Scientific American, v 39 (ns) no 12, p 181, 21 September 1878
(The Textile Manufacturer)
Marvelous Inventions in America
Sir: "John Bull" will, no doubt, be pleased to learn that there is supposed to be in existence a far greater invention than the Clements card attachment. I will, therefore, endeavor to give him a short history of this wonderful machine.
Some two or three years ago there was down in the State of Connecticut an antiquated specimen of a Dutch American, who had been hard at work for some time on this to be wonderful contrivance. No one seemed to divine its object, but finally a Yankee, more curious than the rest, accosted the inventor one day in this wise: "I say, friend, that is a mighty kind of a curious machine you are building up. I guess and calculate from its appearance it must be destined to produce wonderful things. Now, friend, just tell me what it is for?" The directness of the question caused the inventor to put down his hammer and chisel. He lifted his spectacles on to his forehead, and looked at the inquiring Yankee for a few moments replied, "Ha! yes, sir, this is to be one mighty machine. I have no time to tell you all it is designed for, but among other things it is intended for the production of sausages and scrubbing brushes." The inventor then pointed out two set screws and a peculiar hopper, explaining that by the combination of that peculiar hopper, and the two set screws, sausages or scrubbing brushes could be produced at will by simply driving live pigs into the hopper, its capacity being only limited by the number of pigs operated upon.
Now, it is just possible that this machine, besides sausages and scrubbing brushes, is intended to produce checks, ginghams, etc., by feeding cotton seed; all wools thoroughly shrunk by feeding turnips and grass; silks and satins of every description by feeding silkworms, caterpillars, or mulberry leaves; and finally to produce power to turn itself, the bottled sunshine in coal will not be required, but merely a casual glance from the glorious sun which rules our system.
If all the above should be realized the pride of "John Bull" at the smartness of his American brother will be great indeed; but pride leaves little cash, and riding on a horse's tail is not very edifying.
Now, sir, I have had long experience on both sides of the Atlantic, and have concluded there is just as much smartness in the English workman as there is in the States; for are not English workmen sought after in America in preference to other nationalities? Why? Because he is generally a thoroughly good workman.
My impression is that in England the artisan is treated too much like a machine. Hence, England, with her vast wealth and ingenuity, begins to feel and fear outside competition. To win you must run. The British Isles ought to be the very hotbed of fostered ingenuity. It is all very well to provide free libraries, comfortable coffee houses, etc., for the artisan, but man is but man, in whatever stage we find him; he loves money, and if you desire to hold the lead in the race that is being run between nations, you must offer something more than libraries, coffee houses, etc., to your toiling artisan. Nothing is more conducive to fallow the intellect than working without stimulation. What makes Americans, native or adopted, so full of restless ingenuity, and constantly on the look out for improvement? It is an efficient patent law -- a law made to meet the position of the artisan.
The English artisan has ceased to compete in a race in which he can only win weekly wages. The sooner he is given a title to his birthright (the production of his brain) the better. Where is the justice of a cheap and long term of copyright to a party who can write fiction, very often trash, while the artisan, to secure his ideas, is taxed by an unjust and expensive patent law? The law as it stands I consider the cankerworm of British industries. Nine tenths of inventors spring from the practical workingmen; if so, why not make the patent law simple and cheap? Is it the true policy for a manufacturing nation like Great Britain to tax her toiling sons to such an extent that there is an accumulated surplus fund of £1,250,000 credited to the Patent Office Department? What do these figures mean? So much paid over and above the working expenses of that department. It seems to me simply preposterous for any Government to derive a revenue from a tax on the inventive genius of the people.
England has held her position by the genius of such men as Watt, Crompton, and Westwood. Yes, and other nations see it. Therefore America extends the utmost facilities to her inventors to secure their rights. Certainly this facility has caused numberless useless patents to be taken out; but what of that if it has fostered good ones?
Can "John Bull" wonder if a workman who earns, say, 32s a week, should keep his ideas to himself? I say, give your artisans the same chances as they get in America, and you will find them holding their own. Yes! even in the production of card machine attachments, Dutch-American sausages and scrubbing brush machines, or for anything else.
I am, sir, yours truly,
Manchester, June 1878
The Incoming Commissioner of Patents
The newly appointed Commissioner of Patents, Gen. Halbert E. Paine, brings to his delicate and responsible position an excellent record for capacity and efficiency.
General Paine comes of honorable stock; and from the days when his grandfather thrice removed fought in the old colonial wars, down to the present, there have not lacked men of his name who have ably served their country in the field and in responsible places in civil life. Born in 1826, he was graduated at the Western Reserve College at the head of his class in 1847, and admitted to the bar four years later. His military title was won by hard service in the war of the rebellion. Subsequently he was elected to Congress; first to the thirty ninth, again to the fortieth, and yet again to the forty-first. In his Congressional service the high reputation he had won in the army for sterling capacity and integrity in the conduct of affairs was admirably sustained. He was the head of the Committee on Militia, served on the Committee on Reconstruction during its whole existence, and was successively member and chairman of the Committee on Elections, in which onerous and difficult position he compelled the admiration of political opponents as well as party friends. To him is credited also the perfection and passage of the Signal Service Act.
At the expiration of the Forty-first Congress, General Paine refused to stand again, preferring to return to the practice of his profession. He established himself at Washington, where he has since resided. A short time since he was offered the post of Assistant Secretary of the Interior, but declined. His acceptance of the Commissionership of Patents will, we trust, prove eminently satisfactory to himself and to the country.
Touching his plan of action in the new field, General Paine lately declined to speak further than to say that he had given the subject some thought and viewed his approaching duties without apprehension. He knew the position to be an [?] one to fill, furnishing work enough to keep the most ambitious incumbent busy; the arrangement of details he would leave to the observation and conclusions of occupancy. In view of General Paine's long acquaintance and professional association with the Secretary of the Interior, it is believed that his appointment will prove advantageous to the Patent Office, in insuring perfect harmony between it and the ruling department. Inventors, and all likely to have business to do with the Patent Office, will be pleased to know that promptness and thoroughness will characterize the working of the Office under the new rule.
A Steam Juryman
The other day a summons, commanding Thatcher Magoin to present himself for service in the jury box, was returned to the Commissioner of Jurors with the information that it had been served on the wrong party. The Commissioner said to the bearer:
"That settles it as far as you are concerned, but Magoin must come here and show cause why he should not be a juror."
"He can't," was the reply, "he's too busy. If he did come he would make things hot for you. Besides, you would have to send a derrick and a truck to bring him. He turns the scales at 5,000 lbs."
The Commissioner was incredulous; worse, he made remarks not complimentary to the speaker's condition with respect to sobriety. Then the summoned man explained.
"I am telling you facts, Mr. Commissioner," he said. "Thatcher Magoin is a steam engine, and is located at the foot of Fletcher street. I am Nicholas Morris, stevedore. Years ago I was employed by a man named Thatcher Magoin. I named my engine on pier 19, East River, after him. When the Directory man came to the dock to get names he saw the name of Thatcher Magoin on the engine, and thinking that he was the boss, put it in the book. You'll see it on page 949.
This, we believe, is the first time that a steam engine has been called to do political duty. There appears to be no reason, however, why a well conducted or well constructed piece of machinery, with a phonographic metric attachment, should not be able to hear and weigh evidence quite as efficiently as the average jury.
The Proposed Addition to the Patent Office
The Patent Office building, at Washington, was originally one of the finest specimens of the Doric order of architecture in the country. Somewhat more than a year ago a fire destroyed a part of the upper portions of the west and north wings of the building. In view of the circumstance that the office has for some years been seriously cramped for room, it is now proposed to secure the additional space needed by adding an attic story to the entire building instead of simply restoring the burnt portion to its original state, and providing for the enlarged needs of the office in some other way. The proposed attic story, in the plan adopted, is raised on top of the old block course, and is about thirteen feet in height, without any variation all around the building.
[Two pictures: On left, one entitled "The Patent Office As It Is" and, on right, one entitled "The Patent Office As It Is To Be"]
The effect of the added story will be seen on comparing the two engravings herewith. However skillfully treated the addition must destroy the purity of the architectural type, and materially injure the general architectural effect of the building. This great sacrifice of art to utility would be justifiable on one condition only -- that of absolute necessity. If there were no other way to provide the Patent Office with the room it needs, as many stories might be added as the original walls would support, the problem then being to make the alteration as little offensive to good taste as might be possible. But, as we believe, that exigency has not yet arisen, and is not likely soon to arise -- provided the Patent Office is given its due in its own house. This handsome edifice was built for the Patent Office, its almost prophetic projectors having in view the vast requirements which the Office would ultimately have need of. Temporarily other governmental offices were sheltered under the same roof, the Patent Office having room to spare. By its natural growth, however, the Patent Office now needs the space thus surrendered, and ought to have it, the temporary tenants finding accommodation elsewhere.
This, then, is the true solution of the whole problem: give the Patent Office its own, or so much of it as it may require, only restored to its original state, and find lodgement for the dispossessed offices in a building of their own. The United States might better spend in this way, a hundred times the money voted for the spoiling of the Patent Office edifice, rather than ruin the effect of such a fine piece of architecture by what, after all, must prove but a temporary makeshift.