Scientific American, v 7 (os), no 3, p 18, 4 October 1851
The Patent Office -- Its Architect
In the article published on page 387, Vol. 6, illustrated with diagrams, by Robert Mills, Architect, exceptions are taken to the statements which were made in the article published by us in No. 20 of the same volume. Knowing we never do injustice to the claims of any man, we would not, on any consideration, willingly do injustice to Robert Mills; but having leisure this week to look over some documents in our possession, we proceed to make a few statements which appear to bear out the alledgments in our article referred to. Mr. Mills states that the Bill, as passed by the Senate, for the erection of the Patent Office, contemplated "a brick building with wooden floors," but the Committee of the House, who reported in favor of the Bill, uses this language. "The Committee on the Patent Office, having approved of the plan submitted, among others, by Wm. P. Elliot, for a fire-proof building, and having framed the bill for making the appropriations for the erection of the same, upon the estimates and details furnished by him, do therefore recommend his plan for adoption by the President of the United States." This committee consisted of Gorham Parkes, James Harper, and Samuel F. Vinton. The Committee of the Senate, of which the Hon. John Ruggles was the Chairman, concurred in the above on the 4th of July, 1836; two days afterwards Gen. Jackson signed the bills for the Treasury and Patent Office Buildings, using this language -- "The plans hereby adopted, which are, in their general outlines, to be, as to the Treasury Building, that plan annexed by said Mills and as to the Patent Office that annexed by said Elliot." Mr. Mills acknowledges that he followed substantially the outline of the plan approved by the President, but that a perspective of the whole facade was afterwards made at his office for exhibition. This we do not dispute; but plans of the various floors made by Mr. Elliot, with vertical, longitudinal, and transverse section, and a perspective view, used to be (if they are not there yet) in the Patent Office. By an Act of Congress, passed in 1837, Mr. Elliot was paid $300 for drawings of the Treasury and Patent Office Buildings. These public documents would seem to render the statements in No. 20 incontrovertible.
Patent Office Building
Allow me to trouble you and your readers with a few remarks in reply to the article in your paper of the 4th instant, page 18.
1st -- When I said that "the original Plan contemplated a brick building with wooden floors, filled in between the joists with brick." I stated nothing but the fact; and if reference is had to the fire-proof character of the building by the Committee, this filling between the joists with brick constituted that fire-proof character -- no brick arching, as executed in the building, was ever thought of.
2nd -- If there were any "plans of the various floors, made by Mr. Elliot, with vertical, longitudinal, and transverse sections, and a perspective view of the building" -- they never came into my possession when appointed the Architect to execute the building; though, as I stated, sought for -- consequently I had to begin, de novo, to originate all the details.
I have nothing further, Messrs. Editors, to state, than to regret having troubled you or your readers, with my remarks on this subject -- I was driven into the defense I made in your journal (page 387, Vol 6) in reply to the article you refer to as in No. 20, where the writer seemed to wish to accord the merit of this work to the mere projector of the outline of the Plan, paying no regard to, nor even once naming, the Architect who had all the labor of filling up the details, and executing the work in a manner that received the good opinion of all, including the gentleman you name as the projector of the original Plan. Respectfully,
Robert Mills, Architect
Washington, Oct. 6, 1851
The Patent Office in Danger -- To American Inventors
As noticed by us last week, we will proceed to quote some extracts from the patriotic articles of Mr. John C. F. Salomon, published in the Washington Union. Addressing himself to inventors, he says: --
The undersigned, one of your fraternity, takes the liberty of addressing a few lines to you from the seat of general government.
I am sorry to inform you that, after all your trouble and expense, you are likely to lose the use of the east wing of your noble Patent Office building, now nearly completed. It is now your imperative duty to be up and doing something effectual to defend your rights against the attacks of those who have no sympathies for you. Notwithstanding it is well known that this building was designed and erected for the especial use of the Patent Office, and that it was (in part) paid for out of the patent fund created by your contributions, and that the act of Congress of 1836, authorizing the erection of the building, is very clear and explicit, yet the present Secretary of the Interior, Hon. A.H.H. Stuart, without right or reason, I regret to say, intends to deprive you of your building, and appropriate it to the use of his new Department of the Interior, created within the past three years. I understand that he has declared that it is his intention to take possession of the Patent Office building before the meeting of the next Congress, and I believe he will carry his intention into effect, unless the President of the United States forbids the commission of so great a wrong on our rights; and this, I believe, Millard Fillmore will do as soon as he examines the several laws of Congress making appropriations for the erection of this building, and becomes well acquainted with the whole subject. The President will at once perceive that the Secretary of the Interior has no more right to take the Patent Office building for the use of the Census Bureau, Pension and Land Offices, than he has to take it for the penitentiary, which is also under his jurisdiction.
Sixteen years ago I was here for a patent for a new steam boiler. Since that time I have taken out several patents for new and useful inventions. In the winter of 1835 - '36, I was in the Patent Office almost daily, and well remember the seven thousand beautiful models which were all consumed by the fatal conflagration of the 15th December, 1836, which entirely consumed the General Post Office building, wherein was contained the United States Patent Office. I also remember examining the drawings of the plans for a new fire-proof building for the Patent Office, prepared by William P. Elliot, Esq., architect and engineer, formerly of the Patent Office, and, being favorably impressed with the grandeur, simplicity, and fitness of the design, I begged the author to stick to his plan, and have it executed if possible. I was glad to learn that it was subsequently adopted by the Hon. H.L. Ellsworth, then Commissioner of Patents, the committee of Congress, and the President of the United States, General Jackson. I am much pleased to find that this plan is now being carried out by the government; and when completed according to the original plan, as published in the "Scientific American," of the first of February last, it will undoubtedly be the noblest structure of the kind in the world.
The purpose for which the several rooms and galleries were originally intended should be adhered to as closely as possible.
Congress should make a sufficient appropriation to finish the whole block as soon as possible, as it will be all required for the use of the Patent Office long before it can be completed. In less than half a century, I venture to say, the model rooms of the entire block will be densely crowded with models, designs, and specimens. The millions of ingenious foreigners from the European continent who are now hurrying to our shores will greatly increase the list of applicants for patents. Already nearly three thousand models are annually received, averaging nearly one cubic foot in size. In a few years this number will be more than doubled. Then where shall we find room for our models if the Secretary of the Interior takes possession of the rooms for the accommodation of his army of clerks, who have nothing to do with the Patent Office? As a patentee and contributor to the patent fund, I solemnly protest against this mediated violation of the laws of Congress and the rights of inventors, on the part of the Secretary of the Interior.
John Chs. Fr. Salomon
[We have not the same opinion as Mr. Salomon, about no blame being attached to the present Commissioner of Patents.]
Decisions of the Patent Office
Our patent laws recognize the principle that every new and useful improvement is patentable, and that the exclusive manufacture, use, and sale of the useful improvement, whatever it may be, belongs to the inventor or discoverer for fourteen years. They also provide for the granting of a patent to the inventor of the improvement upon proof of his discovery, and in order to carry out these provisions and to protect the rights of patentees, by scrutinizing the claims of applicants, our patent Office Department was instituted. In relation to all correspondence and actions in connection with examinations of applications the Commissioner of Patents is alone recognized by law as responsible for the correct fulfillment of all duties in connection with his office, and the following is the law by which his conduct should be ruled. Section 7; Act 1836 -- "On filing an application (for a patent) description, and specification, and the payment of duty provided ($30), the Commissioner shall make or cause to be made an examination of the alleged new invention, or discovery, and if, on any such examination the same has not been invented or discovered by another person, in this country, before the applicant, or that it had not been patented nor described in any printed publication in this or any foreign country, nor had been in use or on sale with the applicant's consent (two years before application for a patent -- Sec 7, Act 1836), if the Commissioner shall deem it to be sufficiently useful and important, it shall be his duty to issue a patent therefor. But whenever, on such examination, it shall appear that the applicant was not the first inventor or discoverer thereof, or that any part claimed as new had before been invented, or discovered, or patented or described, in any printed publication, or that the description is defective and insufficient, he shall notify the applicant thereof giving him, briefly, such information and references as may be useful in judging of the propriety of renewing his application, or of altering his specification." This is the law, plain and clear; we intend only to speak on that part of it respecting "the references which may be useful to an applicant in judging of the propriety of renewing his application." It is plain that the law demands of the Commissioner of Patents, that when he rejects and application for a patent, he shall (briefly, to be sure) give his reason for so doing, and his references must not be so brief as to unfit the applicant from judging of the propriety of renewing his application. This duty is not always performed according to law, as the following rejection and reference will show:
U. S. Patent Office, October 29, 1851
Sir -- Your claims to letters patent for alleged improvements in Endless Chain Horse-Powers have been examined, and are found to present nothing new or patentable. See rejected application filed by P. McKinley for Horse Power. Yours respectfully.
---- ----, Esq.
We have not given the name of the rejected applicant in this case, but have merely presented the letter to show how unjustly he has been treated, and to show that the Commissioner of Patents has not complied with the provisions of the law. How can this applicant by the above reference form any opinion of what P. McKinley's invention is? Where is he to look for this P. McKinley: in the Highlands of Scotland, or on the plains of Ireland? And the reference is so cool -- "see rejected application of P. McKinley." Now there is no way to see this rejected application, but by a journey to Washington, or else by paying five or six dollars to the Patent Office for a copy of it, and, after all, as it frequently happens, the claims of the two may be totally different; and perhaps P. McKinley was rejected because some other person was rejected, and he because of some other, -- in which event he might be obliged to order $20 worth of copies from the office before arriving at the real case on which he was rejected. This is a misty, unsatisfactory way of doing government business. Inventors do not want such references -- they are a mockery and an insult to American citizens, and they contravene the plain language of our patent statutes. Any person can see, at once, how inefficiently the duties of the patent Office are performed for the above is not a solitary case; hundreds of such references are given, and no clue afforded to the applicants of judging respecting the correctness or incorrectness of decisions in their cases. Inventors are often compelled at great expense, to go to Washington, in order to get that satisfaction which the law demands of the Commissioner to be given by letter. We speak for justice to our inventors, and for the fulfillment of our laws; poor inventors cannot afford to pay for expensive copies of applications, nor for attorneys to the Patent Office. The principal design of the Patent Office, as now instituted, is to give correct information to applicants, and enough of it to enable them to form a good judgment of the nature of the inventions to which they were referred. The above kind of references are not only illegal, but show a thick-headedness on the part of the Patent Office. No one is satisfied with them, hence a correspondence is commenced, and naturally, on the side of the applicant, with no good feelings and this causes a great deal of extra labor to the office. The Examiners complain of being over-worked by their six hours of labor daily, while at the same time, they might, by including in the letter of rejection a short extract from the specification referred to, of the part which bears upon the question, in cases like the above, at once give not only satisfaction, but save themselves further trouble. A fair rejection by the Patent Office always gives satisfaction.
We have brought up this subject as a matter of duty, and our citizens will at once perceive that we have said nothing unreasonable, and that for us to be silent in such a case, is to be guilty of not doing our duty as advocates and protectors of inventors rights, and the privileges of American citizens.
The Patent Office
Messrs. Editors -- As the columns of the Scientific American have ever been prominent in advocating the interests of patentees and inventors at large, and as the subject is one fraught with no small importance to the rights of this rapidly increasing section of the community (demanding their immediate and energetic co-operation in self-defense), I presume to solicit your aid in the support of a Memorial, which has been framed for presentation to Congress, praying for the formation of a committee to investigate into the present condition and requirements of the Patent Office, the deficiency of room and want of facilities which now exist, requisite provisions and extensions for the future, also directing attention to the assault made on public right, by the Secretary of the Interior, in his recent proposition illegitimately to appropriate a portion of the much-needed building to purposes foreign to the branch to which it belongs, and, as a precedent which it involves is of a more serious character than the supineness of those whose interests it invades, would appear to convey. This latter theme of the petition has already, in a prompt and praiseworthy manner, engaged your consideration. A large amount of the room is occupied by curiosities of art, which are more appropriately the contents of a Museum, while (for want of space) the provisions of the law have been grossly disregarded; in proof of which abuse, I would particularly call your attention to the 20th section of the law of the 4th of July, 1836, where is enacted, that room shall be provided for a classified arrangement and "favorable display" of Models and Specimens, "patented or unpatented." Now what do we find to be the compliance with this provision? Patented cases alone have any pretension to such arrangement, and that in a very defective manner, while models, etc., pertaining to rejected applications, are promiscuously inhumed, as if their obscurity and decay had been the desire of their unfortunate contributors. It has, upon good authority, been estimated that, within by a (sic, probably "no") means a large space of time, the entire building, as originally designed by the Architect, will -- every inch of its available space -- be found necessary for the transaction of the Patent Office business, and when we regard the daily increasing number of inventors, it is far from problematical that such will be the case. It is the duty, therefore, of every patentee and inventor, justly to protest against the present and proposed misappropriation of the building; and, secondly, to advance the just and lawful claim which exists, upon the public funds, for the necessary extension and amendment of that Department.
In matters of private right, it is seldom, if ever, found necessary to urge or agitate the demand; why it should be so where public interests are involved, is a mystery, and particularly so when the parties more immediately concerned compose a distinct and separate body, but present silence is corroborative of the fact. Let not any man rely upon his neighbor performing that which it is equally his own interest and duty to do, and then, but not till then, the work will be done. An example, not mere talk, has been set. Inventor! rouse yourselves without loss of time, and follow it.
[We hope our inventors and patentees will take the advice of our correspondent, who is a gentleman well qualified to speak on the subject, both from feeling and experience. We hope the Committee on Patents will probe this matter to the bottom; and we also hope that the members of it will give Patent Office matters a great deal of attention. In Congress, we regret to say, party animosities and interests occupy too much attention to the neglect of real useful measures. There is not a more important institution in America than the Patent Office, and upon its proper management much of our country's prosperity depends. If any one turns his thoughts and eyes for a moment to the mechanical interests of our country, he will immediately be impressed with the fact that these interests are not only the sheet-anchor, but the main-sail, also, of our country -- of every country. Those who improve machinery add wealth and honor to the whole people; for what would agriculture, or any other art, be without machinery? and the great advancement made in every art is greatly indebted to mechanical invention. What would our farmers do without improved plows? And what would astronomy be without the telescope? We hope the present Congress will make the Patent Office, in all its interests and workings, a special object of attention. We believe this will be done.
Woodworth Patent Monopoly
Charles M. Keller, Esq., the agent who got the reissue of the Woodworth patent, and who has been, and still is, in the employ of the heirs and legatees of the said patent, has presented the Committees of Patents of both Houses of Congress, arguments in favor of extending, by special Act of Congress, the said patent for fourteen years. This argument was published as an advertisement in the Philadelphia Ledger of the 23rd Feb. ult. This argument demands our attention, because it presents views wrong in principle, we believe, from those we advocate and statements are made which deserve the censure of all upright men. We have no personal interest to subserve in speaking for or against the extension of this patent, we keep ourselves from entangling alliances, so that we are able always to speak those sentiments freely which, in our opinion, are just in the sight of God and man.
The paper of Mr. Keller sets out with asserting as broadly as it possibly can, that William Woodworth was the first man that planed and matched plank by machinery -- that he was the first man who did away with planing, tonguing and grooving by hand labor. This is not correct. Let any of the members of the Committee on Patents read Reese's Encyclopedia (article Planing Machines) and he will discover that old Gen. Bentham in 1791, took out a patent for planing boards by machinery. He did not use a cylinder with cutters, but he did use pressure rollers in his plane, as near as possible to the cutting edges, and "these rollers," the patent says, "were employed to keep the board from springing." The combination was not the same as that of the Woodworth patent, but the idea -- the evil to be overcome in planing the boards by pressure, belongs to Bentham, there can be no doubt of that, and it is now public property by the divine right of justice. In 1802 Bramah took out a patent for placing his cutters on a revolving vertical, and also on a revolving horizontal shaft. (See same work.) In 1803 (same authority) Mr. Bevans obtained a patent for planing all kinds of moldings, plowing grooves, etc., by machinery. It would be wrong for us to endeavor to speak evil of William Woodworth, we esteem his memory as much as we do that of any other good inventor, and that is a great deal, but at the same time to give him the credit which belongs to other inventors is very wrong.
Mr. Keller's paper pays a high compliment to William Woodworth; it speaks sympathetically of his sufferings, and proudly of his achievements. We have never said a word against the memory of William Woodworth; the upright, generous, and unselfish, will always tread softly on the graves of the departed. We are sorry to say that when Mr. Keller gives vent to the gushings of his sympathy for the sufferings of the deceased William Woodworth, he makes a most brutal attack upon the deceased Emmons, a contemporary inventor with Woodworth, and one who disputed successfully with him his priority of his invention. He spares not the dead, but calls Emmons a fool, and his efforts a fraud, thus stabbing his memory and outraging the feelings of an old man -- the father of the deceased -- now fast approaching the end of his life. Oh, this is wrong, inhuman. Mr. Keller charges Emmons with fraud -- the same charge has been brought against the re-issue of the Woodworth patent. A jury in Baltimore decided, that the re-issue was not the same as that of the original patent. It is well known that the original drawings and specification did not describe nor illustrate the claims of the re-issued patent. The Hon. Edmund Burke has admitted this, but it is said that, in 1829 (this was after the patent was granted) a model was deposited in the Franklin Institute, and Judge Harris, of Albany, has testified that Emmons declared before he died that he acted fraudulently. Very little confidence should be placed in testimony against any deceased person, for the dead cannot confront the living. Why did Judge Harris not bring out the truth when Emmons was living?
Mr. Keller presents part of the address of Judge Kane, delivered before the Franklin Institute. We have a few words to say about that address; some of the remarks are altogether unworthy of a man of his education, fame, and position. We consider that the rights of one inventor are just as sacred as those of another, and although the address of Judge Kane exhibits a great sympathy for inventors, no Judge, and we say it with all respect, has done more injustice to some inventors, by his decisions, than he. It is well known that if a thing has been in use for a number of years without being claimed, it becomes public property. Now, if William Woodworth did not claim what his heirs have claimed, for 14 years after it was in use, it surely becomes public property, yet Judge Kane has decided, in the Woodworth case, that it did not; and then, again, in the Battin case (see the last number of the Franklin Journal for his charge), he did. In the Bain case, he also, we believe, did great injury to a meritorious inventor and patentee.
There are some men who make great noise about the rights of inventors, in speaking about such a case as the Woodworth patent. We oppose it, because that patent, in the hands of a monopoly, has been used to injure poor and worthy inventors. It is quite a common thing when a poor man gets out a good improvement for an old patentee in the same line, if he be rich (although the improvement is as different an invention an invention from his old patent as the engine of Watt to that of Hero), to give notice that if he does not stop running he will be sued. The great majority of the law suits, in connection with the Woodworth patent have been brought against inventors -- men who received patents for improved planing machines, which we believe, and which they believed, were entirely different in principle from Woodworth's. The address of Judge Kane was delivered shortly after a trial of Wilson against Barnum. The latter got a patent, he used no pressure roller nor cylinder, and yet an action was brought against him for infringement of the Woodworth patent. We published an engraving of this machine in Vol 4; we took the ground that it was a different machine -- no infringement. Judge Kane said it was, but a jury trial was the means of lifting Judge Kane's injunction, (the jury disagreed -- one being in favor of Woodworth.)
Monopoly grants impede the progress of improvement. The Woodworth Monopoly is so powerful that every inventor is afraid of it, because he knows that if he should invent a planing machine, altogether different and better than the Woodworth one, he would not dare to run it, he would be threatened with a law suit at once. We state a positive fact -- we speak for inventors, their rights, and those of Society. Does anybody hear of the Barnum Planing Mechanism now? No. It was found that no good and just mechanician could testify to a similarity between it and Woodworth's, and an arrangement was effect with the patentee -- yes, an arrangement. The monopoly has been able either to frown down or buy up the interests of nearly all opponents. In speaking thus, we state only a public fact; it is certainly no good sign to see this.