Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents For the Year 1872

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:

In compliance with section 9 of the patent laws, I submit the following as my annual report for the year ending December 31, 1872:

No. 1  Statement of moneys received

Amount received on applications for patents, 

  reissues, extensions, caveats, disclaimers, 

  appeals, and trademarks                             $616,865.00

Amount received for copies of specifications,

  drawings, and other patents                           76,126.09

Amount received for recording assignments               15,735.30


    Total amount received                              699,726.39


No. 2  Statement of moneys expended

Amount paid for salaries                              $445,375.02

Amount paid for photolithographing current 

    issues (6 mos.)                                     16,366.31

Amount paid for illustrations for Gazette               26,618.43

Amount paid for photographing back issues               61,808.21

Amount paid for contingent and miscellaneous 

    expenses, viz.

Advertising                              $4,029.07

Stationery                               17,033.27

Tracings, etc.                            2,698.53

Painting, glazing, varnishing, paper 

    hanging, etc.                         2,392.46

File boxes                                  112.00

Furniture, carpeting, etc.               12,900.39

Fitting up cases in models rooms, 

    carpenter's work, and repairing 

    furniture                            20,680.41

Plumbing and gas fitting                  1,703.56

English patents                             792.95

Work on report and indexes                1,660.00

Refunding money paid by mistake             795.00

Hardware                                    838.50

Pay of temporary employees               38,278.54

Miscellaneous items, viz: Books for 

    library, subscriptions to journals, 

    freight, ice, washing towels, 

    awnings, fees of judges in appeal 

    cases, withdrawals, repairing 

    carriage and harness, and keeping 

    horse                                11,512.25

                                         _________     115,427.03


    Total amount expended                              665,595.00


No. 3  Statement of the balance in the Treasury of the United 

States on account of the patent fund

Amount to the credit of the patent fund 

    January 1, 1872                                   $759,980.03

Amount of receipts during the year 1872                699,726.39


    Total                                            1,459,706.42

From which deduct expenditures for the year 1872       665,595.00


    Balance                                            794,111.42


No. 4  Statement of the business of the Office for the year 1872

Number of applications for patents during the year 1872    18,246

Number of patents issued, including reissues and designs   13,590

Number of applications for extensions of patents              285

Number of patents extended                                    240

Number of caveats filed during the year                     3,090

Number of patents expired during the year                   2,481

Number of patents allowed but not issued for want of 

    final fee                                               2,392

Number of applications for registering of trademarks          531

Number of trademarks registered                               492

    Of the patents granted, there were to

Citizens of the United States           13,009

Subject of Great Britain                   445

Subjects of France                          51

Subjects of other foreign governments       85




No. 5.  Number of patents issued by the United States Patent 

Office to residents of the different States, Territories, and 

foreign countries from January 1, 1872, to December 31, 1872.

(The proportion to population is shown in last column.)

States, etc.            No. of     One to 

                        Patents    Every

Alabama                    45      22,155

Arkansas                   13      27,267

California                265      21,133

Colorado Territory         12       3,322

Connecticut               648        829

Dakota Territory            2      7,090

Delaware                   42      2,977

District of Columbia      143        921

Florida                     8     23,468

Georgia                    59     29,070

Idaho Territory             1     14,999

Illinois                  863      2,943

Indiana                   385      4,369

Iowa                      235      5,081

Kansas                     73      4,931

Kentucky                  145      9,110

Louisiana                  76      9,565

Maine                     170      3,688

Maryland                  242      3,227

Massachusetts           1,435      1,014

Michigan                  337      3,513

Minnesota                  78      5,637

Mississippi                75     11,039

Missouri                  251      6,858

Nebraska                   22      5,591

Nevada                     22      1,931

New Hampshire             122      1,098

New Jersey                682      1,398

New Mexico Territory        2     45,937

New York                3,079      1,423

North Carolina             36     29,294

Ohio                      985      2,706

Oregon                     21      3,953

Pennsylvania            1,575      2,236

Rhode Island              119      1,214

South Carolina             29     24,331

Tennessee                 105     11,986

Texas                      73     11,213

Utah Territory              3     28,929

Vermont                    91      3,632

Virginia                  106     11,448

Washington Territory        3      7,985

West Virginia              57      7,755

Wisconsin                 201      5,247

Wyoming Territory           1      9,118

United States Army          7         --

United States Navy          3         --

No. 6  Comparative statement of the business of the Office from 

1837 to 1872, inclusive

Years Applica- Caveats Patents   Cash        Cash

       tions    Filed  Issued   Received    Expended

1837                     435  $29,289.08  $33,506.98

1838                     520   42,123.54   37,402.10

1839                     425   37,260.00   34,543.51

1840     765    228      473   38,056.51   39,020.67

1841     847    312      495   40,413.01   52,666.87

1842     761    391      517   36,505.68   31,241.48

1843     819    315      531   35,315.81   30,766.96

1844   1,045    380      502   42,509.26   36,244.73

1845   1,246    452      502   51,076.14   39,395.65

1846   1,272    448      619   50,264.16   46,158.71

1847   1,531    553      572   63,111.19   41,878.35

1848   1,628    607      660   67,576.69   58,905.84

1849   1,955    595    1,070   80,752.78   77,716.44

1850   2,193    602      995   86,927.05   80,100.95

1851   2,258    760      869   95,738.61   86,916.93

1852   2,639    996    1,020  112,656.34   95,916.91

1853   2,673    901      958  121,527.45  132,869.83

1854   3,324    868    1,902  163,789.84  167,146.32

1855   4,435    906    2,024  216,459.35  179,540.33

1856   4,960  1,024    2,502  192,588.02  199,931.02

1857   4,771  1,010    2,910  196,132.01  211,582.09

1858   5,364    943    3,710  203,716.16  193,193.74

1859   6,225  1,097    4,538  245,942.15  210,278.41

1860   7,653  1,084    4,819  256,352.59  252.820.80

1861   4,643    700    3,340  137,354.44  221,491.91

1862   5,038    824    3,521  215,754.99  182,810.39

1863   6,014    787    4,170  195,593.29  189,414.14

1864   6,972  1,063    5,020  240,919.98  229,868.00

1865  10,664  1,937    6,616  348,791.84  274,199.34

1866  15,269  2,723    9,450  495,665.38  361,724.28

1867  21,276  3,597   13,015  646,581.92  639,263.32

1868  20,420  3,705   13,378  684,565.86  628,679.77

1869  19,271  3,624   13,986  693,145.81  486,430.78

1870  19,171  3,273   13,321  669,476.76  557,149.19

1871  19,472  3,624   13,033  678,716.46  560.595.08

1872  18,246  3,090   13,590  699,726.39  665,591.36

It will be noticed that the number of applications for patents is less than the previous year, while the number of patents granted is greater. This is one of the consequences of a prompt distribution of Office publications, giving to inventors, manufacturers, and attorneys reliable information as to what inventions are already patented, thereby securing better applications, but fewer in number.

It will also be noticed that the accounts show a large increase in expenses over those of the previous year; which calls, perhaps, for a word of explanation. The new gallery in the model room, the finishing and furnishing of what is called the subscription rooms, under the southern porch of the Patent office, and other rooms for deposit of Office files, have added over $20,000 to the incidental expenses, while the illustrations for the Patent Office Official Gazette, and the copies of drawings of patents, heretofore paid for by the Superintendent of Public Printing, have amounted in cost to over $60,000, making in all more than $80,000 for what has not before been required by the Office.

The $61,808.21 paid for reproducing back issues is not properly chargeable to current expenses. This work will be completed within a few years, and the expense will then end.

The Patent Office Official Gazette

The Patent Office Official Gazette was commenced on the 1st of January, 1871. During the first three months it was published without illustrations. Congress made an appropriation for furnishing illustrations for the Gazette in April last. The appropriation was intended to be sufficient only to furnish the illustrations from that time to the close of the year, but I found that, by condensing a larger number of drawings than was originally intended upon a single page, I could secure illustrations for all the patents issued during the year: consequently the whole volume has been illustrated.

The Gazette was designed to supply a large and growing demand for more prompt and complete information as to the work of the Office than was at that time, or ever had been, furnished by the Office publications. It has been issued regularly every week during the year. It embraces all the more important decisions of the Commissioner of Patents, all of the decisions of the United States Supreme, circuit, and district courts, in cases involving patent or trademark questions. The promptness in furnishing these decisions to the examiners in the Patent Office, to attorneys practicing before the Office, and to inventors and manufacturers generally, has very perceptibly improved the character of the Office work. The judges of the courts, to whom we have regularly sent it, have expressed themselves highly pleased and greatly benefited by the promptness of the Gazette, in giving to each of them the use of the decisions of all the others in discussing and considering the intricate questions connected with the trials of patent cases. The Gazette has also contained a notice of all applications for extension, a brief digest of all the applications upon which patents have issued, the entire claims of all such patents, and so much of the drawings as would in small spaces best explain the claims.

The Gazette is mailed on Wednesday or Thursday of each week, and always contains a digest and illustrated description of all the patents issued for the week ending the previous Tuesday, thereby furnishing to inventors and manufacturers the means of keeping themselves constantly informed as to the state of any art in which they feel an interest. It is found that this information prevents, in a great degree, the duplication of applications for patents upon the same invention, yet it stimulates the inventive faculties of our mechanics, and improves the character of the applications.

This publication has more than realized the most sanguine expectations of its projectors, and has received unmeasured approbation from all quarters. Its continued publication is almost a public necessity. When the publication of the Gazette was commenced it was the intention of the Commissioner that it should be entirely self-sustaining. This, however, was rendered impossible when Congress appropriated nearly one-half of the edition authorized to be printed, for free distribution to public libraries and to members of Congress. I do not, however, complain of this action of Congress, for I deem the information contained in the Gazette of so much importance to the public that a free distribution of it, to the extent authorized, is fully justified.

The Monthly Volume

The joint resolution approved January 11, 1871, required that the Commissioner of Patents should cause to be printed and bound into volumes of suitable size, with suitable indexes, the specifications and drawings of all the patents issued, for free distribution to the clerks of all the United States district courts, to the capital of each State, and to such public libraries as would pay the cost of binding and transportation. I have never been specially impressed with the wisdom of this provision. In accordance with it, however, during the year ending July 1, 1871, I caused to be prepared a volume of the specifications and drawings, complete each week, making fifty-two large volumes for the year, each volume having a name and subject-matter index. The size of these volumes and the numbers of them were so great as to make them comparatively worthless, as but few of the courts and very few libraries could afford the room to place them for any considerable length of time where they could be consulted by the persons for whom they were intended; consequently, since the 1st of July last, I have caused the specifications and drawings to be published in a more condensed form, running the specifications more closely together, and reducing the size of the drawings to one-fourth that of the previous year, thereby putting four drawings upon a page and printing on both sides of the leaf. By this change of form the patents of a month can be put in the space formerly occupied by one week, thus reducing the number of volumes to twelve instead of fifty two. The drawings, to some extent, will be found, perhaps, too small for critical examination, but this will not be the case in more than one in twenty.

When the drawing proves too small for careful examination, any person desiring to learn more about it can order from the Patent Office a complete copy of the drawings of full size, at an expense not exceeding twenty-five cents. This publication might be made popular. If the Commissioner of Patents can be authorized to sell these volumes to subscribers at 10 per cent in advance of the cost of producing additional copies, a considerable number of volumes could be sold; but as the law now stands, the Commissioner is not authorized to sell them at a less price than ten cents for each patent, which would make a set of the volumes for one year cost over $1,300, or more than $100 a volume. This, of course, effectually prevents their sale.

Old Drawings

For several years past Congress has appropriated the sum of $40,000 a year to reproduce the old drawings in the Patent Office. This work is far more important than is believed by those not familiar with the work of the Office. When a man makes an application for a patent, if he is anticipated by any former patent upon the same subject matter, he is rejected by a reference to such patent. The Office is not of course liable to err in this reference by not fully understanding exactly what the applicant desires to cover by his application. The applicant should therefore have the means of fully understanding the references. This can only be given by furnishing him a copy of the drawings of the patent upon which he is rejected.

It frequently happens that the reference only covers a portion of the applicant's claim, leaving him a valuable invention not anticipated. If the drawings of the references could be furnished him in full, he might so amend his application as to run clear of previous patents, and secure to himself what he has actually invented. To furnish such copies by the process of tracing would cost, in general, from two to five dollars in each case. By the process of photolithography one hundred and fifty copies may be made of each drawing at an expense to the Office of from three to six dollars. When the drawings are thus reproduced it will be an easy matter, at very trifling expense, to furnish a copy of each drawing referred to in rejections, thus informing inventors exactly as to their rights.

Another reason for reproducing the old drawings in considerable numbers is found in the great saving of time it would secure to the examining corps, and the increased facilities for thorough examinations. The drawings belonging to the classes of mowers and reapers, sewing machines and attachments, printing presses, types, and furniture, fire-arms, projectiles, fuses, blasting and torpedoes, carriage wheels and their parts, felting and hats, etc., have all been reproduced by photolithography. Copies of the drawings of all the patents ever issued in these classes have been placed in the rooms of the examiners having charge of the respective classes, where they may be consulted with care and without waste of time. In classes where the drawings have not yet been reproduced, the examiners and all others desiring to examine the drawings are compelled to go to the general portfolios and wait upon each other.

Still another reason for reproducing these old drawings is found in the demand of manufacturers for them. A large number of persons have already purchased, at considerable advance of cost, the entire classes reproduced. I am satisfied that the money expended in this work is a wise expenditure, and will in the end be much more than refunded to the Treasury by the saving of time and the sale of copies.

General Index

There has never been published a complete general index, either of patentees or of the subject matter of patents. At the beginning of the present fiscal year I caused to be organized a force to prepare such an index. There is no one thing that is more needed by the Office at the present time. In view of the vast number of patents which have been issued, now numbering over 140,000, it is not easy to determine what has or what has not been patented without an index for reference. It is true that since 1836 there has been an annual index published, but these indexes are now so numerous as to make them comparatively worthless, making a general index down to the present time almost an absolute necessity. It will take considerable time, at least another year, before this can be completed; hence no appropriation for its publication will be asked for at this time.


An examination of the past work of the Office develops the fact that there are about 7,750 different things which are made the subject of patents. In the new classification of these subjects which I have caused to be made during the past year, they have been grouped according to their analogy, into 145 classes. It is very desirable that a thorough digest, showing clearly and fully the present state of the art in each one of these classes, should be made. This is a work that will need to be commenced very soon. The industry of the country, the interests of inventors and manufacturers, as well as the facility of the Office work, demand such digest. If a competent person could take the subject of "fire arms," for instance, giving the present state of the art in that class, by showing exactly what has been invented, and by whom, from time to time, and the improvements that have been made, it would enable the Office to make examinations with far greater facility and accuracy, and in much less time than at present; would enable manufacturers to know more exactly their own rights and the rights of patentees and the public; would enable attorneys and patent solicitors to prepare their cases with far more intelligence and precision, and would greatly assist the Commissioner of Patents and the judges of the courts in deciding questions of patentability, interferences, and infringements. If such volumes could be prepared under the supervision of the Commissioner of Patents, and be published in sufficient numbers to supply the demand for the same, I am convinced they could be made not only profitable in the way of furnishing much needed information, but remunerative to the Government. I would respectfully ask the attention of Congress to this matter, and that the Commissioner be authorized to immediately commence this work.


Until March 2, 1861, patents were granted for the term of fourteen years, with the right of extension when proper cause was shown. Said act provides that the term shall be for seventeen years with no right of extension. I have always doubted the wisdom of that law, and the more thoroughly I become acquainted with inventors and their peculiarities, the more thoroughly I am convinced that the change was an unwise one. It is a fact familiar to all who have given the subject matter any considerable attention, that the majority of inventors are not men of wealth, and a very large proportion of the more valuable inventions are assigned in their infancy for trifling considerations, because of the indigent circumstances of the patentees. Assignees have, in general, made all the money that has been made from the original term of patents.

There is justice in giving a considerable portion of the profits arising from patents to assignees, for generally the talent required to create the demand for and to manufacture and successfully introduce into public use the thing invented, is as valuable and meritorious as that exercised by the inventor. That assignees of patents have made large profits is not, therefore, of itself an objection to the law; but the design of the patent laws, under the provision of the Constitution, was to encourage and develop invention by giving to inventors a monopoly that might compensate them. Experience has developed the fact that a very large proportion of our most worthy and deserving inventors have been obliged to look to the extended terms of their patents for their remuneration. When the invention is first made it is often in advance of a demand for it. The public must be educated up to its want, requiring considerable time and expense before the invention can become remunerative. It is in this stage of the life of a patent that inventors are so often compelled by poverty to sell their inventions for very small sums. When the patent is extended, the extended term belonging to the inventor, and the public now understanding its value, the inventor is enabled to obtain a reasonable compensation for his patent. In this way the extended term becomes far more remunerative than the original.

As mere mechanics and copyists our people are greatly excelled by the older nations; but in useful and labor-saving inventions the people of the United States excel all others. It is difficult to overestimate the extent to which our country is indebted to the genius and industry of our inventors. No other nation has done so much to secure to its inventors the results of their brain labor. In no other country have the legislatures and courts been so liberal and just in affording protection to the peculiar class of property covered by patents for inventions. The rich development of valuable inventions which have so distinguished our country is largely due to our recognition of the just rights of inventors. The act of March 2, 1861, I am fully persuaded, was legislation in the wrong direction, and that the encouragement of useful inventions, as well as justice to inventors, requires a right in the inventor to secure extensions in meritorious cases.


The question of room for the Patent Office is becoming more and more serious every day. At the present time the working force is greatly crowded, and we are compelled to occupy rooms under ground, and with necessarily very imperfect ventilation. The health of many employees has been very seriously impaired, and the work of the Office greatly impeded. Since I have been in the Office, now less than two years, eight persons have died, whose deaths were attributable, probably, to the occupancy of rooms unfit for such purposes. The files and the documents of the Office are crowded into such small and inconvenient spaces as to be very difficult of access, and very damaging to the files themselves. When additional rooms can be furnished for the working force of the Office, those now unsuitable for occupancy by employees can be fitted for receiving the Office files. I earnestly hope that some provision may be made whereby the work of the Bureau may have sufficient room to be promptly and properly executed.

The model gallery has long been a place of great interest, not only to inventors, but to all visitors at Washington. I believe that the United States is the only government which issues patents that demands models of inventions. The wisdom of this demand can not be questioned. Many of the points connected with patents that arise for examination before judges and juries, appeal boards and commissioners, are of such character that none but the most skilled experts could determine them from drawings and written descriptions alone. When an invention has been embodied in the form of a good model, it has become tangible, and intelligible, and certain to a much larger class of persons than when shown only in drawings. The spirit of our patent laws demands that before a monopoly shall be granted to an inventor he shall make his invention as patent to the public as possible; hence, I think a model should be required with every application.

The question of room wherein to keep the models has been the strong argument against requiring them. It is very apparent that the addition of over twenty thousand models a year to the present vast accumulation would ultimately occupy the whole of the Patent Office building, to the exclusion of everything else. This question of furnishing space for the models has long been a troublesome and puzzling one, and must of necessity be very soon settled. While I am of the opinion that models should always be demanded when the invention is of such a nature as to admit of being shown in a model, I am not so clear as to the necessity of their being forever retained. The models of rejected applications might be disposed of as soon as the applications are finally abandoned. Nearly all of the models upon which patents have been granted become useless to the office and to the inventor as soon as the patents have expired and the inventions become public property. The models of fundamental inventions, and such others as may be necessary to show clearly the rise and progress of the different arts represented in the Office, should, of course, be always retained. All others might be removed from the model gallery soon after the expiration of the patents. Under authority of section 14 of the patent act, I have disposed of over forty thousand models of rejected applications. Nearly all of these have been deposited in such colleges and other incorporated institutions of learning in the several States as cared enough for them to pay for boxing and transportation, and hold them subject to the order of the Commissioner of Patents. The influence of these models in our schools is reported as excellent. They aid materially in giving a knowledge of the practical applications of the principles of mechanics, and in developing a taste for the useful arts. These models are simply loaned to these institutions, where they are held in trust for the Patent Office. Full lists of them are retained at the Office.

I would respectfully suggest that the Commissioner be authorized, under proper restraints, to make similar deposits of such models of expired patents as can be spared from the Patent Office. The determination of what models of expired patents may safely be sent from the Office should not be left to the Commissioner or any other one man. A Commissioner of radical or eccentric notions on the subject might do irreparable damage to important classes by the removal of models constantly needed in the Office. If the Commissioner of Patents and the member of the board of examiners in chief oldest in commission should be constituted a permanent board for this purpose, and the examiners in charge of the classes become in turn members of said board when determining upon the models belonging to the classes under their special charge, there would be very little danger of mistakes being made in the disposition of models. Under the provisions of such a law the present model gallery will probably be abundantly sufficient for a century to come. I respectfully ask the early attention of Congress to the matter.

The Civil Service

The new rules for the civil service went into operation in this Bureau in May last. I was not sanguine as to the wisdom of their adoption, but determined they should have a fair an impartial test in the Patent Office. When called upon by the honorable Secretary of the Interior for the name of a suitable person to be appointed on the examining board, I named a man distinguished not only for scholarship, but for sound practical judgment. In the examinations I have in no way interfered, and have expressed no preferences for candidates. I believe the examining board have conscientiously framed their questions and conducted their examinations with the single view of securing the best men for the vacant positions; and the result has greatly transcended my expectations. It has stimulated to study and efficiency the former employees, and has brought into the Office a class of intelligent, vigorous, and enterprising young men, whom it would have been difficult to obtain by any other system. Men having the best qualifications and most merit will rely least upon outside influence and pressure for positions, and under the old system were generally the last to obtain them.

The design of the civil service rules is to secure the best qualified and most meritorious. For this bureau the examinations have aimed to test the applicant's special fitness for the vacant positions, and the questions have been thoroughly practical. One hundred and nine-two persons have been examined for promotion, seventy four of whom passed above the minimum standard, and forty nine have been promoted. Fifty two have been examined for original appointment, twenty two of whom passed above minimum, and nine have been appointed. The operation of the civil service rules has certainly very greatly improved the efficiency of the working force in the Patent Office.

The civil service is clogged and impeded, however, by obstacles not provided against in the new rules. If ten men are appointed to positions today, nine of whom prove to be well qualified, active, intelligent, and efficient, and one barely above the minimum in these requisites, four years hence will find that the nine have developed into men of too much spirit and enterprise to remain in clerical positions, and have entered the business pursuits of private life, while the tenth will probably be plodding along in the Office, of less value, probably, than when first appointed, yet willing to stay without advancement as long as the appointing power, under pressure of outside influences, can be induced to retain him. By this process a comparatively worthless sediment accumulates in the bureaus, impeding, depressing the character, and increasing the expense of the civil service. If the civil service commission can invent a broom that will effectually sweep out this sediment, I shall deem it worthy of a patent.

Canadian Laws

In my last annual report I took occasion to complain of the want of reciprocity in the patent laws of the Dominion of Canada. As those laws then stood, they contained a provision that no patents should be granted except to persons who had resided for the year last past in Canada. This, of course, precluded citizens of the United States from obtaining patents there, while citizens of Canada could obtain patents here on the same terms as our own citizens, and without restriction as to residence. The last session of the Canadian Parliament, however, expunged that unfriendly provision, and in many other respects made their patent laws more liberal and more certain in their protection of inventors. Their new law is substantially the same as our own, and gives great satisfaction to our inventors.


Again I respectfully ask the attention of Congress to the President's special message and accompanying documents of March 15, 1872, in relation to the reorganization of the Patent Office. The commercial importance of patents for inventions is rapidly increasing. After careful and extended inquiry, I am convinced that considerably more than one-half of the capital employed in manufacturing in the United States is thus invested, because of the security to specialities obtained from patents. For this reason the demand for better examinations and more care as to the wording of specifications and claims before issuing patents or rejecting applications is increasing every day. In other words, the character of the work done in the Office and the facilities for doing it promptly are not nearly up to the public demand. I am of the opinion, however, that no very considerable improvement can be made under the present organization. The business of the Office is being done under a plan of organization adopted in its infancy -- a plan adequate to its wants at that time, but which has been outgrown by its enormous increase of business. Until a reorganization can be effected that will secure a revision of the most important work of the Office, the rights of inventors and manufacturers will be needlessly jeopardized, and the character of the Office and the utility of the patent laws will remain in doubt. The reorganization suggested is fully embodied in the bill for that purpose now pending in the House of Representatives.

Respectfully submitted:
M.D. Leggett
Commissioner of Patents


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