Patent History Materials Index - Patent Materials from Scientific American, vol 64 new series (Jan 1891 - Jun 1891)

Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 4, p 48-49, 24 January 1891

The first century of existence of the American patent system has now been completed. In the history of the country there are to be found few more important epochs or more worthy of being signalized. The inauguration of the patents laws marks the beginning of a career of unprecedented prosperity among nations. It indicates the fostering by the federal power of the most distinctive feature of the national character. The many inventions, now nearly half a million in number, set forth in the records of the United States Patent Office are a history of mechanical genius and progress of which our country and the world at large should be proud.

It is hard to believe that those who composed and accepted the constitution of the United States, and those who subsequently amended it, could have foreseen the influence which each paragraph would have on the fortunes of so many millions of people. It is definitely certain that the clauses relating to patents could never have been supposed to embody the foundations of the edifice that has been based upon them. In the first days of the republic there was but little interest in the subject of invention. The people were largely agricultural in their pursuits, and carried on their work with primitive appliances. Gradually a few patents were taken out, but up to the year 1825, including the first thirty-five years of operation, only 4,183 patents had been issued. The actual number of patents granted gradually increased from ten or twenty per annum to 299 in the year 1825. In 1854 the first great increase is observed, when the number rose from 846 for 1853 to 1,759 for 1854. Since that period they have increased until now over 20,000 are issued annually.

It is not in the mere granting of letters patent that the fostering arm of the government appears most prominent. Entitled by statute to federal protection by the judiciary, the rights of patentees have formed one of the great subjects of defense by the highest courts of the land. The district and circuit judges are the first appealed to, but from them case after case is brought before the United States Supreme Court at Washington. No subject of personal or even international right can find a higher tribunal for adjudication of its claims than is afforded to the right of the inventor.

The highest judges in the land, and those who have obtained the highest reputation as expounders of the law and as interpreters of the intentions of the legislative bodies, have pronounced strongly and unhesitatingly in favor of the inventor. No class of citizens has been the subject of higher encomium from the bench. Those judges who have been most outspoken in their appreciation of the poorly rewarded efforts of mechanical genius have been those who have attained the highest reputation. Numerous attacks have been made upon the system in Congress, but all have mete with the same fate, and have failed at an early stage. Today the nation at large may be thankful in seeing the statutes undisturbed and intact. It is a guarantee of the future progress of the country. The maintenance of laws so fruitful in good in the past promises well for the future, and is the best insurance of the continuance of inventors' efforts. The more enlightened of our legislators have uniformly opposed on the floor of Congress any impairing of the force and scope of these statutes.

Fortunately we can be said to be entering on this second century under good auspices. The rights of inventors are sustained in the courts and by the houses of Congress. A century of unprecedented work by the inventor now begins. To fittingly celebrate the present epoch, the beginning of the second century of the American patent system, a central executive and advisory committees have been organized at Washington. The personnel of the committees include a long list of names prominent in business and official circles. The Patent Office, United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum, United States Geological Survey, the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and many other federal bureaus and institutions are represented by their chiefs or other officials.

The centennial of the patent system has passed, because the first patent was granted in 1790. The idea of holding the proposed convention has come a year beyond the proper date for a centennial. It is therefore termed a celebration of the beginning of the second century of the American patent system. The inventor and manufacturer of inventions are appealed to by the committee to hold a fitting celebration in the national capital, to commemorate the entry into the second century of mechanical and scientific progress. They are invited to assist in putting on record the nation's appreciation of the labors of those whose work in the realm of invention has done so much to elevate their country.

It is also suggested that the occasion is a fitting one for organizing a National Association of Inventors, a society for mutual benefit, which it is obvious might accrue in many ways to the members. The committee invite all interested to communicate with their secretary, Mr. J. Elfreth Watkins, U.S. National Museum, Washington, D.C.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 8, p 113, 21 February 1891

Centennial Celebration of the American Patent System at Washington

This promises to be one of the most interesting and memorable affairs of the day. The following is the preliminary programme:

First public meeting, [fn: It is proposed to hold meetings for the organization of the National Association of Inventors and Manufacturers on the afternoon of April 7, and in the morning on April 8 and 9, and at such other times as may be necessary.] afternoon, April 8, 1891. To be presided over by the President of the United States.

Second public meeting, April 8, 7 to 8:30 P.M. To be presided over by the Hon. John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior.

Special reception to inventors and manufacturers and the ladies who accompany them, at the Patent Office, April 8, 9 to 11:30 P.M., by the Hon. John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior, and the Hon. Charles Eliot Mitchell, Commissioner of Patents.

Third public meeting, afternoon, April 9. To be presided over by Hon. Frederick Fraley, LL.D., President of the National Board of Trade and the American Philosophical Society, and charter member of Franklin Institute.

Fourth public meeting, evening, April 9. To be presided over by Professor S.P. Langley, LL.D., Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Anniversary Day, April 10. -- Anniversary of the signing of the first American patent law -- "An Act to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts" -- by George Washington

10 A.M. Excursion to Mount Vernon, where an address will be delivered by J.M. Toner, M.D., of Washington, upon "Washington as an Inventor and Promoter of Improvements."

Fifth public meeting, evening, April 10 -- To be presided over by Prof. A. Graham Bell. Addresses [fn: Addresses are also expected from prominent inventors and manufacturers at the meetings for the organization of the National Association.] upon the following subjects are promised at the public meetings:

Edward Atkinson, Ph.D., LL.D., of Massachusetts -- Invention in its Effects upon Household Economy.

Dr. John S. Billings, Curator, U.S. Army Medical Museum -- American Invention and Discoveries in Medicine, Surgery, and Practical Sanitation.

Hon. Samuel Blatchford, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States -- A Century of Patent Law.

Cyrus F. Brackett, M.D., LL.D., of New Jersey, Henry Professor of Physics, College of New Jersey, Princeton -- The Effect of Invention upon the Progress of Electrical Science.

Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, of Ohio, U.S. House of Representatives -- The Effect of our Patent System on the Material Development of the United States.

Octave Chanute, of Illinois, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers. -- The Effect of Invention upon the Railroad and Other Means of Intercommunication.

Professor F.W. Clarke, S.B., of Ohio, Chief Chemist, U.S. Geological Survey. -- The Relations of Abstract Scientific Research to Practical Invention, with Special Reference to Chemistry and Physics.

Hon. John W. Daniel, of Virginia, U.S. Senator -- The New South as an Outgrown of Invention and the American Patent Law.

Major Clarence E. Dutton, Ordnance Department, U.S.A. -- The Influence of Invention upon the Implements and Munitions of Modern Warfare.

Thomas Gray, C.E., B.Sc., F.R.S.E., of Indiana, Professor of Dynamic Engineering, Rose Polytechnic Institute, Terre Haute -- The Inventors of the Telegraph and Telephone.

Professor Otis T. Mason, Ph.D., of Virginia, Curator of U.S. National Museum -- The Birth of Invention

Hon. Charles Eliot Mitchell, of Connecticut, Commissioner of Patents -- The Birth and Growth of the American Patent System

Hon. O.H. Platt, LL.D., of Connecticut, U.S. Senator -- Invention and Advancement.

Col. F.A. Seely, of Pennsylvania, Principal Examiner, U.S. Patent Office -- International Protection of Industrial Property.

Hon. A.R. Spofford, LL.D., Librarian, U.S. Congress -- The Copyright System of the United States: Its Origin and its Growth.

Hon. Robert S. Taylor, of Indiana -- The Epoch-making Inventions of America.

Robert H. Thurston, A.M., LL.D., Doc. Eng., of New York, Director and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Sibley College, Cornell University -- The Inventors of the Steam Engine.

William P. Trowbridge, Ph.D., LL.D., of New York, Professor of Engineering, School of Mines, Columbia College -- The Effect of Technological Schools upon the Progress of Invention.

Hon. Edwin Willits, of Michigan, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture -- The Relation of Invention to Agriculture.

Hon. Carroll D. Wright, M.A., of Washington, Commissioner of Labor -- The Relation of Invention to Labor.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 9, p 133, 28 February 1891

Foreign Patent Sharks

Messrs. Wm. P. Thompson & Company, agents for European patents, call attention in a circular letter to a system of impositions upon American inventors who are captured by the "cheap" work offered by alleged attorneys, who flood the country with circulars fishing for prey. There are so many shark schemes practiced upon the inventor -- and it is usually only those who can least afford the loss who are caught -- that the only safe plan, as the Electrical Review truthfully remarks, is to deal with attorneys who are recommended by people you know or who have some other equally reliable endorsement. Beware of the man who wants to sell your patent at fabulous prices, if you will only pay 20 or 30 dollars for advertising expenses. Beware of the man who in a flaming circular offers to do professional work for almost nothing. You can be assured he has some sinister motive in making the proposition, and before you get through with him you will find him dear enough.

The following is quoted from the letter.

We think it right to expose to you the full particulars, as far as we have been able to ascertain them, of an organized system by which, on an average, at least 20 American patentees per week are grossly victimized. Certain individuals in this country, who have lately got themselves registered as patent agents, have circulars sent round from places in New York or Washington, usually in the name of some high-sounding company. These circulars are sent to every patentee the moment his name appears in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, offering to procure European patents for them at what they please to term cost price, or seemingly without any profit to themselves, and afterward to negotiate the sale of such patents. They also sometimes publish statements of the number of companies which they make appear to have floated for purchasing patents, whereas we do not believe that one solitary individual has ever received a penny from them by the sale of his patent. We have letters from patentees in America complaining that they have sent $20 for provisional protection to some of those gentry, but have never got a reply or acknowledgement of any kind whatever. The French patents, if applied for by them at all, are, of course, in every instance, absolutely null and void, owing to the prior publication of the United States patents in America. The German patents, if applied for at all, are refused for a similar reason. The English patents are at least nine times out of ten null and void, owing to sufficient information having been set forth in the United States Gazette to enable a person to work the invention. As, too, the provisional specifications of these patents are simply copied from the Gazette already published in Great Britain, it is doubtful whether in any case the patents can be upheld, as it is certain that everything contained in the provisional specification had fallen into the public domain before the date of application.

These bogus companies, of course, hand the patents over to the individuals who are really the company, stating that they have put the patents into the hands of a high-class firm of English patent agents. Now, if the system is to continue, in a very short time two results will follow: (1) Every patentee who has paid a reasonable fee for a patent to his American patent agent, on getting these circulars, not knowing the actual facts of the case, will at once consider that he has been imposed upon by his American patent agent. (2) As the inventors in all these bogus cases will have simply lost their money without any return whatsoever, in a short time European patents will be looked upon as nothing but sinks in which all money invested in them is lost. The success of these men shows that American patent agents do not sufficiently explain to their clients the value of European patents, otherwise the clients would have taken out the patent through their own agents, and in proper time, instead of falling into the hands of these harpies.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 11, p 160, 14 March 1891

Changes at the Patent Office

Robert J. Fisher has resigned the position of Assistant Commissioner of Patents to accept an appointment tendered to him as general counsel of the Eastern Railroad Association. He was born in York, Pa., is forty-three years of age, of Quaker descent. Mr. Fisher is a graduate of Pennsylvania College and the Albany Law School. He entered the Patent Office in December 1875, as third assistant examiner, and gradually rose through all the grades of the examining corps, including the Appeal Board of Examiners-in-Chief.

Mr. Fisher entered upon the duties of Assistant Commissioner of Patents April 5, 1889, and has displayed marked executive ability in the performance of his difficult duties, and by his dignified, courteous, impartial service in his judicial work has secured the confidence and high regard of the entire patent bar. In considering and determining the numerous questions involved in and constantly arising under the law relating to patents he was particularly well adapted. His mechanical turn of mind enabled him to see clearly and readily the relation of parts in the most complicated and intricate machinery.

Mr. Nathaniel I. Frothingham, of Massachusetts, the successor of Mr. Fisher, was born in 1856. He entered Harvard at fifteen, graduating in the class of 1875. He attended lectures in Roman law and political economy at the University of Leipsic, Germany, until the fall of 1877, when he returned to this country to enter the Harvard Law School, finishing his course there in three years. He was admitted to the bar of Suffolk County, Mass., and was actively engaged in the practice of law until June 15, 1889, when he accepted the appointment of law clerk of the Patent Office. Mr. Frothingham is a grandson of the eminent clergyman, N.L. Frothingham, and a nephew of Rev. O.B. Frothingham. The President sent the nomination of Mr. Frothingham to the senate on the 28th of February, and he was confirmed the same day.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 13, p 192-3, 28 March 1891

The Celebration of the Beginning of the Second Century of the American Patent System

The coming month is to witness the celebration of the Beginning of the Second Century of the American Patent System. On April 8, 9, and 10, a grand convention of all who appreciate the value of the American patent system is called to meet at Washington, D.C. The programme, lists of committees, names of speakers and subjects of their addresses have been published. The occasion is an impressive one; the personnel of the meeting, it is not too much to say, seems to rise to the occasion. Without the encouragement of the patent system the inventors of America would never have worked as they have in the past. With no statutory right to the fruits of their intellectual toil they would never have appeared on the scene as the moving force in so many parts of the world. The gathering at Washington of the leading scientific and mechanical workers of the age and race, the oral exposition of the law and statistics of invention, of the science and practice of invention and of its specific applications, the interesting collections in science and art, and the historical models of inventions which will be produced, all co-operate to give the occasion an importance not exceeded in the case of any invention ever held in Washington.

Our views on the maintenance of the rights of the inventor and on the preservation of the force of the Patent Statutes are known, and have often been recorded. In this convention, to include the best minds of the day among its active participators, we recognize a tribute to the inventor and an auxiliary in the defense of his rights. The voices and opinions of the old-time federal judges, upholding the dignity of the inventor and his vital importance to America, will be re-echoed in no uncertain tones during the three days of commemoration. A chance will be afforded our legislators to hear the just views of the nation's thinkers upon the patent system. A barrier will be opposed to future attacks upon it, and the moral force of the convention will be great and lasting.

The first public meeting, on the afternoon of April 8, is to be presided over by the President of the United States, and on the evening of the same day the second public meeting is to be held under the chairmanship of Hon. John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior. Two public meetings are called for the afternoon and evening of April 9, presided over respectively by Hon. Frederick Fraley, LL.D., president of the National Board of Trade, and Prof. S.P. Langley, LL.D., Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The final public meeting is to be held on the evening of April 10, to be presided over by Prof. Alexander Graham Bell.

The list of speakers and the subjects of their orations indicate the work of these public meetings, and give its character. Dr. John S. Billings, a scientists of international reputation, is to treat of "Invention and Discovery in the Field of Medicine, Surgery, and Sanitation." Judge Samuel Blatchford, of the United States Supreme Court, perhaps the leading judicial exponent of patent law, is to speak on the subject of "A Century of Patent Law." The Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, formerly Commissioner of Patents, now of the United States House of Representatives, is to treat the material development of the country as affected by invention. The "New South," as an outgrowth of invention and of the American patent law, is to be the subject of an address by Senator John W. Daniel, of Virginia. The Commissioner of Patents, Hon. Charles Eliot Mitchell, is to speak on the "Birth and Growth of the American Patent System," and the copyright systems in similar aspects to be treated by Hon. A.R. Spofford, Librarian United States Congress. Among the other distinguished speakers may be mentioned Professor Robert H. Thurston, Director of the Sibley College of Cornell University. He has chosen for his subject, "The Inventors of the Steam Engine." Much of his own work has been devoted to the theory of the heat engine in all its forms, and his theme seems peculiarly suited to his record.

The above is a very incomplete outline of the work before the convention, for besides the five public meetings and the numerous addresses, of which but a small part have been alluded to, there will be many other attractions. A special reception to inventors and manufacturers, and to ladies who accompany them, is to be held at the Patent Office on April 8, from 9 to 11:30 P.M. The guests are to be received by Secretary Noble and Commissioner Mitchell. Anniversary Day is the name given to April 10. On this date, over a century ago, General Washington, as President of the United States, signed the first American Patent Law, entitled "An Act to Promote the Progress of the Useful Arts." In commemoration of this act, at 10 A.M., on April 10, an excursion to Washington's old home and burial place, Mount Vernon, will take place. Here J.M. Toner, M.D., will deliver an address on the first president as an inventor and promoter of improvements.

In connection with the celebration, the director of the National Museum has consented to furnish space for a loan exhibition of relics, old models, and ancient patents. J. Elfreth Watkins as secretary of the executive committee has issued a request for the contribution of such articles from the citizens at large. Any one possessing such objects of interest should at once communicate with the secretary with a view to their exhibition.

The most permanent and lasting action has yet to be spoken of. It is proposed to hold meetings on the afternoon of April 7 and on the mornings of the succeeding days to organize the National Association of Inventors and Manufacturers. At these meetings addresses from representatives of the above branches of work are expected. This organization, if successful, may have far-reaching results, and in any case will serve to perpetuate the memory of what will, we believe, obtain recognition as one of the most important and significant conventions ever held in the national capital.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 14, p 213-215, 4 April 1891

The Patent Centennial

The Congress of Inventors and Manufacturers of Inventions, to be held in Washington on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of this month, is certain to be a most enthusiastic and numerously attended assemblages, in every way worthy of such an occasion as the celebration of the beginning of the second century of the American patent system. We have been living in a period which has been distinguished by many noble centennial celebrations, from the great world's exposition of 1876, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, down to the great assembling in New York to mark the corresponding anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, but it is believed that none of these events have been more memorable, or have been more significant of American progress, than will be the celebration to be held in Washington next week. There will be no disinterested onlookers, but in the large attendance, drawn from the remotest quarters of the country as well as from near-by places, and from workers in every industry and every department of science, there will be a keen appreciation of the dignity and the importance of the occasion.

Besides engaging the largest public hall in Washington for the regular meetings, provision has been made for overflow meetings, and it is expected that a far greater variety of subjects will be presented illustrative of the progress of American invention than the projectors had at first anticipated. The programme arranged by the literature committee has been most favorably regarded by all friends of the movement, and the responses from inventors, specialists, and prominent men in different sections indicate that the literary entertainment provided will be a most attractive one.

So far as at present arranged for, addresses upon the following subject are promised at the public meetings:

Edward Atkinson, Ph.D., LL.D. of Massachusetts -- Invention in its Effects upon Household Economy.

Dr. John S. Billings, Curator, U.S. Army Medical Museum -- American Invention and Discoveries in Medicine, Surgery, and Practical Sanitation.

Hon. Samuel Blatchford, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States -- A century of Patent Law.

Cyrus F. Brackett, M.D., LL.D., of New Jersey, Henry Professor of Physics, College of New Jersey, Princeton -- The Effect of Invention upon the Progress of Electrical Science.

Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, of Ohio, U.S. House of Representatives -- The Effect of our Patent System on the Material Development of the United States.

Octave Chanute, of Illinois, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers -- The Effect of Invention upon the Railroad and other means of Intercommunication.

Professor F.W. Clarke, S.B., of Ohio, Chief Chemist, U.S. Geological Survey -- The Relations of Abstract Scientific Research to Practical Invention, with Special Reference to Chemistry and Physics.

Hon. John W. Daniel, of Virginia, U.S. Senator -- The New South as an Outgrowth of Invention and the American Patent Law.

Major Clarence E. Dutton, Ordnance Department, U.S.A. -- The Influence of Invention upon the Implements and Munitions of Modern Warfare.

Thomas Gray, C.E., B.Sc., F.R.S.E., of Indiana, Professor of Dynamic Engineering, Rose Polytechnic Institute, Terre Haute -- The Inventors of the Telegraph and Telephone.

Professor Otis T. Mason, Ph.D., of Virginia, Curator, U.S. National Museum -- The Birth of Invention.

Hon. Charles Eliot Mitchell, of Connecticut, Commissioner of Patents -- The Birth and Growth of the American Patent System.

Hon. O.H. Platt, LL.D., of Connecticut, U.S. Senator -- Invention and Advancement

Col. F.A. Seely, of Pennsylvania, Principal Examiner, U.S. Patent Office -- International Protection of Industrial Property.

Hon. A.R. Spofford, LL.D., Librarian, U.S. Congress -- The Copyright System of the United States: Its Origin and its Growth.

Hon. Robert S. Taylor, of Indiana -- The Epoch-making Inventions of America.

Robert H. Thurston, A.M., LL.D., Doc. Eng., of New York, Director and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Sibley College, Cornell University -- The Inventors of the Steam Engine.

William P. Trowbridge, Ph.D., LL.D., of New York, Professor of Engineering, School of Mines, Columbia College -- The Effect of Technological Schools upon the Progress of Invention.

Hon. Edwin Willits, of Michigan, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture -- The Relation of Invention to Agriculture.

Hon. Carroll D. Wright, M.A., of Washington, Commissioner of Labor -- The Relation of Invention to Labor.

The names of the originators and principal promoters of this centennial celebration of our patent system are given herewith:

Central Committee -- John W. Babson, Chief of Issue and Gazette Division, United States Patent Office. Robert W. Fenwick. Brainard H. Warner, President, Columbia National Bank. Professor Otis T. Mason, Curator, United States National Museum. Myron M. Parker, President, Washington Board of Trade. Hon. John Lynch, President, Potomac Terra Cotta Company. Marvin C. Stone, Manufacturer of Novelties. J. Elfreth Watkins, Secretary, Curator, United States National Museum.

Executive Committee -- Hon. John Lynch, Chairman. J. Elfreth Watkins, Secretary. John W. Babson, Marvin C. Stone, George C. Maynard.

In the accompanying illustrations we present portraits of a limited number of the imposing array of lawyers, judges, administrators, legislators, and patent specialists taking part in this centennial celebration, our space being all too small to attempt anything like so full a record as we should like to give.

In such a list we necessarily include the Hon. Samuel Blatchford, a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who is to deliver an address on "A Century of Patent Law." His decision in memorable patent cases in the United States Circuit Court, and in other important causes, have during many years always commanded the close attention of all members of the bar, and his promotion to the Supreme Court was generally looked upon as a thoroughly well earned advancement.

The Hon. John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior in President Harrison's Cabinet, and thus the direct official head of all our patent business at present, has taken an active part in assisting to make the celebration a thoroughly imposing and representative one. He will personally preside at some of the meetings, and, with other prominent officials, hold receptions especially for inventors and manufacturers and their representatives.

The Commissioner of Patents, Hon. Charles E. Mitchell, of Connecticut, around whose office is centered the great interest of the occasion, is a man of the highest ability, wide influence and exalted character. He is distinguished by his clear judgment, and had previously been a most successful patent lawyer. He has proved himself well qualified for the arduous duties of his office. He is a graduate of Brown University, about fifty-five years of age.

The Hon. Benjamin Butterworth, of Ohio, who is to deliver an address on "The Effect of Our Patent System on the Material Development of the United States," has been so prominently before the public for many years, Commissioner of Patents and as a member of Congress, and a public speaker of great power and influence, that his participation in the celebration will be an important factor. He has been the chairman of the House Committee on Patents, and through many years has worked with energy and discrimination for the protection of the interests of inventors.

Dr. R.H. Thurston, director of Sibley College, Cornell University, who is to speak on "The Inventors of the Steam Engine," has a subject to the elucidation of which he brings a great store of knowledge. His treatment of the matter will be sure to be most instructive and interesting.

The Hon. Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of Labor, who is to speak on the "Relation of Labor to Invention," has made a practical study of all phases of the labor question from an economic standpoint, and speaks on such questions with an authority everywhere acknowledged. He first made a science of this department of investigation as the organizer of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has brought to his present wider field a method and system heretofore unknown.

Dr. John S. Billings, who is to speak on inventions and discoveries in medicine, surgery and practical sanitation, is a United States army surgeon, in charge of the Army Medical Museum. He has an international reputation as a sanitarian, and his recent work on medical bibliography is today the leading authority on the subject.

Hon. John W. Daniel, U.S. Senator from Virginia, very appropriately speaks on the New South as an outgrowth of invention and the American patent law. He was born in Lynchburg, Va., in 1842, served in the confederate service during the war, rising from the ranks to a colonelcy, and since the war has become distinguished as a lawyer and orator.

Dr. Cyrus F. Brackett, Henry Professor of Physics in Princeton College, who is to speak on invention as related to the progress of electrical science, is a widely known authority in this field, and, in conjunction with Prof. Anthony, has published a recent book on physics with which many of our readers are probably familiar.

Thomas Gray, of Indiana, who is to speak on telegraph and telephone inventions, is a civil engineer and professor of dynamic engineering in an institute at Terre Haute.

The Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, Hon. Edwin Willits, of Michigan, most appropriately has the subject of the relation of invention to agriculture.

Mr. Ainsworth R. Spofford, of the Advisory Committee, is the efficient and accomplished Librarian of Congress, and is from New Hampshire, where he was born in 1825. He became the principal Librarian in 1865, having previously served a term as assistant. Mr. Spofford has seen the library grow from about seventy-five thousand to nearly half a million volumes, and he has had great influence with successive Congresses in securing legislative action for a proper building for the rapidly accumulating store of books, adequate provision for which has only recently been carried out. He is recognized as a bibliographer of great attainments, and peculiarly fitted for his responsible position.

Mr. J.W. Babson, of the Patent Office, is from Maine, and entered the Interior Department in 1866 as Chief of the Finance Division and Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. He was assigned to the charge of the Official Gazette in 1878, and in 1880 was appointed chief of the Issue and Gazette Division, which position he now holds. Of the 54 vols. of the Official Gazette, 41 have been published under his direction, and of the 448,000 patents granted by the Patent Office, more than half have been prepared and issued under his charge.

Llewellyn Deane, of Washington, D.C., a member of the Literature Committee, is a native of Maine, and descended from Pilgrim stock. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College, and a lawyer by profession, and makes the patent business a specialty. He was a principal examiner in the U.S. Patent Office for several years. In earlier years he had considerable legislative experience in Maine. He is actively connected with local scientific societies.

John Lynch, the chairman of the Executive Committee, is a native of Portland, Me., and is engaged in commercial business and interested in manufacturing and railroad enterprises. He was elected in 1864 from the first Maine district (now represented by Speaker Read) to the Thirty-ninth Congress, and re-elected to the four succeeding Congresses, retiring in 1873. As chairman of committee on "The Causes of the Decline of American Shipping," he submitted a report with bills for the revival of American navigation interests, which attracted attention not only in this country but in Europe. He was also the author of bills passed January 27, 1873, extending the life-saving service (then confined to the coasts of Massachusetts and New Jersey) along the whole Atlantic, Pacific and lake coasts of the United States, and connecting same by telegraph with signal service and lighthouses. This is the foundation of the present life-saving service of the United States. Owning a large tract of land near Washington, upon which are beds of terra cotta clay, he established the Potomac Terra Cotta Works, and in connection with this manufacture has made several inventions which have been patented in this country and Europe.

Marvin C. Stone, of the Central Committee, was graduated from Oberlin College, Ohio, in 1872, and began life as a Washington correspondent, representing the New Orleans Picayune, the Cleveland Leader, and various other journals. Mr. Stone drifted into the manufacturing business, and today employs over four hundred operatives, and paying out considerably over one hundred thousand dollars annually in wages alone. He confines himself to the manufacture of novelties of his own invention. He has taken out a large number of patents on the various articles which he manufactures, but he bases his claim as an inventor especially upon the fountain pen with capillary feed.

Robert W. Fenwick, a patent attorney and a member of the Central Committee, was born in Washington in 1832. His uncle, Benjamin Fenwick, was one of the three who composed the Patent Office corps in 1812-1816. Mr. Fenwick studied architecture, civil engineering, and mechanical drawing, and was for seven years employed in the patent department of the Scientific American at New York, being afterward similarly employed in charge of our branch office in Washington. Since 1861 Mr. Fenwick has followed business as a patent attorney in Washington. He was called to preside as chairman of the meeting at which it was determined that a celebration of the second century of our patent system should be celebrated in 1891. He was authorized by this meeting to appoint a committee to arrange the programme for the celebration.

George Brown Goode, of the Advisory Committee, was born in New Albany, Ind., 13th February, 1851. He was graduated at Wesleyan University, in 1870, pursued a short postgraduate course at Cambridge and in 1871 took charge of the organization of the college museum at Middletown. In 1873 received an appointment on the staff of the Smithsonian Institution. The natural history division of the U.S. government at the Philadelphia exhibition in 1876 was under his supervision. He was U.S. commissioner in charge of the American sections at International Fisheries exhibitions in Berlin in 1880 and in London in 1883, and was also member of the government executive board for the New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Louisville expositions in 1884, and of the board of management and control of the World's Columbian exposition of 1893. From 1872 until 1887 he was intimately associated, as a volunteer, with the work of the U.S. Fish Commission. In 1877 he was employed by the Department of State as statistical expert in connection with the Halifax fisheries commission, and in 1879-80 was in charge of the fisheries division of the tenth census, and in 1887 was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries, resigning the position early in 1888. He has traveled through Europe for the purpose of studying the methods of administration of the public museums, and has made extensive natural history explorations in the Bermudas and Florida. His published papers are numerous, and include, besides several books, about 200 minor titles on topics in ichthyology, museum administration, and fishery economy and American history.

[Nine portraits at this point, labelled respectively:
Hon. John W. Daniel, of Virginia, U.S. Senator
Hon. Edwin Willits, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture
Hon. Samuel Blatchford, Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Prof. R.H. Thurston, Director, Sibley College, Cornell University
Thomas Gray, Professor, Rose Polytechnic Institute, Terre Haute
Hon. A.R. Spofford, Librarian of Congress
Cyrus F. Brackett, LL.D, M.D., Professor of Physics, Princeton University
Hon. John Lynch, Member Central Committee
Marvin C. Stone, Member Central Committee]

Franklin A. Seely, of Pennsylvania, of the Advisory Committee, was born in 1834, graduated from Yale College in 1855, served in the Federal army during war of the rebellion as assistant quartermaster of volunteers, and was discharged in 1867 with the brevet rank of lieut. colonel. He was appointed assistant examiner in the Patent Office in November, 1875, and chief clerk of that office in April 1877. He held the latter office until June 1880, when he was appointed principal examiner, and put in charge of the classes of invention which had heretofore formed the philosophical division, except electricity, which was made to constitute a separate division. To the new division was added trade marks, which had heretofore constituted a division by itself. Colonel Seeley's division has remained substantially the same ever since. When the United States became a member of the International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property, the work of reviewing the Convention of Paris in 1883 was assigned to Examiner Seeley, and his interpretations of that instrument have been accepted here and abroad as correct. Since then he has had charge in the Patent Office of all questions arising under the convention, and growing out of international relations, and a year ago was a delegate from the United States to the International Conference at Madrid. Colonel Seely was for many years Secretary of the Anthropological Society of Washington, and is at present one of the editing committee of its quarterly publication, the American Anthropologist. He has given much time to the study of the philosophy of invention,, on which he has published several papers.

George C. Maynard, of the Advisory Committee, is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was educated in the public schools of that State and studied physics with the late Professor James C. Watson, Director of the Michigan Observatory. Commencing telegraphing at the age of fifteen and has been engaged in electrical work ever since. During the war he entered the Military Telegraph Corps, and after the close of the war was chief operator in the Western Union Telegraph office for several years. He organized the telegraph system of the weather bureau, and, after two years' service in the signal office, resigned to engage in private business as an electrical engineer, in which he has continued until this time. He has been an extensive builder of telegraph lines, organized, and for five years, managed the telephone business in Washington, and has been connected with many electrical enterprises. He is a member of the American and English Institutes of Electrical Engineers, president of the "Old Timers" telegraph society, and the Washington editor of the Electrical Review.

[Nine portraits at this point, labelled respectively:
Robert W. Fenwick, Member Central Committee
Dr. G.B. Goode, Assistant Secretary, U.S. National Museum
J. Elfreth Watkins, Curator, U.S. National Museum
Llewellyn Deane
George C. Maynard, Member Executive Committee
J.M. Toner, M.D.
J.K. McCammon
Col. A.T. Britton, President American Security and Trust Co.
J.T. Du Bois]

Hon. Joseph K. McCammon, chairman of the Finance Committee, was born in Philadelphia, October 13, 1845. He graduated, in 1865, from the College of New Jersey, at Princeton. In 1868 he was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia; in 1870, appointed register in bankruptcy; and in 1871, special counsel for the United States before the Court of Claims, having special charge of suits in which the Pacific and other railroads were engaged in litigation with the government. In 1880, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General, and assigned to the Interior Department. In 1881, he was appointed, by President Arthur, Commissioner of Railroads, holding this position with the Assistant Attorney-Generalship. In May, 1885, he resigned from public service, since which time he has been practicing his profession in the city of Washington. He has been president of the Cosmos Club, of Washington, and is a member of several learned societies and social organizations.

Alexander T. Britton, of the Advisory Committee, was born in New York City in 1835. He studied law in the office of James T. Brady, and subsequently went to college and graduated at Brown University. He has built up a large law business in Washington under the firm name of Britton & Gray, and in the department of railroad and corporation law has acquired an extended reputation. He was appointed by President Hayes a member of the Public Land Commission, and in that capacity revised and codified the public land laws. Mr. Britton is president of the American Security and Trust Company and vice-president of the Columbia National Bank.

James T. Du Bois was born at Halistead Pennsylvania, in 1851. He graduated at the Ithaca Academy in 1871. President Hayes appointed him consul to Aix-la-Chappelle, Germany, in 1877. He was transferred to the consulate at Callao, Peru, in 1883, and to the consulate at Leipsic during the same year. In 1889 Mr. Du Bois established the Inventive Age at Washington, D.C. He has been an earnest promoter of the patent centennial celebration.

J. Elfreth Watkins, of the U.S. National Museum, Washington, has been the efficient secretary of the organization committee, and taken upon himself a large amount of the necessary detail work.

Dr. J.M. Toner, of Washington, a member of the advisory committee, has also been an active and efficient promoter of the movement for this celebration.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 15, p 224, 11 April 1891

The Reduction of Patent Fees

The patent system of this country was established "to promote the progress of useful arts," as set forth in the title of the creative act of April 10, 1790. This wise purpose has been most grandly accomplished, and we have become a nation of inventors. It was probably no part of the original design that this system should be a source of revenue to the general government, yet so greatly has the business of the Patent Office been extended that we are officially informed in the last report of the Commissioner of Patents that there was on January 1, 1891, the sum of $3,872,745.24 in the treasury of the United States which had been received from the Patent Office in excess of its running expenses, and that the excess for the single year of 1890 was $241,074.92. This surplus has been taken from the pockets of inventors for fees. Every inventor pays a first fee of $15 when he makes an application for a patent, and a final fee of $20 before his patent can issue. Now, while this large surplus may be proof of the prosperity of the Patent Office, it is also proof that inventors are paying more in fees than is necessary for the support of the system as at present managed, and more than is necessary to accomplish the design of its institution. Of course, the cheaper patents can be obtained, the greater number that will be applied for, and the more will the inventive business of the country be stimulated, and the greater will be "the progress of useful arts." That the present tariff of fees is too high seems to be proved by the report already mentioned, in which it is stated that the number of patents withheld for non-payment of final fees during the year was 3,559. In other words, 3,559 inventors who had paid their first fees of $15 each, or $53,385 in the aggregate, after their applications had been granted failed to pay their final fees, and forfeited their patents and the money already paid. How many were too poor to pay cannot be told, probably a large proportion. The number of patents issued in 1890 for inventions, exclusive of designs and reissues, was 25,284. If a reduction of $10 in each of these final fees had been made, the total reduction would have been $252,840, or a little more than the surplus for that year, and it is probable that if such a reduction had been made, enough more of the final fees that were forfeited would have been paid to have more than made up the deficiency. From this resume, believed to be a correct statement of the facts, it seems evident that a reduction of $10 might safely be made in the fees in each case of obtaining a patent, that it would be a boon to the inventor, and would "promote the progress of useful arts."


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 15, p 224, 11 April 1891

The Patent Centennial Celebration

The significance of the exercises connected with this celebration touches almost every department of human activity, and it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of their real meaning. Coming so gradually as we have to a realization of the vast results which have been but a natural outgrowth of the establishment of our patent system, one does not immediately perceive how great has been the actual progress, a conviction of which is most forcibly borne in upon the mind when it is remembered that it is only a hundred years ago that President George Washington signed the original law putting the patent system on a permanent basis. The present anniversary of this day is, therefore, fittingly marked in the programme of exercises for the week by an excursion to Mt. Vernon and an address on "Washington as an Inventor and Promoter of Improvements." while the programme for the evening of the same day includes a meeting presided over by the inventor who has given his name to the telephone. And the subjects of the papers of this evening -- could they but be looked upon in the light which was vouchsafed our legislators of a hundred years ago -- what would they not suggest of the marvelous and incredible? One of these papers of itself covers a wide scope, and touches upon many separate branches of inventive activity. It is entitled "The Relation of Invention to the Communication of Intelligence and the Diffusion of Knowledge by Newspaper and Book." This rather Baconian title, however, wide as its scope, by no means trenches on the subjects of other speakers, as the literary feast provided by the programme has many other equally interesting and comprehensive papers. The most important of these we shall endeavor to lay before our readers, in whole or in part, at an early day.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 16, p 241, 18 April 1891

Power to Grant Patents for Inventions -- Proceedings of the Framers of the Constitution in 1787
By Levin H. Campbell

The proceedings in the federal convention relating to the insertion in the Constitution of a clause giving power to Congress to grant patents for inventions may be briefly told. On May 29, 1787, Edmund Randolph, of Virginia, opened the business of the convention by submitting a series of resolutions known as the "Virginia Plan;" then Charles C. Pinckney, of South Carolina, laid before it the draught of a federal government which he had prepared. There was no mention in either of these schemes of any power to grant patents. They were referred to a committee, and the committee subsequently reported in favor of Mr. Randolph's plan; which, however, had been amended in the committee of the whole house. Still no reference to such a power was made. Discussion of the "Virginia Plan" was postponed until Mr. Patterson, of New Jersey, could submit a plan. Both of these plans were referred to the committee of the whole, which reported again in favor of Mr. Randolph's plan as the basis of the Constitution. After debating the report for over a month, all the proceedings of the convention up to that time were referred to a committee of detail appointed for the purpose. Thirteen days later the committee made a report, but still there was no provision for granting patents. These details of the proceeds of the convention are only given to show that practically the Constitution had been agreed upon before it occurred to any member to suggest the power of granting patents. August 18, nearly three months after the convention had been in session, James Madison, of Virginia, arose in his place, and "submitted, in order to be referred to the committee of detail, certain powers as proper to be added to those of the general legislature." Among these powers were two: "To secure to literary authors their copyrights for a limited time," and to "encourage by premiums and provisions, the advancement of useful knowledge and discoveries." On the same day Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, also submitted a number of propositions, among which were: "To grant patents for useful inventions," and "to secure to authors exclusive rights for a certain time."

The propositions of both these gentlemen were referred to the committee. On August 31 such parts of the Constitution as had not been acted upon were referred to a committee composed of one member from each State, and among these undisposed parts were the propositions to give Congress the power to grant patents for inventions. Mr. Madison, but not Mr. Pinckney, was of this committee. On September 5, the committee reported and recommended, among other things, that Congress have the power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This was agreed to without a dissenting vote. In the final revision of the style and arrangement of the articles in the Constitution this clause became paragraph 8, section 8, of article I, where it has ever since remained.

Thus it is seen that the distinction of submitting the proposals to give this power to Congress rests jointly with James Madison and Charles Pinckney. Both of them were revolutionary patriots of marked ability and wide legislative experience, but neither appears to have had any special interest in science or the useful arts. They doubtless were prompted to this action by the same motives advanced by Mr. Madison in a paper in the Federalist in adverting to this power. He wrote as follows: "The utility of this power will scarcely be questioned. The copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged in Great Britain to be a right at common law. The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors. The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals. The States cannot separately make effectual provision for either of the cases, and most of them have anticipated the decision of this point by laws passed at the instance of Congress."

Time has justified the equity of Mr. Madison's argument, and the neglect and failure of the States to grant patents for inventions since the adoption of the Constitution have corroborated its truth.
-- Mag. of Amer. History


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 16, p 243-5, 18 April 1891

The Patent Centennial Celebration -- April 8, 9, and 10

The notable group of eminent men assembled on the stage of Lincoln Music Hall, Washington, on the afternoon of April 8, at the opening ceremonies of the centennial celebration of the American patent system, formed a picture which will live while memory lasts in the minds of all who were fortunate enough to be present, and one to which the brush or pencil of the artist and delineator can at best do but feeble justice. Our sketch of the inspiring scene will convey to scores of thousands, keenly appreciative of the significance of the occasion, some idea of its dignity and stateliness. The exercises were formally opened with a short address by the President of the United States, and this was the moment chosen by our artist for his view of the Congress of Inventors and Manufacturers of Inventions, which appears on the first page of this issue, and the business of which was continued through the afternoons and evens of three days, April 8, 9, and 10.

In the group immediately behind and at the side of President Harrison were the Hon. John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior; the Hon. Charles E. Mitchell, Commissioner of Patents; the Hon. Samuel Blatchford, Justice of the United States Supreme Court; Hon. John W. Lynch, Chairman of the Executive Committee; Hon. O.H. Platt, of Connecticut, U.S. Senator; Postmaster-General Wanamaker; Carroll D. Wright, the Commissioner of Labor, and as many others as the stage would comfortably hold, all being representatives of the highest types of the progressive spirit of modern times. The audience, too, was almost entirely composed of men who had attained eminence in some department of life connected with the origination or development of inventions.

[Two pictures at this point, labelled:
The United States Patent Office, at Washington
Model Hall, United States Patent Office]

In opening the congress the President expressed his appreciation of the importance of the occasion, and hoped the gathering would be promotive of science and art. He thought it distinctly marked a great step in the progress of civilization when the law takes notice of property in the fruit of the mind. The ownership in the clumsy device which savage hands have fashioned from wood and stone is obvious to the savage mind; but it required a long period of time to bring the public to a realization of the fact that it was quite as essential that this property in impalpable thought, taking the shape of things useful to men, should also be recognized and secured. That was the work of the patent system as it has been established in this country. It could not be doubted by any, he thought, that the security of property in inventions was essential and highly promotive of the advance of our country in the arts and sciences. Nothing more stimulated effort than security in the result of effort.

After the President's remarks, Rev. Dr. Sunderland invoked the divine blessing, and then Secretary Noble introduced Commissioner Mitchell, who spoke on "The Birth and Growth of the American Patent System."

The patent system, said Commissioner Mitchell, had its birth in a statute against monopolies. That statute was enacted by a British parliament to sustain the British throne. From the earliest times the right to grant exclusive privileges had been asserted as a royal prerogative. Sometimes the power had been exercised beneficially. With vastly more frequency it was employed to bring in revenue to the royal coffers, more and more as the sovereign struggled to govern without the aid of parliament. The power was abused and perverted until in the days of Elizabeth monopolies were conferred upon favorites of the court, extending to the most ordinary articles of commerce and consumption. In aid of these illegal monopolies, arbitrary powers of search were granted, and heavy penalties were inflicted upon English merchants for engaging in occupations which had been of common right for centuries. Of course such tyranny could not continue, and in the year 1623 the famous statute of James was enacted, destroying all illegal monopolies by a single stroke, and declaring that in future all patents should be to inventors of new manufactures, and to them only for a limited time. It is to this statute that legal writers ascribe the modern patent system.

But although the patent system is ascribed to the statute of 1623, its administration was long pervaded by a spirit hostile to inventors. The benefactor of the public had to crawl before the king as suppliant for favor. If his cringing was successful, his patent was granted, but he was dismissed with the poor privilege of proving the novelty of his invention as best he could. The patent was not even prima facie evidence that the patentee had made an invention. When it came into court, it was construed in a technical spirit, a spirit which assumed everything in favor of the crown and nothing in favor of the subject, and it is hardly too much to say that some of the early decisions in patent causes betray a temper that would have better befitted a permit to sell gunpowder in the streets of London. In view of this judicial hostility, which robbed the law of its beneficence and transformed the statute into an ambuscade, it is no wonder that for a hundred and fifty years scarcely more than one thousand patents were granted. It could make but little difference whether patents were denied or, having been granted, were denied protection.

But a more enlightened sentiment developed. Watt had harnessed machinery to steam and Arkwright had harnessed spinning to machinery. The patent to Watt, granted in 1769, had been extended by an act of parliament in 1775, and had run unscathed the gauntlet of the judge. Powerful infringers sought to trample upon the rights of the patentees, and law suits followed that were fierce as battle fields. Judges began to regard inventors, not as recipients of royal favor, but as public benefactors worthy of the world's great prizes. Then came those days, memorable in judicial annals, when jurists who were in touch with human progress discussed anew the relationship of the inventor to the public, and, as if they had gotten foregleams of a new industrial era, laid down those broader and more generous principles which have become the foundation and framework of the patent law. The statute of James followed the Mayflower across the ocean. In the year 1641 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay granted a patent to Samuel Winslow for a method of making salt, and prohibited others from making this article except in a manner different from his. In 1646 a patent was granted to Joseph Jenks for an engine for the more speedy cutting of grass, the invention substituting for the short and clumsy English scythe a long, slender blade, supported by a rib along its back -- a construction easily recognized as that of the modern scythe. The invention seems also to have extended to machinery for scythe making.

The name of Joseph Jenks -- how inconsiderable the place which it occupies in colonial history! The antiquarian stumbles upon it and makes a memorandum in his note book, while the student of events that thrill and startle passes it without a thought or utterance. Nevertheless, a deep human interest invests it, and more and more it shall attract attention. Nor do we honor him less because the mowing machine and the reaper have eclipsed in brilliancy his more humble achievement, as there in the early wilderness he appeals to the general court for protection, so that, as he quaintly says, "his study and cost may not be vayne or lost."

Mr. Mitchell referred to patents issued by the colonies of Connecticut, Maryland and New York, showing, as he said, how deep-seated was the understanding, wherever the law of England had been inherited, that it was a just and beneficent exercise of the power of governments to protect inventors by patents for limited periods. The constitutional convention at Philadelphia had been in session nearly three months before its attention was directed to patents and copyrights. Mr. Mitchell then detailed the propositions brought in by Mr. Madison and Mr. Charles Pinckney, which resulted in paragraph 8 of section 8 of article 1 of the Federal Constitution. "Wise and illustrious men were they, these constitution framers," the speaker said, "but they had no conception of the importance of what they did when, just before the curtain fell upon their labors, they decreed that the exclusive rights of inventors should be secured. They thought they were applying finishing strokes and touches to an edifice which was otherwise completed, when they were really at work upon its broad foundations. For who is bold enough to say that the Constitution could have overspread a continent if the growth of invention and of inventive achievement had not kept pace with territorial expansion? It is invention which has brought the Pacific Ocean to the Alleghenies. It is invention which, fostered by a single sentence of their immortal work, has made it possible for the flag of one republic to carry more than forty symbolic stars."

The speaker then detailed the circumstances attending the passage of the first patent law of April 10, 1790. Under that law the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and the Attorney-General were to determine in each case whether a patent should be granted. From April to July they awaited a successful applicant. He comes at last, and three cabinet officers, Jefferson, Knox, and Randolph, sitting in solemn dignity, determine that Samuel Hopkins is entitled to a patent for his new method of making pot and pearl ashes.

"Does any one," Mr. Mitchell went on, "say that the office then discharged was unworthy of such a tribunal? Let him remember that patent of July 31, 1790, was the first of 450,000 patents. Let him try to imagine the conditions of life and society if those patents had never been granted. Let him ask himself what adequate reason exists for the wizard-like transformations of a century, excepting the stimulus afforded by patent legislation. Let him compare the saddle and the pillion with the parlor car, the tallow dip with the electric light, the post boy with the lightning mail, the telegraph and the speaking telephone. Let him make a corresponding comparison in every department of life, along every line of progress, and he will see in the signing of that patent to Samuel Hopkins an act of historic grandeur." Fifty-seven patents in all were granted under the statute of 1790. A new act was passed February 21, 1793, which law prevailed, with some modifications, until the great law of 1836 was enacted.

"The act of 1836," said the speaker, "created an epoch. An eminent statesman has pronounced it the most important event from the Constitution to the civil war. Less than 10,000 patents precede it, more than 450,000 have followed in its train. Under it the Patent Office was established. Under it the first commissioner of patents was appointed, and hardly had the approving signature of Andrew Jackson been affixed before the walls of yonder Doric temple, already completed in design, began to rise. The most important change brought about by the act of 1836 was the restoration of the examination system and the establishment of an examining corps of experts. The English system, developed on executive lines, relegated all investigation to the courts; the American plan, developed on legislative lines, made the investigation precede the grant. The law of 1790 followed the American trend developed in the colonies, and Jefferson and his associates formed an examining board. Then came the act of 1793, which avowedly imitated the English system and permitted a patent to be issued to any one who should allege that he had made an invention, and should make oath that he believed himself to be the true inventor.

"The act of 1836 restored the American system. The Patent Office was vested with quasi-judicial as well as with executive functions, the patent being adjudicated upon in advance, and possessing as soon as it was granted, the attributes of a patent, which, under the old system, had been tested by expensive litigation. The importance to inventors of the system of preliminary examination has been declared to be inestimable. It places at the service of the humblest inventor the services of trained experts in law and mechanics. It makes the patent something more than an assertion of right, something more than a challenge to the world to show that the patentee was not the true inventor. It bears testimony that it has been compared with prior patents and publications, domestic and foreign, and with all that has been done in the United States, as far as known, and that the device or process claimed is what it professes to be -- a new departure in the arts. Thus the patent acquires an immediate commercial value -- a value which is enhanced just in proportion as means are supplied by the government for making an inquiry as complete and exhaustive as it is in human power to make it."

The speaker gave a brief sketch of John Ruggles, the Senator from Maine, the author of the act of 1836. The speaker referred to other laws since passed which had modified in some details the statute of 1836. In 1861 the term of a patent was extended from fourteen to seventeen years. In 1870 the laws were consolidated, and when the laws of the United States were revised in 1875, the act of 1870 was re-enacted without substantial change. All the statutes since the law of 1836 have been in substantial accord with the policy inaugurated by that act, and have had for their object to carry that policy into effect, with such modifications as experience has shown to be necessary. During 1790 three patents were granted; during 1890 the number was 26,292. In 1790 the receipts were about $15; in 1890 they were $1,340,372.60. In 1790 the work could only have required the infrequent services of a single clerk; and in 1890 the number of employees, including the examining, clerical and laboring force, was 590 men and women.

"The growth of the patent system," said the speaker, "has been brought about by the friendly laws which I have mentioned exercising their influence for the most part in four different channels.

"1. The patent system has stimulated inventive thought. Benjamin Franklin, a man of science, stood by the side of the old hand-lever printing press for a generation and left it where it was left three centuries before by Gutenberg. It remained for Hoe and other inventors who worked under the stimulus of the patent laws and patented their inventions to produce that marvelous machine for disseminating knowledge that has made the world a university. A century ago the apprentice learned the skill and secrets of his craft and jogged along contented with his acquirements. Today no workman expects to leave his craft or calling without lifting it to a higher plane and providing it with better instrumentalities. A new power of achievement has come into human thinking. Men of all callings seem to have acquired the faculty, and no explanation of the change is even plausible which ignores the stimulating influence of a century of patent law.

"2. The patent system has stimulated men to transform their thinking into things. It is a long and toilsome road from the first fugitive suggestion through failure and discouragement and temporary defeat to an invention in a form perfected. If men were not induced by the rewards of a patent system to cling to their new ideas through all the vicissitudes of an inventor's experience, their hands would drop in discouragement. The story of the lost arts has never been told, even by Wendell Phillips, and decades and centuries of possible progress have been wrapped up in inventions which have dawned upon the human consciousness only to disappear and be forgotten.

"3. The patent system encourages men to disclose their inventions. The duty of men to disclose their discoveries is one which, if it exists at all, has never been recognized. It is not so, however, when patent laws prevail, and for a hundred years, men have hastened to share with the public their newly acquired ideas, because of the invitation contained in the patent system, and the phenomenon of rediscovery is now a very rare experience.

"4. The patent system enables inventors to make their efforts fruitful and saves them from the folly of misdirected labor. The Official Gazette of the Patent Office publishes to the world the claims and one or more drawings of each patent. Each number of the Gazette may be likened to a series of maps, exhibiting that borderland adjacent to the illimitable unknown upon which the sun of human invention has shed its radiance while clocks and watches have registered a week of time. Inventors need not and do not, as formerly, delve in exhausted mines."

The speaker referred to the general unity of opinion that prevailed throughout the world in regard to the preservation of the patent system. The centennial exposition in this country contributed largely to this result. Instead of abolishing the patent laws in England, as had been advocated, in 1883 a new act was passed on a more liberal basis. Germany has revised its patent law. In all these changes, he said, the American system has been imitated.

In conclusion he said: "Let us hope that the United States, whose place in the vanguard of progress is so largely due to its great inventors, may not now through indifference to its patent system fall back in the procession of the nations. Let us hope that an aroused public sentiment, set in motion by this celebration of the achievements of a century, may demand for the patent system and for the office which administers its function just recognition of its mighty influence and just provision for its needs as it enters upon the second century of its usefulness."

The Hon. Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of Labor, then spoke on "The Relation of Invention to Labor," and said that the influence of inventions upon labor has been felt in two directions -- economically and sociologically. The economical influence has also been in two ways, but diametrically opposite ways; first, in the displacement or contraction of labor, and, second, in the expansion of labor. Very many modern inventions have created employments where none existed before. In a sociological sense machinery has brought with it a new school of ethics. It is the type and representative of the civilization of this period because it embodies, so far as mechanics are concerned, the concentrated, clearly wrought-out thought of the age. Under the influence of inventions the workingman has learned that from a rude instrument of toil he has become an intelligent exponent of hidden laws; that he is not simply an animal wanting an animal's contentment, but is something more, and wants the contentment which belongs to the best environment.

The mistake should not be made of assigning the cause of strikes and controversies to retrogression or to supposed increasing antagonism or to any desire to destroy the grand results of past inventions. How a new system shall be established with perfect justice to capital and to labor, recognizing the moral forces at work contemporaneously with the industrial, and the perfectly just distributions of profits relative to the use of inventions, is the great problem of the age. Machinery is young -- in fact, is only the forerunner of more golden deeds. That the workingman does not receive full justice as the result of the use of inventions must be the conclusion of every student.

The Hon. Justice Blatchford spoke, especially to the legal side of the patent system, saying, in regard to the practice in England, that since the time of George III, it has been the uniform practice in England to grant letters patent to a person who introduces an invention not used before within the kingdom, and parliament has repeatedly recognized the principle by granting exclusive privileges to such introducers. James Watt's inventions tending to the perfection of the steam engines were followed by considerable litigation, resulting in numerous decisions straightening out and establishing patent law. Referring to present patent law abroad, the speaker said: "The statutes which now regulate the granting of patents in England are those of August 25, 1883, and December 24, 1888. It is not necessary that a person should be a British subject to apply for a patent. The application must state that the applicant is in possession of an invention of which he claims to be the true and first inventor. The word 'inventor' in those statutes covers an introducer.

"The acceptance of the complete specification is to be advertised, and any person may, within two months thereafter, give notice at the Patent Office that he opposes the grant of the patent on the ground that the applicant obtained the invention from him or from a person of whom he is the legal representative, or on the ground that the invention was patented in England on an application of prior date, or on the ground that the complete specification describes or claims an invention other than that described in the provisional specification, and that such other invention forms the subject of an application made by the opponent in the interval between the making of the two specification. The patent is to be granted for fourteen years, but is to case if certain fees are not paid within specified times.

"At least six months before the time limited for the expiration of the patent the patentee may apply for an extension, which may be granted on a favorable report from the judicial committee of the Privy Council for a further term not exceeding seven, or, in exceptional cases, fourteen years, and a patent may be vacated by a court on certain specified grounds."

The speaker then reviewed at some length the scope of the law in this country, and said that in the administration of the patent laws by the courts of the United States, the proper rights of inventors have been firmly maintained, while the abuses which have crept in, in consequence of improper reissues of patents, have been corrected. Patents for important and meritorious inventions have been sustained, notably in the case of Morse's telegraph, which was held valid in the case of O'Reilly agt. Morse.

After outlining Morse's inventions and discoveries, Mr. Blatchford concluded his address in the following words: "The principle on which the patent laws are based is to give an inventor an exclusive right, for a limited time, in consideration of his fully disclosing his invention, so that it may be made and used by the public after the limited term shall have expired. Under this stimulus there has come into existence the brilliant succession of inventions which have contributed so greatly to the progress of science and the arts, and to the material welfare of nations and individuals. In this career our own country has played no small part, and it is quite certain that in the future American inventors will do their full share toward illustrating the beneficent operation of the patent laws, and that when, a hundred years hence, there shall be another centennial celebration like the one through which we are now passing, there will have occurred no diminution of the importance and value of American inventions."

Hon. Robert S. Taylor, speaking on the "Epoch-making Inventions of America," said that the real and during wealth of the world is its thoughts. It wants just a year of a century since there flashed across the mind of a young Georgia school teacher the thought that a machine could be made which would separate the cotton fiber from its seed by the action of saw teeth. With that thought dawned the epoch of cheap cotton cloth. Forty-six years later the sewing machine made its appearance to sew the cloth and inaugurate the epoch of cheap clothes. The two together gave the human body a new skin. Robert Fulton once said that the three men who had conferred the most good on their fellows were Arkwright, Watt and Whitney. He was the fourth. He opened the epoch of steam travel. The railroad and the locomotive followed, like the evolution of birds from fishes, and the Chicago limited is the legitimate descendant from a paddle wheel steamboat. Since Franklin drew the first submissive spark from heaven, Americans have been foremost in the great field of electricity. The subjugation of this great force was begun when Prof. Morse taught it to talk. The steam engine is the breath and muscles, the telegraph is the nervous system of the body politic. In the production of electric light, man has come nearer to creation than anywhere else. He has produced upon the earth the light of the heavens -- a true sunlight in fragments. But the most gratifying of all inventions is the telephone. It imparts a new function to speech and a new sense to the ear. The epoch of news came in with Hoe's cylinder press, and of cheap food with McCormick's reaper. There is no more beautiful invention than the typewriter -- the sewing machine of thought, which clothes our ideas as that clothes our bodies. The patent system of the United States rests on twenty-two words in the Constitution. What other twenty-two words ever spoken or penned have borne such fruit of blessing to mankind?

The last speaker in the afternoon session of the first day was Senator Platt, of Connecticut, who is perhaps as widely known among inventors as any member of the national legislature. In his position as chairman of the Senate patent committee he has had a great deal to do with inventive designs. From the beginning he has been deeply interested in this celebration, and gave to the committee all the assistance in his power. He is a member of the advisory committee of the patent celebration. The Senator's theme was "Invention and Advancement," which he treated in the able and thoughtful style which characterizes all his public utterances.

At the evening session Senator John W. Daniel, of Virginia, spoke on "The New South as an Outgrowth of Invention and the American Patent Law." In the course of his remarks he said: "If I am asked the cause of the Northern victory in the late struggle, I look beyond the noise of battle to the Northern inventors, mechanics, and manufacturers." [Applause] But, continued the Senator, the South applauded Northern genius and welcomed its results. The long list of great inventors from the South, however, proved that the South was no laggard in the race, while the fact that in 1890, 3,000 patents were granted to Southern men shows that the South will soon vie with the North in generous rivalry in every branch of invention. With a thoroughness that evidenced careful research Senator Daniel traced the part taken by the South in inventions of all kinds. Then he recounted the debt owed by the South to inventors, giving the highest place to Eli Whitney's cotton gin and Henry Bessemer's steel process. In describing how these inventions had aided the South to develop its resources, Senator Daniel spoke rapidly and with great eloquence, concluding with an impassioned eulogy of the inventor and with an expression of the hope that some day there would be erected in Washington a hall of sciences in which the achievements of American intellect could be displayed.

Assistant Secretary Willits, of the Department of Agriculture, whose remarks were extemporaneous, spoke of the dependence of the farmer on the product of the inventor.

At the afternoon session of the second day, A.R. Spofford, Librarian of Congress, read an elaborate paper on "The Copyright System of the United States," and was followed by Prof. Thomas Gray, of Indiana, with a paper on "The Inventors of the Telegraph and Telephone." Col. F.A. Seely, of Pennsylvania, Principal Examiner of the Patent Office, also spoke on "International Protection of Industrial Property." In the evening, S.P. Langley, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, presided, Secretary Noble occupying a seat on the platform. Professor Langley spoke briefly of the progress of invention, particularly during the last ten years. Professor William P. Trowbridge, of Columbia College, New York, read a paper on "The Effect of Technical Schools upon the Progress of Invention." The next paper, entitled "The Invention of the Steam Engine," was by Professor Robert H. Thurston, the director and professor of mechanical engineering in Sibley College, Cornell University. The paper was an elaborate history of the steam engine from the time of its invention down to the present time. Captain Birnie, of the Ordnance Bureau, read a paper prepared by Major Clarence E. Dutton, U.S.A., on "The Influence of Invention upon the Implements and Munitions of Modern Warfare," and Professor F.W. Clarke, of Ohio, the chief chemist of the United States Geological Survey, read a paper on "The Relation of Abstract Scientific Research to Practical Invention, with Special Reference to Chemistry and Physics." It is impossible, in the space this week at our command, to give any adequate abstract of these valuable papers, the most interesting portions of which we shall endeavor to give in a future issue.

At the meeting on the evening of April 10, Prof. Alexander Graham Bell presided, and the following papers were read: By William T. Harris, United States Commissioner of Education, on "The Relation of Invention to the Communication of Intelligence and the Diffusion of Knowledge by Newspaper and Book;" by Professor Otis T. Mason, of Virginia, the curator of the National Museum, on "The Birth of Invention;" and by Dr. John S. Billings, curator of the Army Medical Museum, on "The American Inventions and Discoveries in Medicine, Surgery, and Practical Sanitation."

Among the views forming a portion of our first page illustration are representatives of a number of curiosities in the way of models and machines, which have been collected and placed on exhibition in the lecture hall of the National Museum. One of these is the identical press at which Benjamin Franklin worked in London. Another represents the water clock, one of the oldest and clumsiest of time pieces, in connection with which is shown a modern chronoscope, measuring time to the five-hundredths of a second. The first life-saving car made by Joseph Francis is also shown, and a model of the plow used by Prof. Morse in laying the first telegraph line. An original model of Davenport's electric motor and circular railway dates back to 1837, and another exhibit is that of the cylinder of the Stourbridge Lion, one of the first locomotives built for traffic in the Untied States.

Our portrait of President Harrison is from a recent photograph by Charles Parker, 477 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington.

At the special reception to inventors and manufacturers in the rotunda of the Patent Office on Wednesday evening, there was a large and brilliant gathering. All was ablaze with light and color where the receiving party stood, rich hangings, festoons of flags and diadems, and other forms of incandescent lights contributing to the effect.

During the progress of the congress several meetings were held looking to the organization of a permanent National Association of Inventors and Manufacturers of patented articles, to secure co-operation in matters tending to the improvement of the patent system, that "organized effort may be made to remedy existing defects and provide against danger in the future." On the evening of April 10 such an organization was completed, and a constitution and by-laws adopted. Dr. Gatling, the inventor of the Gatling gun, was chosen president, and Gardner R. Hubbard, of Washington; Professor William A. Anthony, president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; Thomas Shaw, of Philadelphia, and Benjamin Butterworth, of Ohio, were elected vice-presidents.


Scientific American, v 64 (ns), no 19, p 295-6, 9 May 1891

The Father of the Patent Office
To the Editor of the Scientific American:

The interesting notices in your columns of those whose administration of our patent system in its early stages are so largely contributed to its subsequent growth and usefulness seem to suggest some reference to the statesman whose wisdom conceived it and formulated the patent bureau as we know it. There is good ground for belief that although the principle of examination of the novelty and utility of inventions for which patent protection was sought was recognized in the act of 1790, the plan of providing a special corps of examiners originated in the mind of Senator John Ruggles. There appears to be no printed record of the words with which this fruitful thought was presented to the Senate, but the writer is so fortunate as to be entrusted by the presenter's son and namesake with Senator Ruggles' notes for his famous motion. The committee asked for in the motion appears to have been forthwith appointed, and on the 28th of April 1836, its chairman, Mr. Ruggles, presented the report and bill No. 239. The bill was so well thought out as to quickly pass, substantially intact, into law. It passed the Senate June 20, 1836, the House July 2, 1836, and received the executive signature July 4, 1836. Of the scarcely less important supplementary acts of 1837 and 1839 Mr. Ruggles was, in like manner, the author. Notwithstanding the mover's recognized personal weight, his bold prediction that "there will probably be no less than 1,000 patents sued out the ensuing twelve months," was doubtless received with skepticism by more than one of his listeners.
Washington, D.C., April 13, 1891

[Portrait captioned: John Ruggles, Father of the Patent Office]


Speech of Senator John Ruggles before the United States Senate, First Session of 24th Congress, introducing Motion for a Committee on Patents, December 31, 1835

Mr. President: Having had occasion to transact some business at the Patent Office, I have been led to inquire into the cause of delay which so often attends the suing out of patents, and in so doing, have come to the knowledge of the necessity, which I apprehend exists, of a revision of the laws of Congress relating to this subject. There has been no change or alteration in the laws of Congress providing for the encouragement of useful discoveries and inventions for nearly half a century except extending the privileges of a certain class of foreigners. For a long period after the law was passed under which patents are issued, there were no more than two patents issued in a year. Now there are 800 issued in a year, and they are fast increasing. There will probably be no less than 1,000 sued out the ensuing twelve months. It is not strange that regulations which answered very well at the time should now, under a change of circumstances, require revision and alteration.

One provision of the law of '93 is particularly inconvenient. It is that which requires a patent to be signed by the President, Secretary of State, and the Attorney General. If either of these officers happen to be absent when an application is made, the applicant is delayed until his return, or the patent must be forwarded to him wherever he may be. Such is very often the case in respect to the present Attorney-General. He is now in the State of New York, and I understand that it now requires some two or three months to get a patent through all the modes and tenses necessary to its validity, when, in fact, it ought not to take more than two or three days. It is a very inconvenient and unnecessary formality.

Again, sir, there is no discretion given to any of the officers of government to refuse a patent when applied for, though the subject of it be neither new nor useful. The suing out of a patent is a mere ministerial duty. The Consequence is that patent upon patent for one and the same thing, with, perhaps, some immaterial alteration, is granted to different persons, and thus a foundation is laid for contention and litigation. I understand, sir, that it is not infrequent for a visitor at the model room to take a drawing and description of a model there, and making some slight immaterial alteration, go into the superintendent's apartment and request a patent. He is told that the same thing has been already patented, but that does not deter him from his purpose, he demands a patent, and the minister of the law has no alternative but to make it out. And what does he do with it? Why, sir, he goes forth into every section of the Union and fraudulently sells out the right to make, use and vend in the States and counties to those who are ignorant of the piracy and who are led to confide in the seal of the United States and the signatures of the high officers of the government. This has got to be a regular business, and these fraudulent sales of void patents are estimated to amount to the incredible sum of half a million dollars annually. And the government is made accessory to this extensive fraud by lending, in accordance with the law, the great seal of State and the signatures of its highest officers to these speculators in patent rights. Sir, it should not be so. What remedy is there? How can it be prevented? That is the inquiry which the resolutions propose to refer to a committee. There are other evils growing out of the present system, which, if not as flagrant, are yet sufficiently palpable to demand correction.

Mr. President, while the progress of the arts in this country has been rapid beyond all European example, their encouragement, so far as it consists in securing to those who have made useful improrovements the benefit of their discoveries and inventions, seems not to have received that consideration due to a matter which has become of so much public importance. It may be thought necessary, on examination of the subject, to make a thorough reform and reorganization of the Patent Department, and it may be worthy of inquiry whether it should not be formed into a separate bureau, with a Commissioner of the Patent Office, and such subordinate officers or clerks as may be required for the proper execution of the duties of the department.

Brief Life Sketch of Senator Ruggles, Author of Acts 1836-37-39, by His Son, John Ruggles, of Thomaston, Maine

John Ruggles, son of Isaac and Hepsibeth (Parker) Ruggles, was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, October 8, 1789, graduated at Brown University in the class of 1813, and spent one year in Kentucky engaged in teaching. Read law in the office of Hon. Estes Howe, of Sutton, Mass, and with Hon. Levi Lincoln, Worcester, Mass. Commenced the practice of law in 1815, at Skowhegan, Maine, and removed to Thomaston in 1817. He became eminent in his profession, and was, I am told, not excelled in the State in legal acumen and ability.

In 1823 he was elected representative to the State Legislature, and was re-elected for seven successive years. From 1825 to 1829 was Speaker of the House, and again in 1831, resigning to accept the appointment of a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of the State. Resigned his seat on the bench in 1834, to accept the office of United States Senator.

On 31st December, 1835, Senator Ruggles submitted his memorable motion for appointment of a committee "to take into consideration the state and condition of the Patent Office," etc., and on April 28, in his capacity as chairman, reported the bill which on July 4, 1836, became the act that created the present Patent Bureau with its Commissioner and its provisions for the technical examination of applications for United States patents. At the end of his term retired from political life to resume the practice of his profession, which was continued until the age of seventy-seven years and only relinquished in consequence of failing health and inability to attend court; but, being wonderfully industrious and fond of his profession, employed much of his time at home, in writing legal opinions and clearing up, as far as possible with outside aid, the matter in his hands. In one important case he undertook a very lengthy argument for law court which was said by members of the bar to have been equal to some of his earlier efforts. In early life he delivered many public orations, and contributed extensively to the press. In 1824 he married Margaret, daughter of Captain John George of the revolution. In mechanics he was always very much interested, having a naturally inclined and strong mechanical mind.

In stature he was 5 ft 7 in., full form, weighing about 150 lb.; dark complexion and black hair.

At the destruction of the Patent Office by fire, father heard the alarm and saw from his room where the fire was. He was the first one to enter the building, and opened a door to secure some papers he had left on a table. He seized the papers, but had released his hold of the door, which was being closed by a spring, and could not be opened on the inside. Realizing his danger, he succeeded in getting his hand between the door and the casing at the instant it was nearly closed.

Am unable to give you any information as to the "steps" by which my father's "consideration of the subject of patents grew into the organic act," or "any incidents connected with the conception and formulation of the patent act of July, 1836," but I can readily believe that his fondness for mechanics was what prompted his efforts. During my residence in Massachusetts, and since my father's demise, many of his papers have been destroyed. I have no personal knowledge of the matters in question -- was but six years of age when my father went to Washington. You may have noticed that my father received a patent for a railway rail May 22, 1837.

The engraving is from a photo copy of a portrait of my father taken about the time he presented the bill referred to.


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