agriculturist may be diminished, and the products of the country increased, by these improvements.

Already, the process of sowing, of mowing, and of reaping, is successfully performed by horse power; and inventors are sanguine in the belief (and probably not without reason) that the time is not far distant when ploughing machines will be driven by steam, and steam power applied to many other operations of the husbandman. Implements of this kind will all be collected and exhibited at the Patent Office, and, from the resort of thousands to the seat of Government during the session of Congress, a knowledge of other use and practical application will be extended over the whole country. A subject intimately connected with this, is the aid which husbandry might derive from the establishment of a regular system for the selection and distribution of grain and seeds of the choicest varieties for agricultural purposes.

For commerce and manufactures, much has been done; for agriculture, the parent of both, and the ultimate dependence of the nation, much remains to be done. Husbandry seems to be viewed as a natural blessing, that needs no aid from legislation. Like the air we breathe, and the element of water, which sustain life, the productions of the soil are regarded by too many as the common bounties of Providence, to be gratefully enjoyed, but without further thought or reflection. Were the two former susceptible of the same improvement with the latter, who would not rejoice to enroll his name high on the list of philanthropists, by making the first experiment?

This subject has been forced on the attention of the undersigned by those who are engaged in improving the implements of husbandry. The Patent Office is crowded with men of enterprise, who, when they bring the models of their improvements in such implements, are eager to communicate a knowledge of every other kind of improvement in agriculture, and especially new and valuable varieties of seeds and plants. Hence the undersigned has been led to receive and distribute, during the last two years, many articles of this kind which have been committed to his care; and experience has induced him to believe that there is no spot in the Union so favorable to this object as the seat of Government.

The great desideratum at the present time seems to be, that some place should be designated and known as the depository of all articles of this kind, and from whence they may be dispensed to every part of the United States.

Our citizens, who are led by business or pleasure into foreign countries, and especially the officers of our navy and others in public employment abroad, would feel a pride in making collections of valuable plants and seeds, if they could be sure of seeing the fruits of their labors accrue to the benefit of the nation at large. But, hitherto, they have had no means of distributing, to any extent, the valuable productions of other climates, which patriotism or curiosity has led them to introduce into our country. To a great extent, they have perished on their hands, for want of some means of imparting to the public the benefit they had designed to confer. Those who have not considered the subject in its wide details, are very imperfectly qualified to judge of its importance.

The introduction of a new variety of wheat promises the most gratifying results in securing that important and indispensable production from the destructive effects of our severe winters.

A short time since, the most eastern State of our Union was, in a measure, dependent on others for her bread-stuffs. That State is now becoming able to supply its own wants, and will soon have a surplus for exportation; and this is effected by the extensive introduction of spring wheat. Among the varieties of this wheat, however, there is great room for selection; there is at least 20 percent difference, if regard is paid to the quality and quantity of the crop.

From experiments made the last summer, there can be no doubt that the crop of Indian corn may be improved at least one third, without any extra labor; and this, effected by a due regard only to the selection of seeds.

And here it may be mentioned, that an individual has devoted twenty five years to this single object; and, from our common Indian corn, has produced a new variety, which, if distributed as it ought to be, may prove a great benefit to the husbandman and to the country.

From the samples transmitted to the Patent Office, especially from the shores of lake Superior, there is a moral certainty of a good crop of corn in the higher latitudes, if proper attention is paid to the selection of seeds. Inattention to this subject has lost to the Northern portion of our Union many millions every year. The quantity of flour (wheat or other kind) consumed in the United States is estimated, on the highest authority, at five thousand five hundred millions of pounds; one half of this is supposed to be wheat; which, at three cents per pound, amounts to over eighty millions of dollars; and the remainder, at one and a half cent only, amounts to over forty millions. If to this be added the vast quantity distilled and employed in the arts, and consumed by domestic animals, a conception may be formed of the importance of cur crop of grain. If, then, the quantity should be increased only 10 percent, by improving the seed, the annual gain to the country, from this source alone, would not be less than from fifteen to twenty millions of dollars. It is unnecessary to carry out this estimate to the other productions of the vegetable kingdom; the result would be the same in all. The well-directed efforts of a few years might give to this generation what would not otherwise be enjoyed in the present century.

It may not be improper to add, that, if this nation should desire to make her metropolis the seat of science and the arts, this might be easily accomplished. The collections of mineralogical specimens from every section of our widely extended territory, will, it is believed, furnish a most interesting exhibition, illustrative of the geology of the country and of its mineral resources.

The natural and practical sciences, as well as the arts, have usually found their best patron in the munificence of a wise Government. An apartment in the new building could be appropriated to the above object, in connection with an agricultural depository.

The undersigned will be pardoned for offering these considerations in favor of agriculture, as they have been forced upon him in the discharge of his official duties; and as Congress has required him to make such suggestions, respecting the interests committed to his care, as may seem important to the public good, he will continue to do all in his power to promote the secondary, though important, object which has thus become to some degree, connected with the Patent Office; in the full belief that Congress will find it for the public interest; either now or at some future period, to give a more definite character to the measures which have thus been commenced for this most important object.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Henry L. Ellsworth
Commissioner of Patents

Hon. James K. Polk
Speaker of the House of Representatives

[Lists A, B and C omitted here KWD]


Statement of receipts for patents, caveats, disclaimers, 

improvements and certified copies in the year 1837

Amount received for patents               $24,455.00

                for caveats                 3,840.00

                for office fees               994.08



Deduct paid on withdrawals                  3,320.00


Net revenue for 1837                      $25,969.08

                       E and F

Statement of expenditures and payments made from the patent fund 

by Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner, from the 1st of January to 

the 31st December, 1837, inclusive

                   E *

For restoring records of patents           $1,884.99 1/2

Draughtsmen                                 4,319.84 1/3

Examiners and register                      2,083.18

Drawing instruments and furniture             210.31

Printing                                      254.00

Stationary                                  1,066.33

Restored models **                            565.50

Restored drawings                             147.50

Freight of models                             173.50


                                          $10,705.15 5/6


Salaries                                  $13,002.23

Contingent expenses                         2,276.60

Furniture, record books, and stationary

  to replace those destroyed by fire        4,203.00



                       [Grand total]      $30,186.98 5/6

* Under the act of 3d March, 1837

** Many models have been ordered, but not yet
delivered or paid for.


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