27th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate [169]
Report from the Commissioner of Patents Showing the Operation of the Patent Office during the year 1841
February 7, 1842
Referred to the Committee on Printing
February 23, 1842
Ordered to the printed, with a portion of the documents; and order reconsidered.
March 8, 1842
Referred to the Committee on Patents and the Patent Office; ordered to be printed, with a portion of the documents, and that 3,000 additional copies be furnished for the use of the Senate.


Patent Office, January 1842

Sir: In compliance with the law, the Commissioner of Patents has the honor to submit his annual report.

Four hundred and ninety-five patents have been issued during the year 1841, including fifteen additional improvements to former patents; of which classified and alphabetical lists are annexed, marked A and B.

During the same period, three hundred and twenty-seven patents have expired, as per list marked C.

The applications for patents, during the year past, amount to eight hundred and forty-seven; and the number of caveats filed was three hundred and twelve.

The receipts of the office for 1841 amount to $40,413.01; from which may be deducted $9,093.30, repaid on applications withdrawn, as per statement D.

The ordinary expenses of the Patent Office for the past year, including payments for the library and for agricultural statistics, have been $23,065.87; leaving a surplus of $8,253.84 to be credited to the patent fund, as per statement marked E.

For the restoration of models, records, and drawings, under the act of March 3, 1837, $20,507.70 have been expended, as per statement marked F.

The whole number of patents issued by the United States previous to January 1842, is twelve thousand four hundred and seventy-seven.

The extreme pressure in the money market and the great difficulty in remittance have, it is believed, materially lessened the number of applications for patents. These have, however, exceeded those of the last year by eighty-two.

The resolution of the last Congress directing the Commissioner to distribute seven hundred copies of the Digest of Patents among the respective States, has been carried into effect, as ordered.

Experience, under the new law reorganizing the Patent Office, shows the importance of some alterations in the present law. One difficulty has been hitherto suggested, viz: the want of authority to refund money that has been paid into the Treasury for the Patent Office, by mistake. Such repayment cannot now be made without application to Congress. The sums, usually, are quite small, not exceeding $30. A bill has been heretofore presented embracing these cases, and passed one House of the National Legislature; but a general law would save much legislation, and be attended with no more danger than now attends the repayment of money, on withdrawing applications for patents. Indeed, several private petitions are now pending before Congress, and are postponed, to wait final action on the bill which has been so long delayed.

Frauds are practiced on the community by articles stamped "patent," when no patent has been obtained; and many inventors continue to sell, under sanction of the patent law, after their patents have expired. To remedy these evils, the expediency of requiring all patentees to stamp the articles vended with the date of the patent, and punishing by a sufficient penalty the stamping of unpatented articles as patented, or vending them as such, either before a patent has been obtained or after the expiration of the same, is respectfully suggested. Almost daily inquiries at the Patent Office exhibit the magnitude of such frauds and the necessity of guarding effectually against them.

The justice and expediency of securing the exclusive benefit of new and original designs for articles of manufacture, both in the fine and useful arts, to the authors and proprietors thereof, for a limited time, are also respectfully presented for consideration.

Other nations have granted this privilege, and it has afforded mutual satisfaction alike to the public and to individual applicants. Many who visit the Patent Office learn with astonishment that no protection is given in this country to this class of persons. Competition among manufacturers for the latest patterns prompts to the highest efforts to secure improvements, and calls out the inventive genius of our citizens. Such patterns are immediately pirated, at home and abroad. A patent [sic, probably pattern. KWD] introduced at Lowell, for instance, with however great labor or cost, may be taken to England in twelve or fourteen days, and copied and returned in twenty days more. If protection is given to designers, better patterns will, it is believed, be obtained, since the impossibility of concealment at present forbids all expense that can be avoided. It may well be asked, if authors can so readily find protection in their labors, and inventors of the mechanical arts so easily secure a patent to reward their efforts, why should not discoverers of designs, the labor and expenditure of which may be far greater, have equal privileges afforded them?

The law, if extended, should embrace alike the protection of new and original designs for a manufacture of metal or other material, or any new and useful design for the printing of woolen, silk, cotton, or other fabric, or for a bust, statue, or bas-relief, or composition in alto or basso relievo. All this could be effected by simply authorizing the Commissioner to issue patents for these objects, under the same limitations and on the same conditions as govern present action in other cases. The duration of the patent might be seven years, and the fee might be one half of the present fee charged to citizens and foreigners respectively.

On the first alteration of the patent law, I would further respectfully recommend that authority be given to consuls to administer the oath for applicants for patents. Inventors in foreign countries usually apply to the diplomatic corps, whoa re willing to aid any, and have uniformly administered the usual oath prescribed by the Commissioner of Patents; but as the Attorney General has decided that consuls cannot, within the meaning of the patent law, administer oaths to inventors, a great convenience would attend an alteration of the law in this respect.

It is due to the clerical force of the office to say, that their labors are arduous and responsible -- more so than in many bureaus -- while the compensation for similar services in other bureaus is considerably higher. A comparison will at once show a claim for increased compensation, if uniformity is regarded. The chief and sole copyists of the correspondence of this office receives only eight hundred dollars per annum.

The Commissioner of Patents also begs leave to suggest the expediency of including the annual appropriations of the Patent office in the general bill which provides for other bureaus. Objections hitherto urged against this course, inasmuch as the Patent Office is embraced by a special fund, have induced the committee to report a special bill, which, though reported without objection, has failed for two sessions, because the bill could not be reached, it having been classed with other contemplated acts on the calendar, instead of receiving a preference with other annual appropriations so necessary for current expenses. Were the appropriations for the Patent Office included in a general bill, also designating the fund from which it was to be paid, all objection, it is believed, might be obviated.

During the past year a part of the building erected for the Patent Office has, with the approbation of the Secretary of State, has been appropriated to the use of the National Institute, an association which has in charge the personal effects of the late Mr. Smithson, collections made by the exploring expedition, together with many valuable donations from societies and individuals. While it affords pleasure to promote the welfare of that institution by furnishing room for the protection and exhibition of the articles it has in charge, I feel compelled to say that the accommodation now enjoyed can only be temporary. The large hall appropriated by law for special purposes will soon be needed for the models of patented articles, which are fast increasing in number by restoration and new applications, and also for specimens of manufacture and unpatented models. An inspection of the rooms occupied by the present arrangement will show the necessity of some further provision for the National Institute.

The Patent Office building is sufficient for the wants of the Patent Office for many years, but will not allow accommodation for other objects than those contemplated in its erection. The design of the present edifice, however, admits of such an enlargement as may contribute to its ornament, and furnish all necessary accommodation for the National Institute; and also convenient halls for lectures, should they be needed in the future disposition of the Smithsonian legacy. Whatever may be done as regards the extension of the present edifice, it is important to erect suitable outbuildings, and to enclose the public square on which the Patent Office is located.

Some appropriation, too, will be needed for a watch. So great is the value of the property within the building, that a night and day watch is indispensable. The costly articles formerly kept by the State Department for exhibition are now transferred to the national gallery, where their protection will be less expensive than it was at the State Department, since these articles are guarded in common with others. The late robbery of the jewels, so termed, shows the impropriety of depending on bolts and bars, as ingenuity and depravity seem to defy the strength of metals. A careful supervision at all times, added to the other safeguards, is imperiously demanded. I am happy to say that no injury or loss will be sustained from the robbery just alluded to, with the exception of the reward so successfully offered for the recovery of the articles.

By law, the Commissioner is also bound to report such agricultural statistics as he may collect. A statement annexed (marked G) will show the amount of wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, Indian corn, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, sugar,rice, etc., raised in the United States in the year 1841. The amount is given for each State, together with the aggregate. In some States the crop has been large, in others there has been a partial failure. Upon the whole, the year has been favorable, affording abundance for home supply, with a surplus for foreign markets, should inducements justify exportations.

These annual statistics will, it is hoped, guard against monopoly or an exorbitant price. Facilities of transportation are multiplying daily; and the fertility and diversity of the soil ensure abundance, extraordinaries excepted. Improvements of only ten per cent on the seeds planted will add annually fifteen to twenty millions of dollars in value. The plan of making a complete collection of agricultural implements used, both in this and foreign countries, and the introduction of foreign seeds, are steadily pursued.

It will also be the object of the Commissioner to collect, as opportunity offers, the minerals of this country which are applied to the manufactures and arts. Many of the best materials of this description now imported have been discovered in this country; and their use is only neglected from ignorance of their existence among us. The development of mind and matter only leads to true independence. By knowing our resources, we shall learn to trust them.

The value of the agricultural products almost exceeds belief. If the application of the sciences be yet further made to husbandry, what vast improvements may be anticipated! To allude to but a single b ranch of this subject. Agricultural chemistry is at length a popular and useful study. Instead of groping along with experiments, to prove what crop lands will bear to best advantage, an immediate and direct analysis of the soil shows at once its adaptation for a particular manure or crop. Some late attempts to improve soils have entirely failed, because the very article, transported at considerable expense to enrich them, was already there in too great abundance. By the aid of chemistry, the West will soon find one of their greatest articles of export to be oil, both for burning and for the manufactures. So successful have been late experiments, that pork (if the lean part is excepted) is converted into stearine for candles, a substitute for spermaceti, as well as into the oil before mentioned. The process is simple and cheap, and oil is equal to any in use.

Late improvements, also, have enabled experimenters to obtain sufficient oil from corn meal to make this profitable, especially when the residuum is distilled, or, what is far more desirable, fed out to stock. The mode is by fermentation, and the oil which rises to the top is skimmed off, and ready for burning without further process of manufacture. The quantity obtained is 10 gallons to 100 bushels of meal. Corn may be estimated as worth 15 cents per bushel for the oil alone, where oil is worth $1.50 per gallon. The extent of the present manufacture of this corn oil may be conjectured from the desire of a single company to obtain the privilege of supplying the lighthouses on the upper lakes with this article. If from meal and pork the country can thus be supplied with oil for burning and for machinery and manufactures, chemistry is indeed already applied most beneficially to aid husbandry.

A new mode of raising corn trebles the saccharine quality of the stalk, and, with attention, it is confidently expected that 1,000 pounds of sugar per acre may be obtained. Complete success has attended the experiments on this subject in Delaware, and leave no room to doubt the fact, if the stalk is permitted to mature, without suffering the ear to form, the saccharine matter (three times as great as in beets, and equal to cane) will amply repay the cost of manufacture into sugar. This plan has heretofore been suggested by German chemists, but the process has not been successfully introduced into the United States, until Mr. Webb's experiments at Wilmington, the last season. With him the whole was doubtless original, and certainly highly meritorious; and, though he may not be able to obtain a patent, as the first original inventor, it is hoped his services may be secured to perfect his discoveries. It may be foreign to descend to further particulars in an annual report. A minute account of these experiments can be furnished, if desired. Specimens of the oil, candles, and sugar, are deposited in the national gallery.

May I be permitted to remark that the formation of a National Agricultural Society has enkindled bright anticipations of improvement. The propitious time seems to have come for agriculture, that long neglected branch of industry, to present her claims. A munificent bequest is placed at the disposal of Congress, and a share of this with private patronage, would enable this association to undertake, and, it is confidently believed, accomplish much good.

A recurrence to past events will show the great importance of having annually published the amount of agricultural products, and the places where either a surplus or a deficiency exists. While Indian corn, for instance, can be purchased on the western waters for $1 (now much less) per barrel of 196 pounds, and the transportation, via New Orleans to New York, does not exceed $1.50 more, the price of meal need never exceed from 80 cents to $1 per bushel in the Atlantic cities. The aid of the National Agricultural Society, in obtaining and diffusing such information, will very essentially increase the utility of the plan before referred to, of acquiring the agricultural statistics of the country, as well as other subsidiary means for the improvement of national industry.

I will only add that, if the statistics now given are deemed important, as they doubtless may prove, to aid the Government in making their contracts for supplies, in estimating the state of the domestic exchanges, which depend so essentially on local crops, and in guarding the public generally against the grasping power of speculation and monopoly, a single clerk, whose services might be remunerated from the patent fund, to which it will be recollected more than $8,000 has been added by the receipts of the past year, would accomplish this desirable object. The census of population and statistics, now taken once in ten years, might, in the interval, thus be annually obtained sufficiently accurate for practical purposes.

All of which is respectfully submitted.
Henry L. Ellsworth

Hon. Saml. L. Southard
President pro tempore of the Senate



Statement of receipts, caveats, disclaimers, improvements, and 

certified copies of papers, in the year 1841

Amount received for patents, caveats, etc.  $39,640.50

Amount received for office fees                 772.51



Deduct repaid on withdrawals                             9,093.30





Statement of expenditures and payments made from the patent fund 

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

31st of December, 1841, inclusive, under the act of March 3, 1839

For salaries                                $15,982.41

For contingent expenses                       4,346.04

For library                                      44.00

For temporary clerks                          2,443.42

For agricultural statistics and seeds           125.00

For compensation to chief justice of the 

      District of Columbia                      125.00



Leaving a net balance to the credit of 

      the patent fund                                    8,253.84



Expenditures under the act of 3d of March, 1837, for restoring 

the loss by fire in 1836

For draughtsmen                              $8,325.10

For examiner and register                     1,500.00

For restoring the records of patents            156.00

For restored drawings                           112.00

For restored models, and cases for ditto      9,665.60

For freight of models                           458.00

For stationery                                  290.00



Patent Office, January, 1842

H.L. Ellsworth


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