Patent History Materials Index - Papers of William Chauncy Langdon

Papers of William Chauncy Langdon
Library of Congress manuscript files
Extracts from Journal of William Chauncy Langdon


Wednesday May 7, 1851

Introduced myself to Prof. Pierce of Harvard today and was talking to him about going to Cambridge if I didn't get my hoped post in Washington when he said probabilities were I would succeed with such influence used.


Friday, October 3, 1851

At office today came one [sic] the first case that has really taxed my scientific knowledge. Others have required patience, attention, care, thought; but not before have I had any requisition for my lately acquired scientific knowledge. I refer to the Magnetic Clock and appurtenances of the now well known Dr. John Locke of Cincinnati. An invention (in use at the National Observatory) for the accurate taking and recording of astronomical observations. It is a long, long specification -- 32 pages foolscap; and not well gotten up either; and I do not think a mere tyro at Astronomy could make anything of it. It will last me for two or three days, if not more.


Friday, August 13, 1852

Ewbank on my Strategy

I feel far from well or bright. I tried to work at my office -- I did work, for work, most tedious work indeed it was. I saw the Commissioner today. "Ah, Mr. Langdon, you are back at last. Do you feel stronger?" "Not much, sir!" "You exceeded your time, sir." "Yes, sir, but I have been sick and therefore --" "Ah well, that is all explained. But see here, Mr. Langdon, you managed very adroitly to send Gov. Thurston down to me. Half an hour you had been too late." "Yes sir, but I knew at what time the cars left." "Ha! ha!" and when I thought almost he was going to haul me over the coals, he shook hands with me, and I went to my room again.


Wednesday, September 14, 1853

The Bribery case

I received a letter from a C.J. Porter, of N.Y., who is interested in a patent pending before me, asking my acceptance of $20.00 -- and "any favor, etc. etc. would be fully appreciated." After a little reflection, I answered returning of course the $20, and then enclosed a copy of his with my own letter to the Commissioner. The Commissioner wrote him enclosing both my letter and the XX! I guess that man won't try to bribe an Examiner again.


Friday, September 30, 1853

Daily Routine

.... Well, by 8 1/2 I go to my office and work hard there, occasionally writing a letter during the morning and eating a biscuit at 12 1/2. I come off in good humor with myself and stoop at a restaurant, where for 25 cents, I get a nice steak or chop, with potatoes, bread and butter -- no dessert to be sure, but I don't think I ever thought of that as I rise from the table -- satisfied.


Tuesday, October 31st, 1854

This morning the Commissioner received a letter from the President, enclosing one to him from a Mr. Whittaker, complaining of the official course towards him. It was a case in my room. The President said, he had no idea that anything was wrong, but wished to be put in possession of materials to answer Whittaker.

Judge Mason requested me to write him an account of the whole affair, which letter of mine, he would enclose to the President. I did so, and showed, I think conclusively, that so far from having given ground of complaint, Mr. Whittaker had been treated with remarkable courtesy at the hands of the office.


Tuesday, February 27, 1855

The Commissioner has been missing this morning and it was thought had gone up to the Capitol to see the Patent Committee. When he returned, however, he sent for me to learn my authority for the $40,078.98 amount which I propose to restore to from the General Fund to the Patent Fund. He says General James wants it. So I was off to the Capitol to get it from Breckenridge, but could not find him. So I told Gen. James that Breckenridge had the Comptroller's certificate.

Directly from dinner Dr. Breed called for me, we went up to Capitol and stayed till it was quite dark. We found the clerk of the Patent Committee and learned that the Committee had agreed to report our 3 proposed amendments and also one to raise the Commissioner's salary.

Thank God for this.


Friday, March 2, 1855

At the office till 11, when I returned to my post at the Senate. Douglas' motion to reconsider came up and roused a long discussion, when Cass requested to know how long it was to be continued. Cooper answered, till the session was over, if necessary. At this, they gave up; the motion to reconsider was carried; Clayton's motion prevailed and the tariff was stricken out. Then began the amendments from the Finance Committee, among which Hunter offered his (opposite) which passed. Now the rest of the work is for James, and it is important that the amount stated in the back pay amendment be reduced to a minimum. It is now stated at some $14,000 as to cover the future as well as the past, but the above being on the bill, we must provide for past only and put it at $6,100, for the smaller the amount the less difficulty.

I wrote a note to Smart to this effect; then drove up to the Patent Office, consulted with others there, and returned.

At 4 they adjourned till 7. I employed the time in recruiting support for the back pay, fearing lest James would grow indifferent now the force was increased. I sat in the Senate watching from 7 till 1; James made no effort to get the floor, but if he left the room, Badger brought him back again. At 1 they adjourned.


Saturday, March 3, 1855

At ten, Congress met for the last time. A resolution to call Committee in order for amendments was adopted; James' negligence could no longer injure us. He was called upon about 1 o'clock. He proposed several amendments, among which these two (opposite)

[attached printed copy reads:

For the reimbursement of the Patent Office fund for moneys heretofore paid out of appropriations of acts of Congress for seeds and the collection of agricultural statistics, forty thousand and seventy-eight dollars and seventy-eight cents, to be paid out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Sec 25. And be it further enacted, That the first assistant examiners in the Patent Office shall be rated as of the fourth class of clerks, and the second assistant examiners, machinist and librarian as of the third class.]

one or two of a legal character, an increase of the Commissioner's salary to $4500 and the chief clerk's to $2500. He did up his work pretty well now he was brought to the rack, save that he sat down without saying a word for the "backpay"! Fessenden immediately reminded him, and he rose again just in time, offered it, and it passed! Oh with what a load removed did Capt. Herbert and I then go back to the office. The first, greatest victory's won!


Tuesday, March 6, 1855

Today -- at last -- we find out what has been done and what has not.

I went up to the Capitol and there saw the various amendments etc. In the first place, that which is peculiarly my amendment, originated and carried through by me, the reimbursement of $40,078.78 to the Patent Fund, is passed and is law! Next: the increase of force (thanks to Breckenridge, and thanks to Hunter whose course brought it in the early part of the bill, where B. could get at it) has passed, and is law! Next, the salaries of the Assistant Examiners is raised to $1800, etc. All else is lost! The "back pay" amendment was agreed to in Committee of Conference, as Staunton requested Houston[?], but the clerk in taking down the number wrote "Senate amendment No. 128" instead of 129! 128 was a provision for raising salary of chaplain of penitentiary! It's an ill wind which blows no one good!

So there we are! Hum!

Have another siege next winter for our back pay, hey! Bless my stars! Won't it be fun!


Friday, March 9, 1855

Office as usual -- only more surly. It is the on dit, and the opinion gains much ground, that the Commissioner, greatly embarrassed about his appointments, intends to go to Iowa without making them, that, in case he resigns he may escape the awkward job altogether. And whoever his successor may be he will at least be ignorant of our claims, and perhaps careless of them.

Hum! This is beginning to grow absurd and ludicrous in the extreme. This seems likely to prove a complete victory in the abstract, and I can now experiment philosophically upon the value and satisfaction of abstract success, irrespective of any benefit derived therefrom. All those provisions which do me no good are fait accompli; the back pay was safely engineered to the last and only lost by a clerical blunder, and the increase of force is made law, only the Commissioner has not and does not and may not exercise the power with which he is enrobed by us, for it amounts to that.

Absurd and ridiculous enough and a capital joke at any rate!


Wednesday, March 21, 1855

Ness spent much of the morning sight seeing and came to the office one in the middle of the day to see William Washington's picture on the wall of one of the Patent Office rooms. Soon after he had gone Judge Mason came with the President and Secretary McClelland to see it. Gen. Pierce was quite enthusiastic over it, and praised it most highly.


Thursday, March 22, 1855

This morning the President returned with Mrs. Pierce and another lady, to see Washington's picture. I feel quite proud of exhibiting it. One thing has tickled me greatly. The messenger Adams was most earnest to have the room "cleaned up" just after William left, and I could scarcely prevent him from having the very picture whitewashed over, and only succeeded through the interposition of Geo Weightman, [and?] the chief clerk. But Adams accidentally passed by today and yesterday when the President was in there and heard his praises. Immediately the daub which needed to be "cleaned up" became a work of art, an artistic Mecca in his eyes; he took his cue from Gen Pierce and before he had been gone two hours today (22d), Adams came in to borrow the key to show the picture to some ladies, and immediately after, sauntering by to observe, I heard him descanting in the most glowing terms about the genius therein displayed. "O tempora! o mores!"


Friday, March 23, 1855

No news of the appointments yet.

I have learned that some one -- and everything points strongly to Shugert our chief clerk, -- is secretly and earnestly at work, where I know not, how I know not, to undermine me; and everything trivial or not is carefully misrepresented to my injury. His labors in this cause with the Judge will not, I think, avail much; for I have too much confidence in the Commissioner's sense of justice and his independence, to fear to trust my cause with him.


Monday, March 26, 1855

Again the Ides of March are come, and not a particle of work can I do, from anxiety and suspense. The Commissioner is seen to go up to the Interior Department and returns; nothing heard of the appointments yet. Mother and I give our invitations out for tonight, those at least we did not on Saturday. Three o'clock comes, the Commissioner leaves the office, and at 5, the city for Iowa.

In afternoon I made an attempt to find Whiting, chief clerk of Interior and find from him who are appointed, but could not. Mr. Robbins promises to find out for me.

At about 8, the company began to come, beginning with Judge and Mrs. Chipman, next Mr. Robbins with the news that Messrs. Henry, Herbert, Lawrence, and Taylor are the appointees! I am not appointed! Well, we are relieved from our suspense at any rate. Dr. Breed came with his family, and I tried to joke with him and then to sympathize with him, but he could not be sufficiently philosophical for the one or calm for the other.


Tuesday, March 27, 1855

I went early to the office -- when Taylor came, congratulating him on his Chief Examinership, he insisted it was a mistake, he had only asked for an assistancy and learning I had been omitted, declared if it was so, he should not accept it at my expense! This was noble, but it did prove to be a mistake -- he is an assistant, and the chiefs are Henry, Herbert, Foreman and Lawrence -- all assistant examiners. Myself and Dr. Breed, the two first by seniority are dropped, and the order then regularly followed.

The appointments were distributed this morning. The new assistants are Moss, Tyssowski, Taylor, Ball, Van Santwood, and Peck! Peck, whom four persons to whom he had been assigned as an assistant had pronounced unfit for that duty! appointed! and I whom all, including the commissioner himself, pronounced unexceptionable, not appointed. Well, all is that this is a proof of the truth of the proverb -- that doubtful things are very uncertain!

Dr. Breed is assigned to Mr. Lane's room as assistant, while Mr. Lawrence takes charge of his desk, but to my surprise, on inquiring to what post I was to be assigned, the chief clerk said the Commissioner desired me to retain my position and to continue to act as an Examiner for the present. This may bode something. Mr. Watson so regards it, and Mr. W says he will write Judge M such a letter as, he thinks, will be my appointment by return mail.


Friday, March 30, 1855

I went directly from breakfast to the White House to see Carpenter's portraits, and in a half hour or so, he accompanied me back to the office to see Washington's picture on the wall. This is becoming quite the rage now. ...

I learn gradually a few more items, which lead me to believe that Shugert and Lawrence have plotted a deep conspiracy against me for some time and finding their attack useless with the Commissioner have successfully influenced the Secretary.

See my letter to Breckenridge of today. All the items of Christian Conference [he worked with the Episcopal church], my few lectures [he lectured on astronomy], and my Berlin application [to be secretary to legation to Germany KWD] have been collected and systematically arrayed to prove my want of interest in my office, but that I held it as a convenience while I prepared for something else.


Friday, April 20, 1855

I finished a long letter to Uncle William about my non-promotion, asking him both to advise me and to write to Judge Mason.

A letter was brought round to me signed by most of the Examiners setting forth that "we hear" that he is about to resign, i.e. the Commissioner, and hoping it may not be too late etc. etc. I declined to sign it, for I would feel it synchophanic just now; if I wanted nothing of Judge Mason I could do it with heart felt pleasure. Under the circumstances I could not do it.

Had a conversation with Mr. Watson about this new phase of matters; and he promises to write tomorrow to the Commissioner and urge my appointment before he resigns.


Thursday, April 26, 1855

About 10 o'clock, Mr. Shugert called me into his room and introduced Mr. Dodge of N.H., a newly appointed assistant examiner who would, he said, probably be permanently associated with me, and who was now assigned to my room. Mr. Dodge and I soon became acquainted and took quite a liking to each other. I took him to all the rooms and introduced him all round and then indoctrinated him into his new duties.


Friday, April 27, 1855

Mr. Dodge is getting into the traces nicely. The Commissioner is expected tomorrow night and then nous verrons que nous verrons.


Tuesday, May 1, 1855 Well, I sent in about the best report of work ever submitted by one man for a month's work in this office. Dr. Everett, with two assistants, reported 108 total actions. Mr. Peale's was 57 -- others from 60 to 70, with one assistant each. Mine unassisted was 103!


Wednesday, May 2, 1855

I went from breakfast up to the President's, and after waiting a short time, just as my turn came, Mr. Casey made his appearance. Of course I waived my right in his favor, but soon followed him.

Gen. Pierce asked for Mother and of Judge Mason etc. as he was writing a note; and when he finished it, he looked up and spoke of my affairs at once, saying Mrs. Pierce had mentioned my wishes to him. He said he could not and should not interfere in the matters of my qualifications, but if the Commissioner thought me qualified and wished to know his -- the President's general opinion of me and interest in me, he would give it him; and if any objection was raised on the score of my age or on that of my Christian Conference affairs, it should not be regarded and he would tell the Secretary so at once. So far, so good and so kind. But I thought him rather tense and hurried, and I did not feel at liberty to trouble him with Breckenridge's letter or other things I had on my mind, and so left him.

But coming out I was stopped at William Aiken's request and conducted to the Library. Miss Mason wished to see me, for Aiken (whom I saw in the anteroom) had told her I was .... [remainder of entry seems to be missing]


Thursday, May 3, 1855

This morning, quite to our surprise, the Commissioner made his appearance. Dr. Wells of Cambridge was here in full expectation of an appointment as Assistant Examiner.

Mother was at the White House this morning, and had a long and cordial conversation with her old friend Miss Mason. Miss M desired to see me again and so I went up directly after dinner, finding them at dinner, awaited Miss M in the drawing room.

But in they all came together. Gen & Mrs. Pierce, Mrs. Amos Lawrence, Miss Mason, Secretary McClelland and one or two others. Gen. P introduced me to those whom I did not know and Miss Mason sat down by me. I had a long conversation with her after all the rest left and at her request I left in her hands Mr. Breckenridge's letter, which she wished to show the President and promised to call for it tomorrow afternoon.

Stopped at Willard's and chatted an hour with Wells and Dodge and then went to Mrs. Lindslys, where I found Mother and spent the evening.


Friday, May 4, 1855

This morning, about 12, I met the President at the Patent Office, on my business, I suspect, and saw him go into the Secretary's also when the Commissioner was with him and the three had a confab together.

In afternoon, I called on Miss Mason for the letter; she said she had read it to the President, and that he had been to see Judge Mason, as I thought about the matter. The Judge had advanced the objection of my having other objects of interest; but spoke of no charges against me. Miss Mason's impression was that it would be "all right."


Saturday, May 12, 1855

[first part seems to be missing] ... in the future. I also told him frankly that while in the office I should desire to do my work thoroughly and efficiently; that therefore the construction of my room -- my classes and my assistant would have great effect upon my comfort and my efficiency; and these latter upon my permanency. So if he put me to terms, I also put him to terms.

Then he said he should appoint me! He would speak to the Secretary about ante-dating my appointment on Monday and then furnish me my commission.

Mr. Dodge was delighted for me. He watched my entrance into the room with greatest eagerness, and as he said, "as soon as he caught a glimpse of my left eye, he knew it was all right."


Monday, June 11, 1855

At office there came up today, a very important decision for me to make -- the McCormick and Hite interference -- one which involves a most important feature of McC's Reaper, the main feature of his present patent. On the strength of this responsibility, I feel both pretty well frightened and somewhat proud and cling to the case as tendenciously as I am anxious about my management of it.


Saturday, January 12, 1856

[Long entries about the death of his mother, including the following printed obituary:]

In this city, on Friday, 11th instant, at 1 o'clock P.M., Mrs. Harriette Curtis Langdon, in the 52 year of her age.

The friends of the family are invited to attend her funeral, from the residence of her son, Wm. Chauncy Langdon, on E street, near 3d, on Sunday afternoon, at 3 o'clock.


Friday, March 7, 1856

This morning Mr. Dodge showed me a sketch of some improvements in Reaping Machines which he had invented, and which he desired me to sign in order to fix their date in case he ever desired to patent them. One was to counteract side-draft by giving to a grain wheel, of the same diameter as the master wheel, a positive motion in advance of that which the master wheel has, this increased velocity being derived from the master wheel through gearing.

The other cutting by pairs of spiral knives co-operating and set in cylinders parallel to the draft.

I signed the paper of course, with the date.


Tuesday, May 6, 1856

I finished my digest of self rakers and furnished Mr. Watson with a copy, for which he paid me $200!

The appointment was made today at last -- Thomas H. Dodge -- to my great delight!

I took my leave officially of Judge Mason and of Mr. Shugert, and the Judge handed me letters from himself and from Secretary McClelland in acceptance of my resignation and speaking in the warmest terms of my past official course.

I am gone -- my official career has closed. I have risen to the highest point in this office, retire with honor, and now must seek a still higher path.

And this perhaps my God by Agnes' lips pointed out to me -- when tonight she spoke of my afflictions of the winter as setting me free and calling me to enlist in God's soldiery. It is a most solemn thought! How often have I called from my heart "Lord, oh Lord, what wilt thou have me to do! Wilt thou not teach me, oh Father!"


Wednesday, May 7, 1856

I made my first appearance at the Office in the capacity of an agent, this morning -- filed my power of attorney and took possession of the papers of Dr. Branch. His application had been rejected, by why. I had carefully read the references, I thought with a new specification I should be able to get his patent. I wrote him to that effect.

[Attached clipping:]
Chief Examiner in the Patent Office
Washington, Tuesday, May 6
Thomas H. Dodge, late Assistant Examiner in the patent office, has been appointed Chief Examiner, in place of Wm. Chauncy Langdon, resigned. Mr. Langdon retires with the highest commendation of the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Patents for the satisfactory manner in which he has discharged the important duties of his office.


Saturday, May 17, 1856

Here's what the Scientific American says of me. This paper was, five years ago, very loud about the absurdity of appoint such a "boy"! and talked about the expected "child's play."

[Attached clipping:]

Changes at the Patent Office

Mr. Wm. Chancy Langdon, for several years past Examiner in the Patent Office, and for the last two years a Chief Examiner, has resigned his post. He proposes shortly to make a tour of Europe, after which he returns to establish himself in the patent business in Washington. We wish him the highest success. Mr. Langdon is a gentleman of sound practical judgment and extensive scientific learning. He has filled the office of Chief Examiner with credit to himself and satisfaction to those whose affairs it has been his duty to adjudicate. In his retirement the Patent Office loses one of its most efficient officers.


Tuesday, August 26, 1856

This morning went up with Mr. Reading to Patent Office to make some inquiries for him and received when I got through my fee $95 which with the $25 received in April makes $120 pay for what has certainly not occupied me a dozen hours in all. The rest is an investment of knowledge and reputation. Pretty good investment!


Papers of William Chauncy LangdonLibrary of Congress manuscript files


J. Homer Lane to William Chauncy Langdon, 1 May 1851

U.S. Patent Office
May 1, 1851

My Dear Langdon
Having recently received myself an appointment to the post of principal examiner I have thought of you as the person I would prefer to any other I know of for my assistant. I had little idea however that you would be disposed to leave your present situation but Mrs. Lindsley last evening told me she thought you would like the position of assistant examiner and I write this to advise you instantly to apply to the Commissioner of Patents and to obtain and forward without loss of time all the recommendations you can get from your friends at the meeting of the association which I understand from Dr. Lindsley's folks you are to attend. Dr. Page thinks it will not be prudent for me to express to the Commissioner my preferences or wishes in the matter and you must be careful not to let my name appear in any way. I think recommendations from Professors Henry and Bache important at any time will have peculiar weight at the present time. I will write to Prof. Bache requesting him to urge your appointment and I hope if you want the place you may succeed not only on your own account but because I should delight to have you associated with me. You know that your duties in the office will occupy you only six hours in the day which will leave you considerable time for study at the same time that the salary will afford you ample means to procure such books and apparatus as you may need. Please write at your earliest convenience and let me know your mind on the subject and what you have done.

Yours truly
J. Homer Lane

Prof. Wm. C. Langdon
Cincinnati, Ohio

Address of the Commissioner and Secretary
Hon. Thos. Ewbank, Commissioner of Patents
Hon. A.H.H. Stuart, Secretary of the Interior


James B. Dodd to Thomas Ewbank, 8 May 1851

Transylvania University
May 8th 1851

Thos. Ewbank, Esq

Dear Sir,
I am requested to write to you in behalf of Mr. W.C. Langdon, who, it seems, has been proposed as an Assistant under Prof. Bache, and it affords me great pleasure to be able to speak of Mr. L in the most favorable terms. He graduated in this institution last August, having pursued his studies here from the time of entering the Sophomore Class. For correct deportment, industry and general success in literary and scientific pursuits I have never known his superior, if his equal, among young men. He possesses tact, energy and an ability to work his way in the world, which are altogether remarkable in a young man. Is of amiable demeanor, of unblemished moral character, and a member of the Episcopal Church. His mother, a very estimable lady, is dependent on him for a support, and not the least estimate trait in the character of Mr. L is the unfailing constancy of his devotion to her welfare and happiness.

In reference to his scientific attainments in particular, I may remark that he is entirely competent in all those branches of exact science which are usually included in a college course, with the exception of the calculus, which was not required of the class in which he graduated.

Since he left our institution he has been very diligently engaged in the study of practical astronomy and has thus greatly improved his knowledge of instruments, the art of observing, etc. and now holds the office of lecturer on astronomy in a neighboring college. I should consider the appointment which he seeks as worthily bestowed, should he obtain it, and have no fear that such confidence extended to him would be found to have been misplaced.

Very respectfully yours

Jas. B. Dodd
Prof of Math and President pro tem
Transylvania University


J. Homer Lane to William Chauncy Langdon, 22 May 1851

U.S. Patent Office
May 22, 1851

My Dear Langdon
I am delighted with your success in obtaining your appointment not only on your own account but because it will add to my own good fortune the pleasure of being associated with you in the office. It would not have been surprising in the present state of things if the agreeableness of my own situation had been marred by having forced upon me an incompetent and incongenial person. From that apprehension I have been relieved in the happiest possible manner. I sent a telegraphic dispatch to you eight days ago to which I received no answer. On Saturday last I sent another and yours dated on the following Monday was not received by me till this morning, having come to the telegraph office at 10 o'clock last night. I accordingly enclose you a check for $100 which I did not dare to do till I heard from you. I regret the delay and hope you will be ready to come on as soon as you conveniently can after receiving this. I am beginning to want your aid. I began with about three fair month's work on hand being more than fell in the division of subjects to any other examiner.

In haste
Yours truly
J.H. Lane


Joseph Henry to Commissioner of Patents?, 2 Mar 1853

Smithsonian Institution
March 2d, 1853

I am informed that Mr. Wm Chauncy Langdon is desirous of procuring a situation which will afford him a better opportunity than he now enjoys of improving himself in the branches of science to which he intends devoting his life, and I beg leave to commend him to you as a young gentleman in every respect worthy of your confidence and support.

He graduated at the University of Transylvania at the age of sixteen, and was immediately called to Shelbyville College as adjunct professor of astronomy, and at the age of nineteen was appointed assistant examiner in the Patent Office.

In every position in which he has yet been placed he has done honor to himself by the manner in which he has discharged his duties. I think he possesses talents which with proper development would do honor to our country.

Joseph Henry


Charles Mason to Robert McClelland, 30 June 1853

Patent Office, Washington
June 30, 1853

I hereby appoint William C. Langdon, an Assistant Examiner in the Patent Office, to take rank in the Third Class as provided in the act of Congress approved 3d March 1853, and respectfully ask your concurrence in said appointment.

I have the honor to be very respectfully your obedient servant

Chas Mason
Commissioner of Patent

Hon. Robt McClelland
Secretary of the Interior

Approved July 1, 1853
R.W. McClelland
Secretary of the Interior


William Chauncy Langdon to Charles Mason

14 September 1853


I conceive it to be my duty to lay before you the enclosed copy of a letter this morning received by me and my reply thereto; in order that, if it seems to you proper, the latter may be sent under cognizance of the office.

Hoping that the course I have pursued may meet your approbation.

I am with great respect,
Wm. Chauncy Langdon
Assistant Examiner

Hon. Charles Mason
Commissioner of Patents


William Chauncy Langdon to Charles T. Porter, 14 Sept 1853

U.S. Patent Office
Washington, D.C. Sept 14th 1853


Yours of yesterday's date is just received.

As an executive office of the U.S. Government and as a Christian gentleman, I hold it to be my duty as well as my pleasure to do all to forward the interests and convenience of those with whom I may be brought officially in contact, that is consistent with the rights of others, and an oath of office, which is, I can but feel it, too often regarded as a mere form. More, I cannot do, and I regret to find it thought that an Examining officer of this Bureau could act under any other motive.

The salary of my post is that at which the Government has seen fit to rate its duties, and that for which I undertook them. You will excuse my re-enclosure of the amount accompanying your letter.

I am respectfully
Wm. Chauncy Langdon

Charles T. Porter, Esq.
No. 11 Nassau St., N.Y.


Charles Mason to Charles T. Porter, 14 September 1853

U.S. Patent Office
Sept 14th 1853


The enclosed communication and the accompanying papers together with the twenty dollars in money has just been placed in my hands by Mr. Langdon, one of the Assistant Examiners of the Patent Office. Charity induces me to hope that the offer of this money was made inconsiderately, and without any improper motive. A moment of reflection, however, will show you that no proper purpose can be attained by such means. I trust that no repetition of such offers will hereafter be made, whatever the motive.

Yours etc.
Charles Mason

Charles T. Porter, Esq
11 Nassau St


Charles T. Porter to Charles Mason, 16 September 1853

New York, Sept 16th 1853

Hon. Chas. Mason
Commissioner of Patents


Yours of the 14th and enclosures were received yesterday. I submit myself, sir, to your most deserved reproof.

At the same time, permit me to say a work in extenuation. Under the last administration, the Patent Office enjoyed, whether deservedly or not, I am ignorant, such a character through the community, that it was supposed that favoritism would effect there any desired object, and Mr. H--- has been frequently told, that it was his own fault that his application lay for six months or longer unexamined.

I was also misled by supposing that I understood Mr. Langdon that the only question for us was whether we were willing to incur the expense of the additional $10 and favors. I probably misunderstood his word, certainly his meaning.

I sent the money (only asking, you will perceive, sir, that action be not delayed,) on the impulse of the moment, reflecting only that if I did not send, our application would probably lie over.

I feel obliged, sir, for the rebuke contained in your note; and I feel glad and proud that I can say that I know that under the present administration, the Patent Office is above suspicion.

Mr. Langdon's course deserved and received my profoundest respect, which I am mortified to say, mine cannot from him. Please show to him this note.

I am sir, yours very respectfully
Chas T. Porter


William Chauncy Langdon to Harriette Curtis Langdon, 21 September 1853

Washington, D.C. Sept 21st 1853

My dearest Mother

I sent you a note the other day, just to take care of you till I could get time to write you a letter as is a letter, but I hardly know whether you deserve that fully, for not a word have I received since the 11th instant, when I got yours of the 4th from Muscatine.

Prof. Stafford's visit was a source of very great pleasure to me. As he entered the hall, though at the opposite end, I immediately recognized him and went rapidly to meet him, calling him immediately by name. He seemed surprised that I knew him, and gratified. I had some considerable conversation with him here, and in afternoon[?] called him at Brown's and took tea with him. Fred, the big boy, whom I had never before seen out of petticoats, was a stranger to me.

The next day Mr. Germain was here and gave me news of Uncle Geo. and Aunt Adelia. As I have said, Mr. Lane's absence and the consequent necessity of my remaining in my office prevented me from showing him those courtesies which I should have been happy to have shown him.

Friday, I felt very unwell, and left the office; but only lolled the day away. I had been somewhat bilious all the week, and took a bad cold Wednesday night, and my throat was very sore. Miss Belle gave me some liniment with which to rub it, and Miss Margie, some flannel to tie him up in, and so I went to bed. But instead of getting up next morning, I sent for Dr. Lindsly. He dosed me into feeling at least very sick, but Sunday I felt much better; by dark, got round to Dr. Lindsly's and lolled on the couch, having transferred my custom from the Dr. to Caddie, who cured me of a head ache.

I came to the office Monday, but finding Mr. Lane, I returned, took care of myself, and came back on Tuesday feeling quite well, and am so now.

I think I told you, that when Mr. Lane went off, it was a matter of doubt whether I should be Acting Examiner, endowed with full authority pro tem. The Commissioner advised with the Examiners, and although Mr. Baldwin alone of the five advocated it, Judge Mason decided with Mr. B. Never perhaps could two weeks have given me better opportunity of "showing my hand." I worked hard, and in that time acted on 31 new cases besides the current work or old cases. (Mr. Lane's average cannot exceed 40 a month) when he had but one assistant, that was myself, experienced -- my one assistant, Mr. Moss is a new man. Two or three of Mr. Lane's hard cases came back, his decision disputed; I took up the gauntlet, defended his rejection, and in each case my answer was a sockdologer; they gave it up. There have been appeals from our room the Commissioner in person. I have conducted them, and all of them successfully. In one or two discussions with agents on points of patent law, I assumed grounds different from Mr. Lane's and the Examiners generally -- based on common sense and the decisions of the courts, rather than the practice of the office. The Commissioner pronounced me correct. Then came the bribery case. I haven't time to copy the documents, but send them all to you, and you can send them back. They will tell the whole story.

After all -- more than I expected, considering the independent course I had taken -- when Mr. Lane came back, he seemed very much pleased with my management of the room.

I had some conversation lately with Judge Mason about my promotion. He said that my age in itself should by no means be in my way, but neither would my seniority in itself give me a claim. "We do not expect to find in young men," said he, "that maturity of judgment, which is necessary for a Chief Examiner." He should advise with the Examiners, he said, and receive the opinions of such as Professors Henry and Bache, and act as the good of the office required. Though this ground, in a measure weakens my prospects, yet it secured me my promotion on the only ground on which I should really desire it -- capability to do justice to the office and credit to myself. Nous verrons!

I sent you $10 in my last. I scarcely know how soon you will want funds to start with, but lest it be sooner than it may be, I just put in a couple of bills -- $30. Mr. Germain says the whole trip here will only cost that. Perhaps, he was mistaken, or you may be needing more for other wants; if so, write me and a letter and more money can easily meet you somewhere on the way, if not at Galena.

I have heard nothing from Mrs. Butler, since the Dr.'s arrival in Boston. We expect them home next week and are very impatient, I assure you, for their return. Well, I'll go to sleep now, and dream of you, Mother dear. Love to all from your own, own, own,



William Chauncy Langdon to his uncle (unnamed), 4 April 1855

U.S. Patent Office, Washington, D.C., April 4th 1855

My dear Uncle

You and Aunt will think me a very spasmodic young man, you hear from me so seldom, when you open this letter voluminous as it will doubtless be before it is finished. But I wish to ask of you some assistance which I know you will render me, if possible; but for a full understanding of which it will be necessary to condemn you to a long story first.

It relates to my promotion, or to speak more correctly, to my non-promotion; and to begin at the beginning, let me remind you that on the first of last April Judge Mason detailed a portion of the Assistant Examiners to duty as Chief Examiners, in advance of authority by law to make appointments in full. I was one of these, and have been in this position ever since. A bill was then pending in Congress for reforming the patent laws which provided for an increased corps but the session passed and it received no attention. Last winter came and this session was rapidly passing, but the bill was stationary. We grew anxious that an effort should be made to incorporate the provision for an increased force in the general appropriation bill; but the Commissioner seemed to disapprove and such was our feeling toward him that we would not move in these circumstances. At last, being convinced that the bill was hopeless, he expressed his willingness, if some provision could at the same time be made for increasing the income of the office as well as its expenditure. He proposed to raise the amount of the patent fees, but the M.C.s pronounced that impracticable. We were then utterly at a loss for the sine qua non, which the Judge attached to his sufferance. At this juncture it was proposed to attempt a restoration of some of the moneys taken from the patent fund for the building, but as that involved a disputed question, it was deemed injudicious; but I thought how continually the drain had been kept up from the patent fund for agricultural purposes since '36, and doubted not but by this time it had amounted to a handsome sum, and the principle that the general treasury should bear this expense having just been settled, I examined the records of the Treasury and finding it $40,078.98, aimed at once at this. I suggested this to our pay clerk and others but could get no authoritative countenance. Nevertheless I did get some Senators to take it up, one of whom was a member of the Patent Committee, and to be brief, myself engineered this feature through into law! In conjunction with two of my colleagues, I labored at the main proposition, and by the aid of Mr. Breckenridge of Kentucky, my representative, whom I brought to the rescue, we engineered that through, and some minor points. We strained every nerve to get the salaries of the Commissioner and Chief Clerk raised, and did succeed in the Senate, but the House struck it out. Here then we rested, or I at least did. The Commissioner had authority to appoint four new Chief Examiners. Others made use of political influence; I stirred not one step; I did not wish ever to make a formal application, though by the advice of a chief examiner, I did this simply. I had been first appointed on the ground of qualification without any exertion of mine. I wished my promotion on the same terms. Moreover, I have been so disgusted with the office seeking manoevering all around me that I felt it to be beneath a high minded man, and regarded recommendations now as an insult to the Commissioner's penetration, and influence as an insult to his independence and sense of justice. And lastly, I had that confidence in Judge Mason that I felt no fear in trusting it in his hands, especially as in his annual report to Congress he had spoken of the justice of "giving us the same rank and pay as others who have been performing the same duties and have been subject to the same responsibilities."

In the first place, I was senior assistant and according to the established usage heir apparent. I never asked for nor would I have accepted promotion while others were before me. Secondly, but for myself and others of my colleagues, there would have been no appointments to make. This may be disputed by some, but this I know. Thirdly, but for myself the money, the sine qua non with which to bear the increased expense had not been obtained. Fourthly, I have served three years as an assistant under the most particular and accurate man in the office, and one year have acted as chief examiner for an assistant's salary only. Fifthly, in addition to this I have for four months performed the assistant's duty in my own room, I am the only examiner ever required to maintain or conduct his desk unassisted. But these so far, should of themselves, I grant, have no weight upon the Commissioner's selection of appointees; yet in connection with two more items they become of very great weight. Sixthly, I have been faithful and more than faithful to my duty. I have labored many and many a time, weeks together, for hours in afternoons and nights merely because I was interested in pressing business forward (though for this by the way I am not aware that I ever got a particle of credit from the present or any other Commissioner.) Of the amount of work I have performed I of course could judge, and Seventhly of my qualifications, in a mental point of view for the office -- here alone I should be distrustful, for I am daily feeling more and more the depth at which the intricacies of patent law lie beyond me, were it not that I have received every reason to think that my decisions have been in the main correct, that I give satisfaction to clients and agents on the one hand and most important of all to the Commissioner himself, on the other. Judge Mason has expressed himself as believing me fully capable, and this opinion, derived of course from experience and not formed a priori.

Should you not think that I might have rested secure? But the appointments were made and announced immediately after Judge Mason's departure for Iowa, on the 29th ult. -- and I was omitted. They embraced three of the late Acting Examiners, all of course my juniors by 1 1/2, 1, and 2 1/2 years, and one gentleman who had been an assistant a few months and never acted as a Chief. The astonishment in the office was not less than mine own; they came up to congratulate me as I congratulated them. We had heard that one of the late acting assistants, know full assistant, was one of the chiefs, and had convinced him of his good fortune, but learning of my failure, he declared he would not accept the post at my expense -- it was so justly mine.

And yet I do not regret my own course in declining the offers of my friends to bring political influence to my assistance. I have at least preserved my self-respect, but my pride in the office is gone. A blow like this shows me that capacity and fidelity are not sufficient guardians here; and if they could not secure my promotion, how can I hope they will protect me from dismissal, whenever my post is needed for someone else. Other influence, other protection I scorn to seek; and but for the belief that I might safely do so, I never had entered the Patent Office.

I now began to endeavor to explain all this. I presume Judge Mason feels all the arguments I mentioned above; and he has more than once expressed himself favorably with regard to my capabilities for discharging the duties of Chief Examiner. Again, some time since overtures were made me to leave the office and go into business under circumstances decidedly preferable to my present position, not to a chiefship; awaiting the appointments, I delayed decision till I could do so no longer, and then I ventured to get a friend to ask the Commissioner if an early decision about me could not be had, at the same time mentioning the reasons for my course. Judge M said I should know in a day or two, but many days passed and I learned nothing. I lost my opportunity, for I regarded his silence as based on the ground that it would be as I wished when all over.

All this, as a prelude to my omission, was not like the Commissioner's character. I could not reconcile it and it pained me exceedingly to feel that I must loose my confidence in his sense of justice and my esteem for him. I learned too late that the Chief Clerk had in the most insidious and careful manner labored to prejudice the Commissioner against me, in order to secure the appointment for a friend; that facts had been misrepresented to him (whether willfully or from a willingness to misunderstand, I know not -- I hope the latter,) calculated to injure me -- but I cannot believe Judge Mason would have allowed himself to be thus influenced without giving me an opportunity of defense.

From this dilemma, I can escape but by the conclusion that Judge Mason did submit my name to the Secretary, but the Secretary struck it out in favor of the Chief Clerk's friend. Some facts support this view, besides that it is the only way I can reconcile Judge Mason's course and character. I have no acquaintance with the Secretary, he knows very little of me, and probably cares less; and our Chief Clerk has very carefully labored in my service in that department. One by one, I am catching the traces of a malignant, underhanded treacherous, false (whether knowing or not) course of conduct which with the Secretary would probably be successful. I am in hopes of being able to fasting it upon him, but this is sure, in the person of the Chief Clerk of the Patent Office, from what motive, I know not. I have a smiling, courteous, cautious, and most insidious enemy and this pursuit of me reaching farther back than I at first imagined.

About two years since, while Mr. Hodges was Commissioner, some person made some false representation about me in such a direction that for weeks it seemed to have broken up entirely any friendly relations with the whole family of the Lindslys, Holmeses and Pages. I could but indefinitely learn their character and so could not explain or disprove. Mrs. Page's confidence in me alone remained firm. A day or two since I found out that this blow came from our present Chief Clerk. See therefore to what I am exposed.

Now, at my age and with my opportunities, an Assistant Examinership under the best circumstances is no object to me, much less under such circumstances, and if the present state of things continues, I shall resign as soon as I can make judicious arrangements. I believe both Secretary and Commissioner desire to have permanent officers in the corps, but it is little inducement for one to make it a permanency, to prove to him how uncertain the tenure may be, and how easily the most faithful devotion can be made of no avail.

But the Commissioner has yet the right of creating another Chief Examinership and filling it and some think he will do so on his return, and appoint me, to take date from April 1st.

He cannot restore to me my lost rank; four of my juniors have been elevated over my head; this humiliation cannot be helped. But by promoting me from the 1st of April he can prevent any pecuniary loss from what has passed, and if he does this at once on his return, I shall be saved from a still greater loss. In the belief that I should be promoted, and in the desire then to throw aside what plans I have had for resigning and settle myself down to my new and permanent duties, I had arranged to purchase a snug new brick house on terms which my new salary would enable me to meet. This matter, I have succeeded in keeping in my power till the Commissioner's return -- not longer; others are anxious to make the same purchase, if I do not at once.

Judge Mason is expected back the first of May. I am now confident of securing the Secretary's approval, if he will nominate me, and if he does and especially if, by antedating my appointment, he places me on a footing with the other appointees, and gives me an assistant, I shall at once purchase the house and go at my duties with some energy of heart as well as of mind. If not, I shall endeavor to do my duty faithfully until my arrangements are made to resign; and then if my affectionate Uncle Sam ever gets me into his power again, I will give him leave to treat me just as he pleases.

But in justice to myself Judge Mason ought to be enlightened on the subject of the Chief Clerk's treatment of me, and yet it is a grave thing to bring a charge against a public officer without the unanswerable proof, and unless Mr. Shugert is a bigger fool than I take him to be, these will be hard to obtain. What ought I to do -- what can I do, in this case.

Again, Judge Mason may not see any necessity of deciding about the other appointment at once; and it would be a very delicate thing for me to assume his willingness to promote me and speak to him on the subject. I am exceedingly unwilling to appear presumptuous or intrusive, and yet I am harassed with anxiety and hard work together and am scarcely fit for anything in the office or out of it. What shall I do in this.

You know Judge Mason better than I do; if you think best to write him, do so; if not, do not; but advise me how to act.

I received a letter from Breckenridge, expressing great surprise and regret at my non-appointment and saying with reference to the law authorizing these officers: "in my opinion, but for you, it would not have passed the House." One may sow, and others reap!

Love to Aunt Belle. Mother's well

Your affectionate nephew
Wm. Chauncy Langdon


William Chauncy Langdon to Charles Mason, 1 May 1856

U.S. Patent Office
May 1st 1856


I have the honor to tender to you my resignation of the office of Chief Examiner in this Bureau, with which you have been please to entrust me; said resignation to take effect upon the sixth instant.

In thus serving my connection with the Patent Office and dissolving associations of five years continuance, I am not without feelings of sadness and regret, and I must beg leave to express to you my sincere gratitude for the unvaried kindness and consideration which has, on your part, characterized our official intercourse, and also the hope that the duties of my post have been discharged to your satisfaction, as well as in a manner, to some extent, commensurate with my endeavor.

Permit me to express through you to the Examining Corps my cordial and grateful leave taking.

Very respectfully yours,
Wm. Chauncy Langdon

Hon. Chas Mason
Commissioner of Patents


Charles Mason to William Chauncy Langdon, 5 May 1856

U.S. Patent Office May 5th 1856


Your resignation as an Examiner in this office which was tendered on the 1st, is accepted to take effect on the 6th instant agreeably to your request.

I regret to lose your services in the Patent Office where they have been found highly satisfactory and where they were daily becoming more valuable.

I feel greatly obliged to you for the kind manner in which you allude to our past relations and tender you my warm wishes for your future success and happiness.

I am very truly yours
Charles Mason

Wm. Chauncy Langdon, Esq.


Newton and son to William Chauncy Langdon, 28 July 1857

Office for Patents
66 Chancery Lane (W.C.)
July 28th 1857

Branch Office
14 St. Ann's Square

Newton's London Journal of Arts and Sciences
being a record of the progress of Invention as applied to the Arts
Subscription 12/ per annum

Dear Sir

In compliance with your instructions we commenced an English Patent for the Mowing Machine on the 20th inst. in the name of our Mr. W.C. Newton and we have now the pleasure of enclosing the Certificate of Provisional Protection thereon. Nothing further will be done in this matter until we receive your further instructions; you must however bear in mind that your instructions and funds must reach us at latest by the 20th of Nov next or we shall not be able to comply with the Commissioners rules as to the time of giving "notice to proceed" The expenses at present incurred are £10-10. The whole cost of the patent and specification we estimate at £46-10 less £5-10 your commission.

We remain yours truly
Newton and Son
Thos.[?] M[?] Moffatt

Wm. C. Langdon Esq
Patent Solicitor
Washington City, D.C.


Affidavit of Rev. W.C.Langdon, 7 October 1864


In the manner of the application of William E. Lockwood, for a re-issue of the letters patent for an improvement in Shirt Collars granted to Walter Hunt, on the twenty fifth day of July, A.D., 1854.

City and County of Philadelphia )
State of Pennsylvania - - - - - -) S.S.

On this Seventh day of October, A.D. 1864, before me, an Alderman and ex-officio Justice of the Peace, in and for the city aforesaid, personally appeared William Chauncy Langdon, who, being duly sworn according to law deposes and says:

I am thirty-three years of age. I am a Clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church, I reside at Havre de Grace, Maryland.

I was appointed principal Examiner of the Patent Office in the spring of 1854, I had been Assistant Examiner for three years before that time.

In one capacity or another, I had charge of the class of wearing apparel from my first appointment in 1851.

I had charge of the same class at least until 1855, or it may have been 1856.

I have a perfect recollection of Walter Hunt's application for Shirt Collars, the paper hereto annexed is a certified of the file wrapper and contents.

Mr. Samuel Cooper, of Boston, was Walter Hunt's Attorney.

I do not recollect having any conversation with Mr. Cooper about Walter Hunt's application.

Mr. Cooper was at the Office very frequently. He was a personal friend of mine.

I think that if there had been any difficulty about this case I should have recollected it. There was no rejection of the case as far as I remember. I was very systematic with my papers, if there was any rejection, or other official action, it will be found endorsed in ink on the back of the file.

I recollect getting some specimens of paper collars, they related to Walter Hunt's application for a patent. I cannot recollect whether I got them from Mr. Cooper and Hunt, but I am positive that they related to Walter Hunt's application for a patent.

I remember wearing such collars, I wore them when I travelled, I recollect one of these collars being torn, I examined it carefully, I perceived no muslin about it, or any cloth whatever. I remember examining one especially as a matter of curiosity, there was no muslin about it.

I have perused carefully the two pamphlets hereto annexed, and marked Nos. 1 and 2, the title page being "William E. Lockwood's application for a Re-issue of Walter Hunt's Letters Patent for Shirt Collars."

I have written in pencil my name opposite a series of claims in pages 38 and 39, pamphlet No. 2.

As principal Examiner, I would (at least as far as I can review the case now) have granted separate patents for Divisions A, B and D, but I should have some doubts about granting a patent for Division C.

I have no interest in this application for a patent.
Wm Chauncy Langdon

Sworn and subscribed before me, this 7th day of October, A.D. 1864.
John White, Alderman


In the manner of the application of William E. Lockwood, for a re-issue of the letters patent for an improvement in Shirt Collars granted to Walter Hunt, on the twenty fifth day of July, A.D., 1854.

Howson's Patent Agency
Philadelphia, October 11th, 1864

To the Hon. Commissioner of Patents

On the fifth of this month, I forwarded to the Patent Office, a letter asking for the postponement of further action in this case for a few days.

The object of this request was to enable me to procure the affidavit of the Rev. W.C. Langdon, which together with other papers, I now enclose.

Mr. Langdon is well known to have been a Principal Examiner in the Patent Office, and a painstaking, able, and much respected officer.

It was deemed a matter of importance in prosecuting this application for a Re-issue, to ascertain the precise action of the Patent Office in relation to the original application for a patent, by the late Walter Hunt, and this has been fully accomplished by the accompanying affidavit.


<< Return to Patent History Materials Index