Patent History Materials Index - Patent Materials from Scientific American, vol 4 old series (Sep 1848 - Aug 1849)

Scientific American, v 4 (os), no 9, p 67, 18 November 1848

An Old Patent and an Old Inventor

The inventor who has received a patent subscribed with the handwriting of Washington, must feel proud indeed in the possession of such an instrument. Such a man is John J. Staples of the city of New York, who is the oldest living inventor holding a patent in the United States, and perhaps the oldest living patentee in the world. We publish the following patent from respect to the memory of the departed great, and the worth and genius of the honored living. Many of our readers will esteem this great curiosity and valuable relic, and will desire to know something of the inventor himself, whose inventions are associated with the name of "the Father of his Country." Mr. Staples is now about 80 years of age and his head is whitened with the snows of many winters. His eye is still bright and his mental faculties clear. His step to be sure is less firm than of yore but his body is still erect and stately. Mr. Staples is an inventor who has had the honor of securing a patent from every P{resident of the United States, except the lamented Harrison. He has a patent which we have seen, given under the handwriting of President Thomas Jefferson, for a Tidal Wheel to propel machinery, and the first invented in the United States.

The patent is for a Locomotive, but not a steam one, and in comparison with the mode in which specifications have now to be made out, it presents a great contrast.



To all to whom these Letters Patent shall come

Whereas John J. Staples, Junior, a citizen of the State of New York, in the United States, has alleged that he has invented a new and useful improvement in the construction of a Carriage to be propelled by the mechanical powers, which improvement has not been known or used before his application; has made oath that he does verily believe that he is the true inventor and discoverer of the said improvement; has paid into the Treasury of the United States the sum of thirty dollars, delivered a receipt for the same and presented a petition to the Secretary of State, signifying a desire of obtaining an exclusive property in the said improvement, and praying that a patent may be granted for that purpose: These are therefore to grant, according to law, to the said John J. Staples, Junior, his heirs, administrators or assigns, for the term of fourteen years, from the twenty second day of the present month of April, exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using, and vending to others to be used the said improvement, a description whereof is given in the words of the said John J. Staples, Junior himself, in the schedule hereunto annexed, and is made a part of these presents.

In testimony whereof, I have caused these Letters to be made Patent, and

[L.S.] the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

Given under my hand, at the City of Philadelphia, this twenty-fifth day of April, in the Year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighteenth.
Go. Washington
By the President, Edm. Randolph

City of Philadelphia, To Wit:
I do hereby certify: That the foregoing Letters Patent, were delivered to me on the 25th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, to be examined; that I have examined the same and find them conformable to law. And I do hereby return the same to the Secretary of State within fifteen days from the date aforesaid, to wit: On the same 25th day of April in the year aforesaid.
Wm. Bradford


The Schedule referred to in these Letters Patent, and making part of the same, containing a description in the words of the said John J. Staples, Junior, himself of an improvement in the construction of a Carriage to be propelled by the mechanical powers.

General description of a travelling Carriage, which is to move without the power of Horses, carrying from 2 to 4 persons, requiring the labor of one of which to regulate its movement -- will ascend any hill that is accessible to common carriages, moving with great rapidity, and is in every respect as manageable as those drawn by horses, its velocity being increased or lessened at pleasure by the application of the five following powers as occasion may require. The first power, which is the greatest, is the weight of the whole carriage with whatever is contained therein, which is raised up by the oval wheels in turning round, and when ascending acts on the shortest lever. 2d Power is the weight of the top frame which supports the carriage body with its contents, which being likewise wound up by the said oval wheels at the same or a different time acts in descending on the two next size levers and is the next greatest power. 3d Power is the carriage body which being fixed on 4 friction rollers vibrates as a pendulum acting on the two longest levers. 4th. Is the weight of the person who regulates the motion acting likewise on the ends of the said 2 long levers and is the first motion the carriage receives. 5th. Is an occasional power which is gained when ascending a hill by winding up two springs placed under the carriage which also acts with great force on the ends of the aforesaid two long levers when rising a hill.
Jno. J. Staples, Jr.

Sam'l Folwell,
Geo. Taylor


Scientific American, v 4 (os), no 31, p 245, 21 April 1849

Business at the Patent Office

Our readers will perceive that the Examiners of the Patent Office are making the business fly. There are more than double the number of patents issued every week now than were issued during the corresponding weeks of 1848. Last week there were thirty six patents issued. During the corresponding week of 1848, there were only five patents issued. There are thirty-eight patents in our list of this week, while on the 11th of April 1848, there were only twelve. Here we have the astonishing number of fifty seven patents issued within two weeks, over and above the number issued during the same weeks of last year. This speaks volumes for the efficiency of the Examining corps to exterminate the business that had accumulated on the files at the Patent Office before additional examiners were appointed by the law passed last year for that purpose. There are few who are aware of the many troubles experienced by the Patent Office. The amount of correspondence with it and inventors throughout our country, is enormous, and there are many very many annoyances to which the Patent Office is subject. One man writes us that he sent his model and specification to the Patent Office about six months ago but has not yet forwarded the fee $30. Well here is a case of trouble to the Patent Office. The papers are placed on file, but not in turn for examination until the fee is paid. The model, specification and Fee must all be entered upon the regular file before the application takes its turn for examination. There are a great many who write letters to the Patent Office about this and that business. No notice are taken of such letters -- the Patent Office is supported, not by the funds of Government but the fees for patents, recording drawings, and copies of patents. Those who pay nothing into the Patent Treasury cannot justly expect to receive any equivalent but that which they have rendered.

A great number of people suppose that the British Patent Office is better managed than ours because the fees are higher. This is a great mistake. Our Patent Office is two centuries in advance of the London one. It is true that patents are more easily secured there. They are not examined and corrected (if there are any mistakes,) as is done at Washington, but granted if there are no just opposers to the granting of the patent. This is the reason why so many old inventions are repatented in England. In the eye of the law they are worthless. There is one thing, however, about the sustaining a patent abroad, which is commendable. Their inventors are protected, and protected well in their just rights. Our inventors are subject to more chagrin and trouble after they have secured a patent to sustain it, if there is any infringement -- in fact, a poor inventor unless supported by some man of wealth, is not able to sustain his patent. There exists, therefore, a great necessity for a thorough reform in the Patent Laws. This is the only hope and rock of confidence for our inventors. As far as it regards the organization of the Patent Office, it is almost perfect. The only reform which we would wish to see instituted is a widening of the field for decisions respecting what is new. The decisions are frequently too contracted in spirit, as if ingenuity was exercised to invent objections. We have no doubt but many good novel things have been rejected for "want of novelty." True, many patents have been granted for inventions that had been rejected by a first examination, but it is human nature to stand by a first opinion. Nevertheless the Patent Office is very liberal in re-examining, but great care and kindness should be exercised on the first examination, before decision. If there is a doubt, let the inventor have it in his favor. Whatever has a tone of novelty in the invention, let it be protected freely, if it would not bring it into conflict with an existing patent, or is similar to an expired one. There is no invention, however simple, that does not cost the inventor much trouble and expense to bring it before the Patent Office.


Scientific American, v 4 (os), no 35, p 277, 19 May 1849

The New Commissioner of Patents

Mr. Thomas Ewbanks of this city has been appointed Commissioner of patents, in place of the Hon. Edmund Burke, removed. The appointment will give general satisfaction to all our inventors. Mr. Ewbanks is an inventor, a practical mechanic, a man of great scientific attainment, and author of that pre-eminent work, "Ewbank's Hydraulics." This work together with many other scientific papers has given him a good and great reputation both at home and abroad. He is a man of unsullied character, modest and generous, but firm and just also. No better appointment could be made. Mr. Burke was a good Commissioner of Patents, and we suppose that he was removed because he was a keen partisan. Mr. Ewbanks is not a hot partisan, but a good quiet citizen, and this qualification is a good recommendation to inventors. What do they care about parties? Our inventors want a man who will compile statistics on the improvements in the Arts, not party statistics. Agricultural statistics, and statistics on public policy, are excellent, but they should be compiled by boards for that purpose. The Patent Office is supported and sustained by the money paid in by inventors to the Treasury, and surely no other class has a right to the labors of those officers, who are paid and supported by the funds paid in by inventors. We contend; and always have contended, for the rights of inventors, but their rights have been overlooked always for the benefit of others. The Patent Department was instituted for the purpose of encouraging improvements in the "Useful Arts." Now, although this is an undeniable fact, we well know, and have spoken of it frequently, that the improvers, the inventors, have received far less attention than some others who never paid a single dime for the advancement of the Arts. Huge documents on agriculture have been issued year after year from the Patent Office, while the epitome of improvements in the Arts has presented a miserable appearance in comparison with their buttermilk neighbors, for whom the inventors did all the churning, and made the churn too. We hope after this that all the Patent Office Reports will embrace matters only relevant to patents and improvements in the arts, with legal information in connection, and that a copy of every Report for the year will be sent to each man who secured a patent during the year.

In penning these lines we write above partisan feelings -- for we are on the side of justice with the good will, we know, of inventors, who are of every party in politics, and who care for justice alone in this department above Whig or Democratic feelings. Mr. Ewbank we know will give his influence and the best wishes of his heart to secure full justice to inventors and to extend a more universal and better knowledge of American Science and Arts.

Mr. Burke, as Commissioner of Patents, earned the fame of being a prompt and able officer. Whatever fault one party may have with another, is no business of ours. We speak of him as a high officer of the U.S. Government, who performed his duties with honor to himself and his country, and it is a source of pleasure to know that his mantle has fallen upon worthy shoulders.


Scientific American, v 4 (os), no 45, p 357, 28 July 1849

Visit of the President to the Patent Office

The following is an extract from a letter published in the N.Y. Tribune, describing a visit of the President to the Patent Office.

On Saturday morning an elderly and plainly dressed gentleman (accompanied by a young one of twenty-two or three) stepped into this museum of natural and artificial mechanisms, and, after spending a little time in the Commissioner's room, was attended through the various apartments. The portfolios of drawings were opened before him, and among them some splendid plates of a rotary steam engine invented by Mr. Thompson, of New York; next, models of pending applications in the offices of the Machinist and Examiners were shown to him, and of these he anticipated the value of some and the defects of others. Thence his attention was invited to the saloon of models, whence is embodied, in visible and tangible forms, a mass of mental creations whose value no superficial observer can even begin to appreciate. Glancing over the cases, (months might be spent on one,) in which every profession of civilized society is represented by one or more devices, he every now and then paused to remark on such as related to the arts of peace -- industrial and ornate -- passed furtively by those connected with war, and closed his inquiries by asking "Where's your best Cultivator?" Three or four were withdrawn and on them he commented in a manner that showed him quite at home in agricultural matters; this was further confirmed by remarks on the cereals, of which he observed by the way, that maize was his favorite, for "he could live on corn bread."

He now ascended to the upper saloon and inspected, with much interest, the collection of natural and other rarities brought home by the Exploring expedition; the statuary, paintings, Indian arms and antiquities; Washington's sword, coat and camp equipage; Franklin's cane, Smithson's domestic and chemical utensils, etc., etc., and what will one day be held as the World's charter of independence, the original Declaration. After thus spending a couple of hours, this singularly affable and unostentatious visitor took leave of the officers of the institution with a promise to call again. Now, who do you suppose he was? Why, none other than the President of the United States. This was Gen. Taylor's and his son's first visit to the Patent Office.

A warmer friend of inventors than President Taylor does not live. He is with you heart and soul, and if you and your brethren do not realize under his Administration all that you can reasonably ask for, it will not be his fault. I will not repeat, at this time, an emphatic declaration of his in favor of the mechanics and inventors of our country, nor what he said of his readiness to urge upon Congress their just rights, but will merely add, that, amid the weighty matters pressing upon him, their interests are, in his estimation neither the least nor the last to be looked to.


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