Patent History Materials Index - Royston Betts' Exposition of D.P. Holloway's Management of the Affairs at the Patent Office

An Exposition of D.P. Holloway's Management of the Affairs of the Patent Office, by Royston Betts

To the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States

Gentlemen: Attempts were made during the last session of Congress to direct your attention to the manner in which the affairs of the Patent Office had been and were then conducted under the control of the present Commissioner. Some of these efforts, it is true, were made by persons who did not find it expedient to enforce their information by appearing personally in the foreground, yet their statements in most important particulars, were strictly correct. It is now proposed to lay before your honorable body a brief statement of facts and circumstances, the accuracy of which can be established before any impartial tribunal empowered to send for persons and papers.

When Mr. Holloway became Commissioner of Patents, in April, 1861, that Bureau had a surplus fund on hand of about $80,000, and in five months thereafter, this whole sum, together with the ordinary income of the Office, was nearly expended and the Bureau brought to the verge of bankruptcy through his mismanagement.

He has variously disposed of the patent fund; in one instance he caused about $30,000 to be charged to printing, without any benefit being derived therefrom to the public, or to the Office -- without necessity, without law, and at a time when economy was essentially necessary -- all of which he knew. In his report to Congress, February 13, 1862, his account for printing was set down at $17,854.47, whereas before that time, he had caused more than twice that sum to be charged to printing, the great bulk of which, it is supposed was concealed from public view in his said report, under the convenient head of "contingent expenses," which covers the large outlay of $59,502.36 -- a sum nearly equal to one-half the income of the Office during the year.

The 14th section of the act approved March 2, 1861, provides, "That the Commissioner of Patents be, and he is hereby authorized to print, or in his discretion, to cause to be printed ten copies of the descriptions and claims of all patents which may hereafter be granted, and ten copies of all drawings of the same, when drawings shall accompany the patents; Provided, the cost of printing the text of said descriptions and claims shall not exceed, exclusive of stationary, the sum of two cents per hundred words for each of said copies, and the cost of the drawings shall not exceed fifty cents per copy, etc., etc. The work shall be under the direction and subject to the approval of the Commissioner of Patents, and the expense of the said copies SHALL BE PAID FOR OUT OF THE PATENT FUND."

The Commissioner says in his report to Congress, February 13, 1862, that "in accordance with this provision of the law, and with the APPROVAL of the Secretary of the Interior, I contracted with a responsible party for the execution of the work. The issues from the 2d of March to the 1st of November, 1861, were printed in a superior style; and the drawings executed in the most satisfactory manner by the photographic art."

Now in order to show the whole cost of this printing according to the above recited positive stipulations of the law on the subject, the following statement taken from the records of the office is submitted: --

During the month of March, 1861, 299 patents were issued

containing an aggregate of  ...................    373,100 words,

During the month of April,  399 patents containing 574,280   "

  "          "      May,    260   "        "       344,650   "

  "          "      June,   231   "        "       330,050   "

  "          "      July,   332   "        "       400,650   "

  "          "      August, 227   "        "       326,100   "

  "          "      Sept'r, 201   "        "       252,630   "

  "          "      October 271   "        "       327,790   "

                            ____                  _________ 

Patents including  

   Reissues and Designs     2220  Agg. for 8 mos  2,929,250

Amounting, at 2 cents per 100 words for "ten copies," to the sum of $5,858.50, which is the whole sum chargeable for printing in conformity with the provisions of law, during that period.

Two thousand drawings is a full allowance for the number of patents issued as above stated, as drawings do not accompany specifications in all cases; besides, in very many instances, the original drawings furnished by the patentees, were attached to and sent out with the letters patent, reissues and designs, thereby saving the Office any additional expense for these drawings. Therefore $10,000 or less should be ample to cover the cost of drawings, and much less for "photographs."

He has, for some cause, failed to give a full and true statement of the cost of printing, etc.; neither does he furnish an exhibit, showing the difference between the cost, under the old system of the Office, for recording and engrossing letters patent, and the cost of printing. He is "induced to believe," he says in his report, "that an appropriation of $50,000 would be sufficient to carry on the printing for the present year," (1862) and he ingeniously attempts to sustain his desire by referring to the cost of printing, paper, binding, etc., of the Patent Office Mechanical Report, suggests the abandonment of its publication, and proposes the project of empowering him to establish a printing office in the Patent Office Bureau, under his own control, as he would save the Government the sum of ---- dollars. But he fails to show the proper figures where they are important. In this, as in all previous cases, his reasonings and statements are not sustained by facts.

Another dubious feature in his report alluded to, is the small item of $43,791.31 paid to temporary clerks for the year 1861, notwithstanding during eight months of that year, all the letters patent were printed, which ought to have saved the Office the expense of engrossing said letters on parchment, which the printing system was to annul, besides the cost of writing copies of these letters when ordered -- a sufficient number being printed and in the Office for those purposes. It further appears in his said report, that the very small sum of $92,868.92 was paid out for salaries in the same year! There is no telling what the amount would have been had he not been "forced to resort to the most rigid economy."

The second section of the act of March 2, 1861, created the office of "Examiners-in-Chief," and authorized the appointment of three of them at an annual salary of $3,000 each. The 4th section of the same act increased the salary of the Commissioner from $3,000 to $4,500 per annum; the salary of the chief clerk from $2,000 to $2,500, and the librarian from $1,600 to $1,800. The report referred to also shows that the salaries of principal examiners were reduced by the Commissioner, the sum of seven hundred dollars each; the librarian $200, and other employees, whose salaries were fixed by law, in proportion; while the necessities of office could allow him to leave the salaries of the Commissioner, Chief-Clerk, and Examiners-in-Chief, in their increased integrity. It appears that he could not conscientiously, under the existing imperative necessities, reduce his own salary and the salaries of the others named, although "he was compelled to resort to the most rigid economy!"

The Commissioner tells you, in the said report, that "owing to the necessities of the office he was compelled to resort to the most rigid economy!" When that rigid system was introduced into the Patent Office, the business was divided into but eleven classes, five of which only were in charge of principal Examiners; afterwards there were fifteen classes or more, in charge of what the Commissioner pleases to call "first assistant examiners." Which is the most economical, his report does not give the means of determining; nor whether any increase of the number of first assistant examiners was imperiously required by the business of the office.

Other abuses in the administration of the business affairs of the Patent Office are deserving the strictest inquiry. The Commissioner states in his report, that the contingent expenses of the Office amounted to $59,502.36 for the year 1861. Are not the items of this sum worthy of investigation, and does it not suggest the propriety of instituting some controlling scrutiny in the Patent Office PROPER over its accounts.

He has arbitrarily, and in the absence of any law to justify him, reduced salaries -- fixed by law -- of valuable officers, under the pretext of reducing the expenses, and at the same time has increased them, by making new places and new appointments not required by the business of the office.

He appointed one of his own sons to a desk, where the only duties were to receive models and sign receipts for the same, and increased the salary from $1,000 to $1,600 per annum, at the same time allowing him an assistant -- who performed all the duties -- at $600 per annum. He appointed another of his sons to the post of chief messenger of the Patent Office, it is now believed, to afford some one an opportunity "to snatch up unappropriated trifles," and to endorse bills presented against the Office with the word correct, thereby securing their prompt payment. This son, and the one charged with the receipt of models, had the control and charge of the mail received and sent out, and to them also was entrusted the duty of enclosing and forwarding monies due from the office to individuals in different sections of the country, and keeping an account of the same in a book provided for that purpose. Many envelopes franked by the Commissioner or Chief Clerk, have reached their destination,sealed with wax and the private seal of the office -- which should be only accessible to these two sons -- stamped thereon, and in every respect in perfect condition, only, that on being opened by the parties to whom they were addressed, instead of covering a letter and money, they were found to contain a small pamphlet, setting forth the "Rules and Regulation" for the transaction of business in the Patent Office, or the "Patent Laws" in pamphlet form. A large number of letters directed to the office, containing money, have likewise been forwarded through the mails and have mysteriously disappeared; so that agents and others, for their own security, have been compelled to abandon this medium for making remittances. How the letters and money said to have been enclosed, could be withdrawn from the franked and sealed envelopes without injuring them or defacing the impressions of the private seal on the wax, after they left the Patent Office, and pamphlets introduced, is a mystery yet unexplained. That the operations of the adroit robber or robbers should be confined exclusively to Patent Office mails, is another singular feature in these transactions.

Mr. Holloway employs a host of his own kindred, and a large number of clerks from his own town, and pays them from the Patent fund, in some instances more than they are legally entitled to receive. Some of these persons are seldom to be found at their desks, and are of little if any account in the transactions connected with the Office. One of them was selected by Mr. Holloway as his disbursing and financial clerk; but an intimate acquaintance from the same locality, was independent enough to manifest his indignation at this arrangement, by publicly proclaiming that both Secretary Smith and Commissioner Holloway knew this individual to be a scoundrel and a thief. It was therefore thought most prudent to keep him separate from the money drawer. The chief clerk of the then Agricultural Division was dismissed, and the intended financial clerk was installed in his place, at a salary of $1,800 per annum; and his son, a youth, placed in the same Division at $600 per annum; thus giving the father the handsome salary of $200 per month. Immediately after the Department of Agriculture was created, Mr. Holloway appointed this same man an assistant examiner, at $1,800 per annum; and his son assistant messenger in the Patent Office. [The copy of this pamphlet in the Library of Congress has "and his son assistant messenger in the Patent Office" crossed out in pencil. KWD] He is now engaged in services outside of, and unconnected with the Patent Office, (for which he receives compensation, it is said) and which appear to occupy his whole time and attention, yet he is regularly paid from the Patent fund, at the above rate for services which he wholly neglects. He was formerly a partner of Mr. Holloway in the publication of a small weekly newspaper in Richmond, Indiana. His name is W.T. Dennis; but in the "puffs" of himself which he manages to obtain through the newspapers, he is styled "Colonel W.T. Dennis, agent for the State of Indiana," and was at one time rendered famous for the financial ability he displayed as Secretary to the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, and other transactions of the same nature and of equal merit; in regard to which, some of the members of Congress from that gallant State are well posted.

Mr. Holloway allows his favorites to absent themselves from the Office for months at a time -- to draw their pay as if present -- and details other clerks to perform their duties; thus taxing the Office twice for one service. Fathers are allowed to make substitutes for their sons, whilst the former engage in services in other departments of the Government; and brothers do the same with brothers, thus filling up the departments with families.

Upon investigation, it will be found that Mr. Holloway and his connections in the Patent Office and Interior Department, receive for salaries annually about $15,000. Some of the members of Congress, employees under the Government, and others, understand these things and know that good and worthy men from Indiana and elsewhere, who deserve places, have been shut out from them, to make room for these family hosts and other mercenaries. In this respect such a state of things has no precedent in the history of our Government.

It is well known to intelligent gentlemen in the Patent Office, that from fifteen to eighteen thousand dollars might be deducted from the present expenses, without any detriment to the business of the office.

Mr. Holloway has recently added to the overgrown force in the Patent Office, by appointing to places with salaries ranging from $1.50 per day to $1,200 and $1,800 per annum, several persons who were left off the list of clerks in the new organization of the Agricultural Department, alleging that he "wanted them to stand by him, as he intended to pursue the Agricultural Commissioner to the wall the present winter." This is the report of one of these same employees, and is received with credit from the fact that he is seldom found at his desk -- does not earn $30 per month as an estimated clerk -- yet for these private reasons, he is paid $100 per month by Holloway's orders.

About the 28th of November last, Mr. Holloway established a new desk in his Bureau, for the purpose of corresponding with the newspapers, members of Congress, etc. A talented letter-writer was selected to occupy it, and all his letters were submitted to Holloway, and by him approved; but after he learned that he was expected in these communications to "puff" Holloway, and heap unmerited abuse upon the head of the Commissioner of the Agricultural Department, and to use his best efforts to crush out that Department or render it a dependency of the Patent Office again, or of the Interior Department -- he found the duties imposed more than he had bargained for, and more than a conscientious man was willing to submit to. A protest ensued, and Holloway not being able to procure the services of an agent suitable for these purposes, the desk has been discontinued for the present.

Mr. Holloway keeps a carriage and horses for his own private use and that of his family connections, at the expense of the Patent Office; and it is said that he has declared that the horses belong to his son -- the chief messenger. If such be the fact, upon what grounds should the Patent Office and the old Agricultural Division, at the same time, be taxed at the rate of $100 per month for their livery, including the pay of an hostler? The purchase and payment for the said horses, and their equipage, which accompanied them from Indiana to this city, is a matter that will be placed before you in another article by and by.

The partiality he has manifested towards several ladies who are secessionists, by giving them employment, to the exclusion of worthy ladies holding opposite sentiments, is incompatible with the character of a Union man, and is worthy of notice. One of these ladies, whose husband hails from Mississippi, and who went South on the breaking out of the present troubles, exercised great influence over his mind and conduct! He ordered that she should have work from the office to the amount of seventy or eighty dollars per month -- a much larger sum than any other lady was allowed -- and, at her instance, ladies were discharged from employment. He took especial and particular care of her; but owing to some unexplained cause this lady found it necessary to leave Washington; her husband, who had previously been reported dead, was suddenly declared to be alive in the confederate army; trunks were packed with boots, shoes, and apparel for her liege lord; Mr. Holloway having managed to procure her a pass; and lady and baggage sped off to Richmond, Va. He has still a lady on hand, however, in the employment of the Patent Office whose husband is south from choice; and, it is said, he will soon make an effort to procure her a pass for the South.

Mr. Holloway's hypocrisy is evinced in his eagerness to display an old, lean temperance lecture, which he keeps stereotyped on his memory, whenever and wherever he can find listeners; yet, when complaints have been made to him respecting the ill conduct of some of his inebriates, his replay has been, "they are as liable to abuse me when that are in that condition as anybody else."

He pronounced the board of examiners-in-chief "a nuisance;" but, in reply to the inquiry why he did not recommend the abatement of the "nuisance," he stated that he "would in that event have Uncle Abe, as well as others, down upon him, for the individuals composing the board had to be provided for." It was therefore expedient to let it alone.

He asked for, and obtained an appropriation of, $50,855.49 last session of Congress -- being within a few thousand dollars of the whole amount appropriated to carry on the Agricultural Department during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863. This appropriation was asked for by Mr. Holloway, professedly with the view of paying the examiners, clerks, and all the employees the sums he had illegally and unjustly withheld from their salaries, and the financial clerk was directed to make his estimate of the amount required, with special reference to the full payment of all these claims, which he did. Not one dollar, however, of this money has been applied to the payment of these men, unless it has been to his kindred and one or two especial favorites. On the contrary, he has refused to do so when applied to, with the shallow allegation that he was not "authorized by law to pay them." Thus he has manifested perfect willingness to violate law to subserve some selfish purpose and to injure others, but evinces entire repugnance to repairing injuries he has inflicted, even when the money has been put into his hands for that purpose, without the enactment of a compulsory law to that effect. He expects the aggrieved party to ask for such a law, and that, through their aid, he can dexterously "snake" a section through Congress, making valid his former illegal and blundering acts.

He kept a man named D.J. Browne, a noted plagiarist, at a salary of $3,000 per annum, traversing Europe, nominally in quest of "hitherto concealed matters of information that were all-important to the agriculturist and manufacturers of this country;" but more ostensibly, on the part of Mr. Holloway, it is believed, that he might obtain possession of Browne's handsome house and furniture in Washington, which he has ever since occupied at a nominal rent of $500 per annum.

It will be found by reference to Mr. Holloway's reply to a resolution of inquiry, introduced by Hon. C. Calvert, of Maryland, January 20, 1862, in the House of Representatives, in reference to Mr. Browne's agency, that he says:

"I take pleasure in stating that about the 1st of May, 1861, D. Jay Browne, Esq., of New York, but for some years connected with this office in an important position, was appointed to visit Europe, etc. Mr. Browne was instructed specially to examine into and report upon the manufacture of wine, etc. He was also instructed to investigate and report upon the cultivation and manufacture of flax, etc. Mr. Browne was to receive $3,000 in full of all compensation for salary, expense, etc. His appointment was for one year only, and he has been paid for that time. No further sum is to be paid him.

"His report is daily expected to arrive; and it is but just to say that it is expected to be the most valuable report ever made upon the subjects assigned to him for investigation.

"When the wine merchants of this country, or their private agents, have visited the wine manufacturers of Europe, they have naturally been excluded, etc.; but I am assured, from sources entitled to full credit, that Mr. Browne, as a Government agent, has secured facilities which but few, if any, Americans have before enjoyed.

"The anticipated report will doubtless solve the great problem -- which has not yet been solved in this country -- how to manufacture by machinery cloth from flax as economically as is now done from cotton.

"Believing this, I am confident the small sum expended in sending an intelligent agent to Europe for purposes above indicated, will be a judicious expenditure, etc.

Commissioner of Patents"

After this "flourish of trumpets" by Holloway, the only recorded evidence Mr. Browne has adduced of the great achievements he was to procure and perform, is contained in an article "on flax," published in the Agricultural Report of 1861; and which it has since been discovered, was purloined, in many parts at least, from an old English volume. "Upon the cultivation and manufacture of flax," he has thrown no new light; and "upon the manufacture of wines, etc.," he is totally silent.

This same Mr. Browne, previous to leaving England, obtained of Messrs. Baring, Bros. $ Co., through letters from the Commissioner of Patents, the sum of $1,500, the evidence of which indebtedness is now in the hands of Messrs. Riggs $ Co. of this city. So that it turns out to be a profitable job to each of the contracting parties; Mr. Browne actually receiving through Mr. Holloway's favor, the snug sum of $4,500, (instead of $3,000, as above stated by Mr. Holloway,) for a few pages extracted from an obsolete volume; and Mr. Holloway enjoys the comfort of Browne's elegant and well furnished house at a very cheap rent, -- viz.: $500 per annum.

It may be, however, that Messrs. Browne, Holloway $ Co. will yet turn up as grape culturists and "wine manufacturers, and manufacturers of flaxen cloth," and follow the example of European manufacturers and "exclude our people" from the benefit of the vast discoveries made by Mr. Browne whilst abroad as agent for the United States. Would it not be well to cause an examination to be made into this matter?

In the report of the Secretary of the Interior to the present Congress is found the following singular sentence in relation to the Commissioner of Patents: "The Commissioner has asked for an appropriation for putting up model cases in the north wing, and for additional improvements in the large hall in the south wing (of the Patent Office). These improvements are demanded by the increasing business of the office, and the application of the commissioner is commended to the favorable consideration of Congress.

"A balance of $5,720.04 has been found due to Henry F. Davis for the erection of model cases in the west wing."

"The balance of appropriation made for that object, and which was sufficient to meet this demand, was carried to the surplus fund, and cannot, therefore, be now applied. An appropriation to meet the claim which is justly due, is respectfully recommended.

The force of the Secretary's reasoning is not manifest, when he says that the former appropriation for "that object" cannot now be applied to its legitimate purpose, because it "was carried to the surplus fund." Mr. Holloway found no difficulty in applying the surplus fund of $80,000 he found on hand when he became Commissioner, to any and every purpose, legal and illegal, that he saw proper. He found no difficulty in exceeding the amount of an appropriation in his disbursements, as may be seen in his recent answer to a resolution of Congress; and that he should now assume extreme delicacy in regard to the application of a portion of his surplus fund to the liquidation of the balance above specified, is supremely ridiculous. This claim of $5,720.04 has been twice or thrice rejected by the Patent office whilst under the administration of former commissioners, and why does Holloway now urge its payment? The reason may be conjectured.

The Patent office, previous to Mr. Holloway's induction, was a self-sustaining institution, and would be so at this time, under the direction of a competent commissioner. It should at this day be in possession of a surplus fund of at least $100,000, taking into consideration the amount of business done by the office during the past fifteen months, and the appropriations made by Congress during the same period; notwithstanding which, a glance at the letters from the Secretary of the Treasury transmitted to both houses of Congress estimates of additional appropriations required for the service of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863, and 1864, will show that Holloway asks for the small appropriation of $87,520.04.

A statement is now being prepared in reference to the management of the affairs of the late Agricultural Division, whilst it remained under the control of Mr. Holloway and "Colonel W.P. Dennis, Agent for the State of Indiana," which will make an exhibition of their ability, integrity and financial skill, as its conductors, and show how the said Dennis and other clerks and laborers were employed during the last three or four months of its existence, the major part of which statement will be taken from their own records; and printed copies of letters received from gentlemen in Indiana in reference to Colonel Dennis and others will accompany the statement if deemed necessary.

Ex-Secretary Smith and Holloway are both citizens of the State of Indiana; but it is generally understood that Mr. Holloway was not the voluntary choice of the President, and that after a severe course of drilling he was only confirmed by one majority in the Senate. Under his direction it is but too true "that the Patent Office has fallen from the honorable and dignified position it previously occupied in the eyes of the nation under the direction of Judge Mason, Hon. J. Holt and others."

With as much brevity as possible, and with little regard to arrangement, the foregoing facts are presented for the purpose of drawing your attention to Mr. Holloway's mode of managing the affairs of the Patent Office.

R. Betts
Room No. 30, Patent Office Building
Residence No. 586, H street
Washington, January 1st, 1863


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