AN ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION BY FIRE OF THE NORTH AND WEST HALLS OF THE MODEL ROOM IN THE UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE BUILDING ON THE 24TH OF SEPTEMBER, 1877, TOGETHER WITH A HISTORY OF THE PATENT OFFICE FROM 1790 TO 1877 [ILLUSTRATED] -- WASHINGTON, D.C. OCTOBER 23, 1877
AN AUTHENTIC ACCOUNT OF THE FIRE OF SEPTEMBER 24, 1877, WHICH DESTROYED THE NORTH AND WEST HALLS OF THE UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE BUILDING; Also, some Historical Data in Reference to the Organization and Early History of the Patent Office, &c.
Washington, with singular good fortune, has almost wholly escaped the terrible scourge of great and destructive fires which has so often visited other large towns and cities. Her wide streets and the absence of great business blocks and large manufacturing establishments will in part account for this marked feature of her history as a city. It is here, however, where the priceless archives of the Government are stored, that fire can do the most lasting and irreparable damage. There was a popular faith that whatever might be the security offered to the records of the Government elsewhere, the important and valuable archives of the Department of the Interior were sheltered in a building nearly, if not wholly, fire-proof. Here were the records of the Land Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others of the many distinct bureaus connected with this Department. Here, too, were the records, original drawings, and models of the Patent Office, forming a collection of inestimable value and world-wide fame.
Shortly after eleven o'clock on Monday, the 24th of September, an alarm of fire was sounded. It was soon followed by the general alarm. But little attention was given to it by the people until the rumor flew through the city that the Patent Office was on fire. Columns of smoke were seen issuing from its roof, and a shower of flying cinders gave evidence that a serious fire had begun its work. It seemed almost incredible, however, that it could do much damage to the beautiful building upon which it had fastened itself. Yet the fact that so important a Government edifice was on fire created great excitement. The fire-engines and the crowd were on the ground at about the same time, and to the people in the streets the scene was as unexpected as it was sad and appalling. So great was the faith of the officers, clerks, and other employees of the Department, however, in the security of the building against fire, that for some time the alarm did not create very great apprehension as to the safety of the building or its valuable contents.
To understand how the upper portion of this so-called fire-proof structure, with the most valuable and interesting part of its contents, could so easily become a prey to the flames, and also for the sake of giving a concise and connected account of the disaster, we will first describe the construction of that part of the building where the fire originated, and from which it spread.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE ROOF
"The roof was what is commonly known as a 'truss-roof.' The tie-rods, rafters, braces, and struts were of iron. The purlines, trusses, sheathing, and ceiling were constructed of pine wood. The pine sheathing of the roof was covered with sheet copper about one-fortieth of an inch in thickness. The chimney-tops were of iron, set over the flues upon the brick wall, about twelve inches below the roof, and they extended above the roof about two and a half feet. Over the gutters, running around the entire wing, was placed a pine grating, to keep them from clogging up in the winter and to protect them from the heat of the sun in the summer. This grating was made of inch boards, fastened together by cross pieces of 2 by 3 inch scantling, and it was constructed in sections four feet in width by ten feet in length."
THE CONSERVATORY AND REJECTED MODELS
Under the south end of the roof on the Ninth-street or west wing was located a conservatory, or hot-house, used for the purpose of preserving plants in the winter. The walls of this room were made of 7/8-inch boards, tongued and grooved; the floor was made of planks, resting on the ceiling of the model-room, and was covered with zinc, and the roof of the room was of glass. Wooden shelves were arranged for the accommodation of the plants, and just outside there was a small tank, from which the necessary water was obtained. The only door leading into the conservatory was on the east side of the roof. Just north of the conservatory was a space occupied by the rejected models and exhibits. In this space, extending from the conservatory to the G-street or north wing, were stored about 12,000 rejected models. The law permits the Commissioner of Patents to sell these models after they have been two years in the Office, or to loan them to colleges or other literary and scientific institutions, or to return them to applicants. About four years ago a distribution of them was made, a few only of the most important ones being retained.
THE INFLAMMABLE LOFT
Those which were in this space at the time of the fire, were the accumulations of the past four years, and were awaiting the disposition which the Commissioner of Patents had in contemplation. The staging and shelving of this loft, as well as the conservatory and its surroundings, were of very inflammable material. It is stated by the contractor that more than 100,000 feet of white-pine lumber was used in the construction of the roof of the west wing, exclusive of the immense amount of the same material that had found its way into this part of the building in making room for the growing demands of the Office for space. The ceiling of the model-room was also liable to speedy destruction by fire. Instead of iron and brick forming the framework above this valuable repository, wooden timbers, with an occasional iron brace, were used, and they were covered with ordinary lath and plaster.
THE MODEL-ROOM AND ITS CONTENTS
The model-room comprised the whole of the third story, immediately under the inflammable roof we have described, and consisted of four grand halls, opening into each other, and affording a promenade of about one-fourth of a mile around the four sides of a quadrangle.
These magnificent halls were fitted up with tiers of cases, the room being sufficiently high for two tiers, one above the other. Each case was eight feet in height by from sixteen to twenty feet in length. They were made of white pine, with glass sides and ends. They were so placed that there was sufficient room around each case to make them easy of access both to the casual visitor and to inventors and examiners. The cases could be opened and their contents inspected at any time in the immediate presence of an employee of the Patent Office. This great gallery was visited yearly by thousands of people, both for profit and pleasure. It contained about 200,000 models of American invention, besides many curiosities and mementoes, specimens of home manufacture, and priceless treasures of deep historic interest. Among them were Washington's commission as commander-in-chief of the American forces, his uniform, camp-chest, and other personal effects; the coat which General Jackson wore at the battle of New Orleans, the printing-press first used by Benjamin Franklin, and many other interesting relics and trophies, all of which relics were saved.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY
The act of July 4, 1836, authorized the creation of this national gallery, and in these early days its future usefulness was recognized and every effort made to induce an exhibit of the manufacturing industries of the country therein. It is doubtful, however, whether its most enthusiastic advocate ever anticipated the extent and diversity of its future contents.
We have here, then, a roof, a loft, and four great halls filled with material as inflammable as it was valuable, all arranged as if to provide for the spread of fire, and no provision for flooding the floors, or to enable firemen to successfully fight the flames.
ORIGIN OF THE FIRE
How the fire originated will probably never be known with absolute certainty. A committee appointed by the Secretary of the Interior reached the conclusion that it caught in the wooden grating before referred to on the roof from a spark from the chimney, and burned through the copper sheathing, thus igniting the wooden portion of the roof underneath. Another theory is that the fire originated in the rejected model-room, from a defective flue immediately over the southeast corner of the Ninth-street portico, and near the conservatory, from the skylight of which smoke seemed to issue with the greatest force and volume when the fire was first discovered. When some of the employees of the building first reached the roof, a portion of the wooden grating we have mentioned was discovered to be on fire, while dense clouds of smoke were issuing from the skylights along nearly the entire length of the roof.
A DELAY IN GETTING WATER
One of the first persons to reach the scene reports that the copper covering was so hot that the heat was perceptible through heavy shoe-soles. How long the fire was smoldering before it gained headway no one can tell. There was some delay in getting water to the fire as the firemen were obliged to carry their hose up two stairways and through some five hundred feet of corridors before a stream could be thrown. No access could be obtained to the loft where the rejected models were stored, save by a narrow and crooked stairway, and the tank of water which stood outside the south end of the attic could not be reached because of the rapidity with which the flames spread. To add to the difficulties under which the firemen labored, the fire was some eighty feet above the street, and twenty feet above the highest rise of Potomac water, so that the pressure from the hydrants was of no avail. About twenty minutes after the discovery of the fire the first stream of water was thrown on it, but by that time an acre of flame was sweeping over the entire west wing, bursting through the windows and portions of the roof with a fierceness that threatened the destruction of the entire building.
AID FROM ALEXANDRIA AND BALTIMORE
For a time the exertions of the firemen seemed of no avail, and within the first half hour so serious was the danger that help was telegraphed for. The Alexandria engine was speedily on the ground and went to work at once. With the most generous promptness Baltimore responded with four engines, which came by rail with remarkable speed, and rendered the most efficient and timely aid in this and another fire.
FIGHTING THE FLAMES
Lines of hose were run up the sides of the building and over the roof. Holes were cut, and floods of water poured into the upper stories. Men in the corridors worked hard to remove the records to places of safety, and firemen, perched on ladders outside, steadily fought the fire in the model-room halls on the west and north sides of the building. The Department and Bureau officers were everywhere present, and took the best measures to save the archives and public property from damage, and stay the flames. At about one o'clock orders were given to remove the books and papers from some of the more exposed offices. The Draftsmen's Division, containing the vital records of the Patent Office was in eminent danger, for it is situated directly under the a portion of the west wing of the model-room, and two ventilators ran from it directly up to the burning portion of the building. Down these ventilators soon came a shower of live coals and molten metal, making it a difficult and dangerous task to remove the records. An employee stopped one of the apertures with a coal-scuttle, and another held a water-cooler over the other, while willing hands labored to save this priceless property. In this division were 777 folios, containing 211,243 original drawings, whose value could not be estimated in money. These were all removed and replaced without the loss of a single drawing. The work of removing the records and office-furniture from all the exposed portions of the building went on with vigor, and at the same time every effort was made to save the models in the halls of the west and north wings, but with no avail, and they were nearly all destroyed. By the time it was known that they were in serious danger the whole of the west wall was enveloped in fire.
The scene when the fire was at its height was intensely exciting. The corridors were crowded with men working desperately to save property. Books, papers, office-furniture, and models lined the halls of the lower floors. The smoke, the long black lines of hose running up the stairways, and the streams of water that came pouring back, all added to the novelty of the occasion within, while the cordon of smoking, throbbing engines, the armed guards, the roped streets, and patrols of mounted police framed in by the background of a dense crowd of excited people of every class, all combined to form a picture that will not soon be forgotten. Just after the fire began a brisk breeze from the south sprang up, and, while it drove the flames irresistibly along the west hall, it kept them from the south hall, which contained the most valuable collection of objects of historic interest in our country.
THE CRISIS OF THE FIRE
Between half past twelve and one o'clock the breeze increased in force and drove the fire around under the roof and through the model-rooms on the corner of Ninth and G streets; and about one o'clock it seemed to spring in one moment through the roof from Ninth to Eighth street, a whole block in length. This was the crisis of the fire. The roofs of the buildings along Ninth and G streets were covered with men wetting the fronts or tearing down awnings over windows and doorways. The flames leaped and curled far over G street, forcing even the hardiest of the firemen to leave the windows and doorways along this front. The intense heat created something like a panic among the people, and they rushed up Ninth and Eighth streets, and along G, toward Seventh, in confused crowds, while the horses were hurriedly hitched to the engine stationed at Eighth street and it slowly retreated up that street to a new position. But the breeze soon moderated, the flaming roof fell in, and thus the great danger that the fire would extend across the street was safely passed.
THE FLAMES STAYED
At two o'clock the efforts of the firemen began to tell, and soon after it was plain that the destruction would be stayed at the eastern end of the north hall. As soon as this fact was apparent, the clerks, who had been busy in saving the contents of their offices, began at once to replace them, and all night long the faithful employees continued their efforts to repair as far as possible the damage which had been done. The detachments of regular soldiers and marines, as also of the city militia, which were on the ground early in the day and on guard at the various entrances to the building, remained all night, and rendered valuable aid in restoring order and protecting property.
SCENES OUTSIDE THE BUILDING
During the night the scene outside the building was strange and dramatic. The large crowds had become tired of looking on and had gone to their homes. The splashed and begrimed engines were still in position. Pools of water stood in the gutters and hollows of the pavement around them. Piles of coal and wood were placed near the fire-boxes, and heaps of ashes and cinders bore witness of the energy of their fight with the flames. On each front of the building one or more engines was at work, sending streams of water over the walls and along the uninjured part of the roof to the still smoldering embers of the burned model-rooms, and their hum was the only sound that broke the deep stillness of the night. Smoke and oil stained firemen stood around the working engines, near which groups of curious people still lingered to watch the tireless energy of these marvelous machines. The sentinel paced his round, and hasty messengers passed in and out at the various entrances, and the bright moon shone over the roofless walls and through the blackened window-spaces, producing an effect like that of looking on some ruin from a distant land that had been quickly and strangely transferred into the midst of this quiet city.
INSIDE THE BUILDING AT NIGHT
Inside the building, the scenes were weird in the extreme. Lines of tallow-dips, the yellow flames of which flared and swayed as each passing person disturbed the stillness of the air, gave gloomy and fitful light to the long corridors. Workingmen stood ankle-deep in water, sweeping it along toward the stairways, down which it poured in torrents. Water dripped and splashed from the ceilings in the offices, in which books, desks, and other fixtures had been piled in dry places, which every device that ingenuity could suggest was used to gather and conduct the downfall of water out into the corridors. Men with candles hurried about, jostling each other as they splashed through the flooded halls, each intent on his own particular duty. In that part of the building which was uninjured, and in the great entrance-hall of F street, clerks were sorting out books and papers for which they were most responsible, and arranging so as to insure greater safety, while the Secretary and his immediate chiefs, as also the heads of bureaus and divisions, gave general oversight to the whole. Scenes without number, during both night and day, thrilling, amusing, and ludicrous, were constantly occurring to give spice to the vexations that were the necessary consequence of the serious occasion. Toward morning the Secretary and the other officers snatched a little badly-needed repose on the sofas in the rooms in the undisturbed portions of the building, while the clerks, equally tired out, pushed themselves into obscure corners and upon desks, for a few moments sleep. The day dawned on this curious condition of one of the most important of the Departments of the Government; one to which each morning brings the greatest bustle of business activity, and which deals in a business way with a greater number of people of this nation than any of the others.
With early morning came crowds of people, drawn together by motives as various as were the types they represented. In the area around the southwest corner of the building people of both sexes and all ages and colors swarmed over the piles of scorched and drenched papers and lithographic copies of drawings which had been thrown out during the night. Numbers of people gathered upon and about the Seventh and F street entrances, seeking admission in order that they might see for themselves the extent of the destruction that had taken place, and their persistence severely taxed the patience of the already overworked officials. In the destroyed model-rooms people could be seen, each one of whom searched with unwearied patience among the piles of debris that were yet hot for bits of the destroyed models, or some other object which would serve as a souvenir of the fire.
Hundreds of men gathered on the walks and in the streets near the two principal entrances "waiting for work!" They hoped and expected that laborers would be needed to remove the debris and to assist in making a temporary roof. The eagerness with which they watched every one who went in or came out, and the patience with which they waited long after word had been given out that no more could be employed, told the story of their need.
THE MORNING'S GLOOMY VIEW
In the morning, the appearance of the interior of the building was most gloomy. The flood of water had no way of escape save by the corridors and stairways, and it ran down these avenues in streams. It had soaked through the thick brick arches composing the ceiling of the second story, and had flooded the offices of the west and north wings on that floor. The rooms occupied by the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Chief Clerk, and other prominent officials of the Patent Office on this floor, suffered severely, as did the Interior Department library-rooms. Desks, books, files, carpets, and all the thousand and one things that go to make up office-fixtures, were piled in the corridors of the uninjured portion of the building. But the same energy that was displayed in moving them out during the excitement the day before soon brought order out of the seeming chaos, and it may be said that the general business of the Department was scarcely interrupted.
With returning order came time to sum up the losses of the preceding day. It was found that the Patent Office was almost the only sufferer, aside from the damage to the building. The roof and the model-rooms and contents on the west and north sides were completely destroyed. In these two halls were 87,000 models. Among them were several thousand known as "pending" and "issue" cases. The former are those cases in which the applications are still pending in the examiners' rooms, and the latter belong to that class of cases allowed by the examiners, and still awaiting the payment of the final fees. The loss of these falls on the inventors. The loss of rejected models is not serious. These models, in all cases where they were required, have been returned to the parties furnishing them. Some, which were of use as illustrating mechanics or applied science, have been, from time to time, loaned to schools and seminaries, to be returned if called for. Most of those in the Ninth-street loft, about 12,000 in number, were practically valueless, and were kept only because of the possible injustice that might result if they were disposed of without notice to the applicants. Such notice would involve more clerical labor than the force in the Office could perform. The propriety of breaking them up and selling them for old metal had recently been seriously discussed. Such disposition of them is authorized under section 485, Revised Statutes.
The loss by fire and water of photo-lithographic copies of drawings, it is estimated will amount to 40,000 sets, or 150 copies each, or about 600,000 copies in all. This material is to be classed as "stock on hand," and not as "original records." The drawings were copies only, and they can be replaced at an estimated expense of $60,000. Thirty patented drawings, in the class of wood-working machinery, which were in the hands of tracers in the model-rooms, were lost, as were also the models. Many of them can be restored in time from the specifications attached to the original letters-patent, but it will be attended with difficulty, and the exercise of great care and judgment in the designations of figures. Three original patented drawings of different classes of inventions, which were being traced in the model-room to fill orders from attorneys, were destroyed. Two of these, having been traced some three months back for photo-lithographic reproduction, were at once restored by being mounted upon card-board. The remaining drawing can be restored from the model. There were also some ten drawings, specifications, and models destroyed of incomplete applications, they being in the hands of model draftsmen in the west hall of model-room who were engaged in making drawings therefrom to fill orders. The applicants can be notified of the loss, and requested to furnish new models and specifications, upon receipt of which the Office will resume the work of completing the drawings. Eleven volumes of English patented drawings are missing. Nine of them were known to be in the model-room, and were undoubtedly destroyed. Duplicates have already been ordered from England. Many other minor losses occurred which would require too much space to mention. The total loss cannot be estimated in dollars and cents.
No more fitting commendation of the conduct of the various employees, during this most exciting and harassing period, can be made than by quoting from the report of the Commissioner of Patents to the Secretary of the Interior, which high praise has been embodied in a message of the President to both houses of Congress. He says:
"The coolness and energy displayed by Mr. Gardner, principal draftsman, in the management of his force, and care of invaluable records in his charge, merit special consideration. In his division, where no one was allowed to enter except employees of the Office, all the drawings were removed in their portfolios, as well as all files of rejected applications, and were subsequently restored to their places without loss.
"In fact, the only losses hitherto discovered of books and papers, save by fire, appear to have arisen from the intrusion of unauthorized persons who threw them from the windows or otherwise removed them in apparent wantonness.
"Indeed I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the officers, clerks, and other employees of this bureau during this most trying emergency. They have made the interests of the Office their own, and by night and day, through fire and flood, have been, with few exceptions, faithful and untiring in their efforts to preserve public property and restore order. From their persistent fidelity it has resulted that through a succession of unlooked-for disasters there has been no delay or disturbance of the business of the Office, except what was occasioned by the absolute want of room in which the work could be done."
THE PATENT OFFICE BUILDING
When the building was first contemplated, it was the design of the Government that it should be occupied exclusively by the Patent Office, and the funds earned by that Office were appropriated for its creation. The act of July 4, 1836, provided that "the President of the United States cause to be erected on some appropriate site a fire-proof building, with suitable accommodations for the Patent Office," and appropriated $108,000 out of the patent fund for that purpose. The foundation was laid in the fall of 1836, and is the present building facing F street, minus the Ninth and Seventh street wings. It is 270 feet in length, and 69 feet deep. Both fronts were to be faced with split granite, laid in regular courses, with dressed joints. The body of the building was built of Virginia sandstone and was afterwards painted white. It was the intention of the architects that the grand portico on F, facing Eighth street, should be of magnificent proportions, and correspondent, speaking of its erection, said that "the proportions were exactly those of the Parthenon at Athens, and that its construction would involve a large portion of the whole expense of the building." This wing or main building was completed and occupied by the Patent Office in the spring of 1840, and cost $422,011.65.
PROUD OF THE NEW STRUCTURE
The Commissioner of Patents, in his annual report for 1840, speaks of the new building as follows: "The Patent Office building is sufficient for the wants of the Patent Office for many years, but will not allow accommodation for other objects than those contemplated in its erection." But he suggests "that the present edifice admits of such an enlargement as may contribute to its ornament, and furnish all necessary accommodation for the National Institute, and also convenient halls for lectures, should they be needed in the future disposition of the Smithsonian legacy." * * * "The National Gallery is ready for the exhibition of models and specimens, and cases are prepared to preserve the same against injury or loss by exposure. I am happy to say that the mechanics and manufactures are improving the opportunity to present the choicest contributions, and from the encouragement given, no doubt is entertained that the hall, considered by some so spacious, will in a short time be entirely filled; presenting a display of national skill and ingenuity, not surpassed by any similar exhibition in the world."
WHO BUILT AND OWNED IT
This was the feeling which the organization of the Patent Office model-room inspired, knot only in the officials of the Office, but in the great masses of the people interested in the arts it created and fostered. It is almost amusing to remember that this glowing description of the place was written when the model-room occupied at the most about one-fifth of the space required for the recent collection. In these early days, crude as the appliances then were, there is no question but that this building and its gallery were looked upon with great pride, not only by the officials having charge of it, but by the people all over the land having business with it or interested in adding to its construction and adornment.
No less than now, this building was looked upon as the special property of the inventors of the country. The profits which they added to the income of the Office laid the foundation for it, and, with just and reasonable pride from that day until this, they have piled up their contributions of both money and material for its support. And who would say that their pride in it was not just and reasonable? And instead of abating with the progress of the age it is on the increase, and it is not too much to say that, if an emergency demanded, the inventive skill of the country would from its own private purse provide the means to repair the damage that has been done, and then go on adding improvements to its construction until it becomes what it was intended to be, a grand temple, a fit monument to the skill, industry, and liberality of the American artisan.
THE BUSINESS DEMANDS MORE ROOM
Notwithstanding the statement of the Commissioner of Patents in 1840, "that the present building would be ample for the needs of the Patent Office for a long time to come," so rapid was its growth that the same Commissioner, in his report for 1844, says, "The models of patented inventions are crowding so much as to prevent classification. * * * There seems to be no alternative but to extend the building," and in each succeeding year thereafter, until 1849, the Commissioner, each year, took occasion to call attention to the necessity for an enlargement of the building, and on the 3d of March of that year, Congress appropriated $50,000 out of the patent fund to begin the east wing, the one fronting on Seventh street. It was completed and occupied in 1852, and cost $600,000, $250,000 of which was taken from the earnings of the Patent Office. Neither this wing nor the original one fronting on F street was materially injured in the late fire, and both are believed to be substantially fire-proof.
THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
The same act which appropriated the $50,000 for the commencement of the east wing, created the Department of the Interior, and transferred the Patent Office from the State Department to it as its most important bureau. Hardly had the east wing been completed and occupied before it became evident that still more room was necessary to meet the growing demands of the Office for space, and on August 31, 1852, Congress passed an act for the erection of the west wing, along Ninth street, the one in which the fire originated, to correspond with the east wing on Seventh street, and appropriated $150,000 to begin it. Indeed, the entire building was contemplated in this year, and plans made for the present structure. The west wing was completed and occupied in 1856, and cost $750,000. The north wing, along G street, which completed the entire structure, was begun in 1856, and entirely finished in 1867, and cost $575,000. Up to the time of the fire there had been spent upon its construction, repair, and furniture, nearly $3,000,000. A writer, speaking of it just after it was finished, said that it is "a building of grand proportions, massive in construction, and one of the most beautiful structures that could be conceived."
FOUNDATION OF THE AMERICAN PATENT SYSTEM
Nearly every civilized nation on the globe has provided in a greater or less degree for the encouragement and protection of inventive skill and industry; and for generations exclusive privileges have been granted to the producers of things new and useful in art, science, literature, and mechanics. Upon the experience and practical workings of the various systems of the Old World, our laws and practice have been founded, the English theories entering most largely into them. Prior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, some of the States, or provincial governments, granted to inventors exclusive privileges, but for obvious reasons these were of little or no value. By act of April 10, 1790, the first American patent system was founded. Thomas Jefferson inspired it, and may be said to have been the father of the American Patent Office. He took great pride in it, it is said, and gave personal consideration to every application that was made for a patent during the years between 1790 and 1793, while the power of revision and rejection granted by that act remained in force. It is related that the granting of a patent was held in these early times quite an event in the history of the State Department, where the clerical part of the work was performed.
JEFFERSON'S GREAT INTEREST IN PATENTS
It is a matter of tradition, handed down to us from generation to generation by those who love to speak of Mr. Jefferson and his virtues and eccentricities, that when an application for a patent was made under the first act, he would summon Mr. Henry Knox, of Massachusetts, who was Secretary of War, and Mr. Edmund Randolph, of Virginia, who was Attorney-General, these officials being designated by the act, with the Secretary of State, a tribunal to examine and grant patents; and that these three distinguished officials would examine the application critically, scrutinizing each point of the specification and claims carefully and rigorously. The result of this examination was that during the first year a majority of the applications failed to pass the ordeal, and only three patents were granted. In those days every step in the issuing of a patent was taken with great care and caution, Mr. Jefferson seeking always to impress upon the minds of his officers and the public that granting of a patent was a matter of no ordinary importance. During the year 1791, thirty-three patents were granted, and in 1792 the number was eleven, and in 1793 twenty, making sixty-seven in all under the first statute.
THE FIRST BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
The law of 1790, laying the foundation of the system which has grown to such proportions, constituted a tribunal, as before stated, consisting of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney-General of the United States, whose duty it was, according to the language of the act, "to grant patents for any such useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device as they should deem sufficiently useful and important." This language in the act was held to give this board authority to refuse patents for want of novelty in invention or insufficiency of utility or importance, which authority was, as before remarked, exercised with great rigor.
THE FIRST PATENT LAWS AND THEIR DEFECTS
The first act required that patents should not be granted for more than fourteen years, and there was no provision for an extension. It required that "a written specification be filed with the Secretary of State containing a description of the article desired to be patented, accompanied with drafts or models, and explanations and models." It also required that the specification should be so particular, and the models so exact, as not only to distinguish the invention or discovery from other things before known and used, but also to enable a workman or other person skilled in the art or manufacture whereof it was a branch, or wherewith it might be nearest connected, to make, construct or use the same, to the end that the public might have the full benefit thereof after the expiration of the patent term." This law also directed the Secretary of State to furnish copies of any such specification, and to permit any such models to be copied by any person making application therefor. The act also provided for the repeal of any patent obtained surreptitiously or by false suggestion, and that in all suits brought for the repeal of a patent so obtained, the original patent or specification should be prima facie evidence of priority of invention. It provided no remedy for interfering applications, and apart from the thorough inspection it required it was, read by the light of the present practice, exceedingly defective. It was in many respects more equitable to all classes than the law which superseded it. There was no provision for an appeal from the decision of the tribunal above named by the act of 1790, and the strictness with which it exercised its powers was the cause of serious complaint. Inventors contended that these officers exercised arbitrary powers, and that they were, by education and interest, hostile to the classes who sought the benefits of the Patent Law.
THE FIRST PATENT FEES
There is no doubt but that this was true to a greater or less extent, or rather it is true that they reluctantly granted patent privileges from a well-settled conviction that a too liberal exercise of that power would be detrimental to the interests of the country. Mr. Jefferson, however, if not his associates, held the view that the patent law was not framed to collect revenue, but to encourage the production of something new and useful, and, therefore, believed in dealing liberally with those to whom patent-rights were granted, and the act of 1790 prescribed the following fees for granting of patents, which are in striking contrast with those exacted by the act of 1793, which was framed by those who were supposed to favor the classes seeking patent privileges. "For receiving and filing the petition, fifty cents; for filing specifications, per copy sheet containing one hundred words, ten cents; for making out the patent, two dollars; for affixing the great seal, one dollar; for indorsing the day of delivering the same to the patentee, including all intermediate services, twenty cents." When the patent under this act passed the ordeal of the board, it still required the certificate of the Attorney-General and the signature of the President to make it complete. The impetus given to inventive genius by the act of 1790 created interests hostile to the power of revision and rejection which it authorized, and so rapidly did they develop that in 1793, by the act of February 24, this power was destroyed, much to the detriment of the material interests of the country.
HOSTILE INTERESTS CRITICISE MR. JEFFERSON
Just who drew the act of 1793 is not known, but that it met with Mr. Jefferson's opposition is a matter of history. It is said that he pointed out the consequences which would result from breaking down the barriers thrown around the granting of patents by the act of 1790, and held that the promiscuous granting of exclusive privileges, or "the creation of monopolies," as he called them, in any art or industry, was against the theory of popular government and pernicious in its effects. But the interests which contended for a thorough revision of the original act were too strong for Mr. Jefferson's objections; for at that time, although his patriotism was not questioned nor his motives impugned, he was looked upon as clinging to theories tenaciously, to the detriment of the practical needs and efficiency of the public service. After the act of 1793 became a law, the control of the patent business still continuing in the State Department, the practice which prevailed and the construction which was put upon the law was that the granting of patents under it was a mere ministerial act, and that the term "useful" as used in this act was only in contradistinction to hurtful, injurious, or pernicious. Some contended that this construction by the Department was dictated by a desire to rebuke the authors of the act, and to demonstrate the correctness of the views, as to its effects, expressed by its opponents. But the highest authority that can be reached ascribes it to a disinclination on the part of the Secretary to exercise a power of so great importance where it was not clearly and distinctly granted, and the same authority remarks "that it may be reasonably doubted whether it was the intention of Congress to confer such a power on the Secretary of State alone, since no provision is made by it for an appeal or other remedy for an incorrect decision adverse to the applicant. Besides, any person occupying that station might be supposed as little qualified, by an acquaintance with the appropriate branches of science or of the arts, to decide such questions as any other officer of the Government. And were he to undertake the task of such an examination as would be necessary to a decision in each case, he would have little time for other official duties."
This reasoning is borne out by the entire language of the act, and there can be little doubt that Mr. Jefferson's construction of it, that it took away from him all power of revision, was in strict accordance with its letter and spirit.
DISCRIMINATION IN FAVOR OF AMERICAN CITIZENS
The act of 1790 made no distinction between citizens of the United States and aliens as to their rights under the patent law, but the act of 1793 refused patents to persons not citizens of the United States. By an act passed April 17, 1800, the law was so amended as to give aliens who had resided two years in this country the same rights as citizens, provided they file an affidavit with their application, setting forth their desire and inclination to become citizens of the United States. The act of 1793 was in general construction much the same as that of 1790, except that the power of rejection was destroyed, and the duty of granting patents lodged with the Secretary of State alone. It still required, however, the certificate of the Attorney-General as to the correctness of form to be affixed, and also the signature of the President. This statute provided that interfering applications should be submitted to the arbitration of three persons, one of whom was to be chosen by each of the applicants, and the third to be appointed by the Secretary of State. The decision of this tribunal was to be final, and if either party refused to go into arbitration, the patent was to issue to the opposing party. There was no provision for an extension of the patent.
ECCENTRICITIES OF THE FIRST SUPERINTENDENT
During the years from 1790 to 1802 a single clerk in the State Department performed the work of the Patent Office, and a dozen pigeon-holes contained the entire records. In that year quite a noted scientific gentleman by the name of Dr. Thornton was appointed by Mr. Jefferson to the Office, and he was thereafter styled its "Superintendent." For twenty-six years he was the autocrat of the Patent Office, and some queer stories are related as to his management of its affairs. An official of the Department relates that during his superintendence he conceived himself to be invested with much discretionary power, for he held to the maxim that "the patent law was made solely for the encouragement of authors and inventors, and not to collect revenue." He would therefore exercise his judgment about the payment of fees, the result being, that after his death there was quite a deficit between the amount that was and that should have been to the credit of the patent fund in the Treasury. His successor, in commenting upon the fact, conveys the impression that it was the liberality with which the doctor dealt with patentees, and not any personal dishonesty on his part which caused the deficit. This lack of system, however, brought about good results, for it created the practice of recording all patents granted, which had never before been done with any regularity, although the law required it. During Dr. Thornton's administration of the Office it was no unusual thing to find the doctor a co-patentee, while he was determining all questions which might arise under the law and the practice which he himself dictated.
DR. THORNTON'S CORRESPONDENCE
Dr. Thornton took great interest in the Office, and he dictated its action with a power that knew no master. The duties of his position not being onerous, he conducted an extended correspondence upon scientific subjects with the patent officials of the Old World and scientists generally, which he left as a part of the archives of the Office when he died, "as a monument of his fidelity to and interest in the advancement of American mechanics." A story is told of him that during the war of 1812, when the British captured the city of Washington and destroyed the Capitol building, a loaded cannon was trained upon the Patent Office for the purpose of destroying it, and he is said to have put himself before the gun, and in a frenzy of excitement exclaimed, "Are you Englishmen, or only Goths and Vandals? This is the Patent Office, a depository of the ingenuity and inventions of the American nation, in which the whole civilized world is interested. Would you destroy it? If so, fire away, and let the charge pass through my body." The effect is said to have been magical upon the soldiers, and to have saved the Patent Office from destruction.
THE FIRST INVESTIGATION
A Mr. Jones succeeded Dr. Thornton as Superintendent of the Patent Office, and from 1828 till 1830 administered its affairs. Dr. J.D. Craig succeeded to the position in the last-named year and remained until 1836. The first record of an investigation into the conduct of the officials of the Patent Office was during his administration, when one William P. Elliot, a former employee of the Office, charged Mr. Craig with exercising arbitrary powers in issuing three or more patents for the same invention; with paying no attention to interfering applications, and with failing to keep a record of the applications; with destroying the correspondence of the Office for forty years prior to his tenure, and his total incompetence to discharge the duties of his office. The Secretary of State ordered an investigation into the charges on the 17th of December 1833, and the testimony offered is of a very amusing character. It demonstrates the fact that Dr. Craig had run the Office to suit himself, regardless of law or custom. The Secretary of State censured the Superintendent, and laid down some plain business rules for the future government of the Office, which, it is said, were strictly followed.
"THE KEEPER OF THE PATENTS"
On the 28th of April, 1810, Congress passed an act authorizing the President to erect or procure by purchase a building suitable for the accommodation of the General Post Office, and of the "office of the Keeper of the Patents," in such situation and finished in such manner as the interest of the United States and the safety and convenience of those officers, respectively, and the arrangement of the models in the Patent Office should, in his opinion, require. The sum of $20,000 was appropriated for the purposes expressed in the act, and a building purchased on the site now occupied by the Post Office Department. By act of March 7, 1812, a further appropriation of $9,553.91 was made to repair it. Previous to this time the Patent Office was in the building at present occupied by the War Department, and even at this early day so important a branch of the public service had it become that it was deemed best to provide more space for it. In 1812 it was removed to a building standing on the site occupied by the present Post Office Department building, where it remained until destroyed by fire in 1836.
PROGRESS OF INVENTION
During the years from 1790 to 1812 inventors confined themselves almost wholly to agricultural and commercial objects. Implements for tilling the soil and converting its products and machinery for navigation attracted most attention. Manufactures, except of a purely domestic character for domestic purposes, were hardly known. The arts were poorly understood and little cultivated. The necessities of the new world drove its enterprise into other channels, and its people looked to Europe for manufactured products not directly connected with the necessities of life or demanded by the development of its commerce and agriculture. The war of 1812, however, forced our people to attempt production in many branches of manufacture and industry heretofore almost wholly uncultivated, and the result was the most remarkable development of human ingenuity ever known to any age or country. It is a source of great regret that no well-preserved history of American inventions dating from this time is in existence, and that no classified list of models which were in the Office at the time of the fire in 1836 can be obtained. The earliest date that can be reached is January 21, 1823, and that is only partially complete, but it gives the number in the most important classes as follows:
List of models in the Patent Office January 21, 1823
Propelling-boats ................................... 38
Carding-machines ................................... 8
Making Carriage-wheels ............................. 4
Plows .............................................. 65
Thrashing-machines ................................. 20
Winnowing-machines ................................. 25
Bridges ............................................ 13
Saw-mills .......................................... 26
Water-mills ........................................ 17
Windmills .......................................... 7
Water-wheels ....................................... 26
Pumps .............................................. 66
Presses ............................................ 56
Looms .............................................. 45
Stocking-looms ..................................... 3
Spinning-machines .................................. 28
Fire-engines ....................................... 10
Steam-mills ........................................ 14
Nail-cutting Machines .............................. 95
Machines for Making Barrels, &c. ................... 1
Mud-machines ....................................... 7
Flax-dressing Machines ............................. 6
File-cutting Machines .............................. 6
Machines for Cutting Dye-woods ..................... 6
Cloth-shearing Machines ............................ 16
Straw-cutting machines ............................. 10
Boring-machines .................................... 3
Locks .............................................. 12
Guns ............................................... 2
For various other purposes ...................... 1,184
These models were classified as follows:
CLASSIFICATION OF THE MODELS
I -- Agriculture -- Plows; Harrows: Cultivators; Planting; Seeding; Mowing, and Thrashing Machines; Rakes; Wheat-fans; Straw-cutters, &c.
II -- Factory Machinery -- For Cotton, Wool, Flax, Hemp, Paper-rolling and Slitting Mills, Nail-cutters, &c.
III -- Navigation -- Ships, Boats, Marine Railways, Canal-locks, Mud-machines, Dry-docks, &c.
IV -- Land Works -- Railways, Roads, Bridges, Excavating and Boring Machines, Pile-engines, &c.
V -- Common Trades -- Brick-making and Planing-machines, Trip-hammers, Bellows, Turning-lathes, Chains, Washing-machines, Household Furniture and Utensils; also Boots, Shoes, Saddles, Harness, &c.
VI -- Wheel Carriages -- Coaches, Chairs, Wagons, Carts, Waywisers, Mail-bags, Boats, &c.
VII -- Hydraulics -- Pumps, Fire-engines, Hose-valves, &c.
VIII -- Calorific and Steam Apparatus -- Furnaces, Fire-places, Stoves; Boilers, Stills, Steam-engines, &c.
IX -- Mills -- Water and other Wheels, Grist-mills, Saw-mills, and the various parts of their machinery.
X -- Lever and Screw Power -- Applied to Printing, Coining, and other Presses.
XI -- Arms -- Cannons, Mortars, Muskets, Rifles, Pistols, Percussion, and other Locks, Swords, &c.
XII -- Mathematical Instruments -- For Surveying, Mining, and Nautical purposes.
XIII -- Chemical Compositions -- Patent Medicines, Cements, Dyes, &c.
XIV -- Fine Arts -- Musical Instruments, Paints, Varnishes, Gildings, Sculpture, Architecture, and Gardening.
ABUSES OF THE FIRST LAWS
From 1790 to the re-organization of the Patent Office in 1836 there were granted 11,348 patents, a large number of which, on account of lack of novelty or usefulness, were valueless, but among them were some of the most important inventions of the age. The abuses which grew out of the promiscuous granting of patents without further inquiry than as to the payment of the fee and the form of the application attracted public attention in the early part of the present century, but it was not until 1836 that opposition to this system was strong enough to invoke congressional action. Early in that year Senator Ruggles of Maine, who was the early champion of a reform of the abuses which the act of 1793 made possible, moved in the Senate for "a select committee of five to take into consideration the state and condition of the Patent Office and the laws relating to the issuing of patents for new and useful inventions and discoveries." The committee was appointed, and on the 28th day of April, of the same year, made an extended report, setting forth the abuses which had grown up as a necessary consequence of the act of 1793, and presented a bill for a re-organization of the Patent Office, which became a law on July 4, 1836.
REPORT OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE OF 1836 ON THE DEFECTS OF THE LAW OF 1793
Senator Ruggles, in making this report to the Senate, on the 28th of April, 1836, in speaking of the practical operations of this law and its effect upon inventors and the public, says:
"Under the act referred to, the Department of State has been going on, for more than forty years, issuing patents on every application, without any examination into the merits or novelty of the invention. And the evils which necessarily result from the law as it now exists, must continue to increase and multiply daily till Congress shall put a stop to them. Some of them are as follows:
A SUMMARY OF THE EVILS
"1. A considerable portion of all the patents granted are worthless and void, as conflicting with and infringing upon one another, or upon public rights not subject to patent privileges, arising either from a want of due attention to the specification of claim, or from the ignorance of the patentees of the state of the arts and manufactures, and of the inventions made in other countries, and even in our own.
"2. The country becomes flooded with patent monopolies, embarrassing to bona fide patentees, whose rights are thus invaded on all sides; and not less embarrassing to the community generally, in the use of even the most common machinery and long-known improvement in the arts and common manufactures of the country.
"3. Out of this interference and collision of patents and privileges, a great number of lawsuits arise, which are daily increasing to an alarming degree, onerous to the courts, ruinous to the parties, and injurious to society.
"4. It opens the door to frauds, which have already become extensive and serious. It is represented to the committee that it is not uncommon for persons to copy patented machines in the model-room; and, having made some slight immaterial alterations, they apply in the next room for patents. There being no power given to refuse them, patents are issued of course. Thus prepared, they go forth on a retailing expedition, selling out their patent rights for States, counties and townships, to those who have no means at hand of detecting the imposition, and who find, when it is too late, that they have purchased what the venders had no right to sell, and which they obtain thereby no right to use. This speculation in patent rights has become a regular business, and several hundred thousand dollars, it is estimated, are paid annually for void patents, many of which are thus fraudulently obtained.
"In this collision and interference of patents, the original and meritorious inventor sees his invention, to the perfection of which he has devoted much time and expense, pirated from him, and he must forego the reward which the law was intended to secure to him in the exclusive right it grants, or he must become involved in numerous and expensive lawsuits in distant and various parts of the country to protect and confirm his rights. If he be wise he will generally avoid the latter and submit to the former alternative of injustice, to which the Government, as the law now is, makes itself accessory. The practice is scarcely less reprehensible of taking out patents for what has been long in public use, and, what every one has, therefore, a right to use. The patentee in such cases being armed with the apparent authority of the Government, having the sanction of its highest officers, the seal of state, scours the country, and, by threats of prosecution, compels those who are found using the thing patented to pay the patent price or commutation tribute. This exaction, unjust and iniquitous as it is, is usually submitted to.
"The extent of the evils resulting from the unrestrained and promiscuous grants of patent privileges may be imagined when it is considered that they are now issued, since this year commenced, at the rate of more than a thousand a year; a considerable portion of which are doubtless void for want of originality in the inventions patented, either in whole or in some of the parts claimed as new.
"A necessary consequence is that patents, even for new and meritorious inventions, are so much depreciated in general estimation that they are of but little value to the patentee, and the object of the patent laws, that of promoting the arts by encouragement, is in a great measure defeated.
A REMEDY FOR THE EVIL
"To prevent these evils in future is the first and most desirable object of a revision and alteration of the existing laws on this subject. The most obvious, if not the only means of effecting it, appears to be to establish a check upon the granting of patents, allowing them to issue only for such inventions as are in fact new and entitled, by the merit of originality and utility, to be protected by law. The difficulty encountered in effecting this is in determining what that check shall be, in whom the power to judge of inventions before granting a patent can safely be reposed, and how its exercise can be regulated and guarded to prevent injustice, through mistake of judgment or otherwise, by which honest and meritorious inventors might suffer wrong."
With this history before them and these views of the necessities of the service, the Twenty-fourth Congress framed the act of 1836, which so completely revolutionized the American patent system. The experience of years has demonstrated the value of their work.
THE COMMITTEE'S REPORT ON THE BUSINESS OF THE OFFICE
In relation to the business of the Office, this report says: "The greatly increasing number of patents granted affords some indications of the improvements which have been going on in the useful arts from year to year. The average number issued annually from 1790 to 1800. The average number issued annually from 1790 to 1800 was but 26; from 1800 to 1810, the average number was 91; from 1810 to 1820, it was 200, and for the last ten years the average number has been 535. During the year 1835 there were issued 776; and there have been granted in the first quarter of the present year 274, being more in three months than were issued in the whole of the first period of ten years. In the 22 years preceding the war of 1812, the average annual number was 73. The first quarter of the present year indicates an aggregate for the year of 1,096; the amount of the duties on which will be upward of $32,000. The whole number issued at the Patent Office, under the laws of the United States, up to the 31st of March last, is 9,731. This is more than double the number which have been issued in England or France during the same period. In England, for ten years preceding 1830, the average number of patents granted in one year was 145."
NUMBER OF PATENTS GRANTED EACH YEAR FROM 1790
The number of patents granted each year from 1790 to July 4, 1836, is as follows:
In 1790, 3; in 1791, 33; in 1792, 11; in 1793, 20; in 1794, 22; in 1795, 12; in 1796, 44; in 1797, 51; in 1798, 28; in 1799, 44; in 1800, 41; in 1801, 44; in 1802, 65; in 1803, 97; in 1804, 84; in 1805, 57; in 1806, 63; in 1807, 99; in 1808, 158; in 1809, 203; in 1810, 223; in 1811, 215; in 1812, 238; in 1813, 181; in 1814, 210; in 1815, 173; in 1816, 206; in 1817, 174; in 1818, 222; in 1819, 156; in 1820, 155; in 1821, 168; in 1822, 200; in 1823, 173; in 1824, 228; in 1825, 204; in 1826, 323; in 1827, 331; in 1828, 368; in 1829, 447; in 1830, 544; in 1831, 573; in 1832, 474; in 1833, 586; in 1834, 630; in 1835, 757; in 1836, 723.
The fees which were the results of this business had accumulated a surplus on January 1, 1837, in the Treasury to the credit of the patent fund over and above all expenses incurred of $156,907.73.
In remarkable contrast to the above results stands the record of business transacted by the Office after its re-organization in 1836. The statement for the period extending from 1837 to 1877 is as follows:
Comparative statement of the business of the Patent Office
from 1837 to 1876, inclusive
Year App- Cav- Pats Cash Cash Surplus Deficit
lica- eats issd received expended
1837 ..... .... 435 $29,289.08 $33,506.98 .......... $4,217.90
1838 ..... .... 520 42,123.54 37,402.10 $4,721.44 .........
1839 ..... .... 425 37,260.00 34,543.51 2,716.49 .........
1840 735 228 473 38,056.51 39,020.67 .......... 1,964.16
1841 847 312 495 40,413.01 52,666.87 .......... 12,253.86
1842 761 391 517 36,505.68 31,241.48 5,264.20 .........
1843 819 315 531 35,315.81 30,776.96 4,538.85 .........
1844 1045 380 502 42,509.26 36,244.73 6,264.53 .........
1845 1246 452 502 51,076.14 39,395.65 11,680.49 .........
1846 1272 448 619 50,264.16 46,158.71 4,105.45 .........
1847 1531 553 572 63,111.19 41,878.35 21,232.84 .........
1848 1628 607 660 67,576.69 58,905.84 8,670.85 .........
1849 1955 595 1070 80,752.98 77,716.44 3,036.54 .........
1850 2193 602 995 86,927.05 80,100.95 6,816.10 .........
1851 2258 760 869 95,738.61 86,916.93 8,821.68 .........
1852 2639 996 1020 112,656.34 95,916.91 16,739.43 .........
1853 2673 901 958 121,527.45 132,869.83 .......... 11,342.38
1854 3324 868 1902 163,789.84 167,146.32 .......... 3,356.48
1855 4435 906 2024 216,459.35 179,540.33 36,919.02 .........
1856 4960 1024 2502 192,588.02 199,931.02 .......... 7,343.00
1857 4771 1010 2910 196,132.01 211,582.09 .......... 15,450.08
1858 5364 934 3710 203,716.16 193,193.74 10,522.42 .........
1859 6225 1097 4538 245,942.15 210,278.41 35,663.74 .........
1860 7653 1084 4819 256,352.59 252,820.80 3,531.79 .........
1861 4643 700 3340 137,354.44 221,491.91 .......... 84,137.47
1862 5038 824 3521 215,754.99 182,810.39 32,944.60 .........
1863 6014 787 4170 195,593.29 189,414.14 6,179.15 .........
1864 6932 1063 5020 240,919.98 229,868.00 11,051.98 .........
1865 10664 1937 6616 348,791.84 274,199.34 74,592.50 .........
1866 15269 2723 9450 495,665.38 361,724.28 133,941.10 .........
1867 21276 3597 13015 646,581.92 639,263.32 7,318.60 .........
1868 20420 3705 13378 681,565.86 628,679.77 52,886.09 .........
1869 19271 3624 13986 693,145.81 486,430.78 206,715.03 .........
1870 19171 3273 13321 669,456.76 557,149.19 112,307.57 .........
1871 19472 3366 13033 678,716.46 560,595.08 118,121.38 .........
1872 18246 3090 13500 699,726.39 665,591.36 34,135.03 .........
1873 20414 3248 12864 703,191.77 691,178.98 12,012.79 .........
1874 21602 3181 13599 738,278.17 679,288.41 58,989.76 .........
1875 21638 3094 16288 743,453.36 721,657.71 21,795.65 .........
1876 21425 2697 17026 757,987.65 652,542.60 105,445.05 .........
1877 14871 2216 10416 556,062.18 448,476.44 107,585.74 .........
The figures for 1877 comprehend the operations of the Office from January 1, 1877, to and including September 30, 1877. The rapid increase of the patent business since 1836 can be readily seen by a comparison of the figures given in the two statements of the business of the Office. From 1790 to 1837, a period of forty six years, 11,445 patents were granted, yielding a profit to the Office of $156,907.73 From January 1, 1837, to September 30, 1877, a period of about forty-one years, there were issued 192,332 patents, including re-issues, which, together with the other business, placed to the credit of the patent fund on September 30, 1877, $1,099.940.41.
From 1793 to 1868, the moneys earned by the Patent Office were kept as a separate fund in the Treasury, known as "the patent fund." The Commissioner of Patents drew against it for the expenses of his Office, and the surplus, over and above the expenses, was kept intact and credited to this fund, and permitted to accumulate. On July 20, 1868, Congress passed an act "that all money to the credit of the patent fund, or in the hands of the Commissioner of Patents, and all moneys thereafter received at the Patent Office, for any purpose or from any source whatever, shall be paid into the Treasury as received, without any deduction whatever." By this act the accumulation of the profits of the Patent Office for 75 years was turned into the common fund of the Treasury, and appropriations made for its support the same as for the other Departments of the Government. Although a separate account is kept with the Patent Office, there is no fund now intact in the Treasury representing its accumulations and known as "the patent fund."
PROVISIONS OF THE LAW OF 1836
The committee appointed by the Senate in 1836 presented with its report a bill for the re-organization of the Patent Office, which became a law on the 4th of July of the same year. By this statute the Patent Office was created as a bureau of the Department of State, whose chief officer was to be called Commissioner of Patents; he was to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. By the same act a chief clerk of the Patent Office was provided for, who was to have custody of the seal and of the records and models of the Office, and was to perform all the duties of the Commissioner during his absence.
It also provided for an examining clerk at a salary of $1,500 a year, whose duties were the same as those of a principal examiner at present. Two clerks at $1,200 each and one at $1,000 were provided for, and also a machinist at $1,250 and a messenger at $700. The Commissioner and chief clerk were both required to give bonds for the faithful performance of the duties of their office. Under this statute patents were to be issued for a term not exceeding fourteen years, the fee for the same being $30. The patents might be extended for a period of seven years upon payment of an additional sum of $30, if the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of Patents, and the Solicitor of the Treasury,who were by the act appointed a board to hear and decide upon the evidence for or against the extension, should decide favorably. Notice of the extension was to be published in a Washington newspaper, and the board was to sit at the time and place given in the notice. This statute provided nearly the same regulations in relation to specifications, drawings and models as the original act of 1790. The same oath or affirmation as to the originality of the invention was also preserved. The most important feature of all was, however, the system of examination into novelty or usefulness which this act provided, and which has had such marked influence upon the patent interests of the country.
THE STATUTE ESTABLISHING A SYSTEM OF EXAMINATION
This section of the law provided "that the Commissioner shall make, or cause to be made, an examination of the alleged new invention or discovery; and if, on any such examination, it shall not appear to the Commissioner that the same had been invented or discovered by any other person in this country prior to the alleged invention or discovery thereof by the applicant, or that it had been patented or described in any printed publication, in this or any foreign country, or had been in public use or on sale with the applicant's consent or allowance prior to the application, 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 to the Commissioner that the applicant was not the original or first inventor of discoverer thereof, or that any part of that which is claimed as new had before been invented or discovered or patented or described in any printed publication in this or any foreign country, as aforesaid, 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 to embrace only that part of the invention or discovery which is new. In every such case, if the applicant shall elect to withdraw his application, relinquishing his claim to the model, he shall be entitled to receive back twenty dollars, part of the duty required by this act, on filing a notice in writing of such election in the Patent Office, a copy of which, certified by the Commissioner, shall be a sufficient warrant to the Treasurer for paying back to the said applicant the sum of twenty dollars. But if the applicant in such case shall persist in his claim for a patent, with or without any alteration of his specification, he shall be required to make oath or affirmation anew in manner as aforesaid; and if the specification and claim shall not have been so modified as in the opinion of the Commissioner shall entitle the applicant to a patent, he may, on appeal, and upon request in writing, have the decision of a board of examiners, to be comprised of three disinterested persons, who shall be appointed for that purpose by the Secretary of State, one of whom, at least, to be selected, if practicable and convenient, for his knowledge and skill in the particular art, manufacture, or branch of science to which the alleged invention appertains, who shall be under oath or affirmation for the faithful and impartial performance of the duty imposed upon them by said appointment. Said board shall be furnished with a certificate in writing of the opinion and decision of the Commissioner, stating the particular grounds of his objection, and the part or parts of the invention which he considers as not entitled to be patented; and the said board shall give reasonable notice to the applicant, as well as to the Commissioner, of the time and place of their meeting, that they may have an opportunity of furnishing them with such facts and evidences as they may deem necessary to a just decision; and it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to furnish to the board of examiners such information as he may possess relative to the matter under consideration; and on an examination and consideration of the matter by such board, it shall be in their power, or of a majority of them, to reverse the decision of the Commissioner, either in whole or in part, and, their opinion being certified to the Commissioner, he shall be governed thereby in the further proceedings to be had on such application: Provided, however, That before a board shall be instituted in any such case the applicant shall pay to the credit of the Treasury, as provided in the ninth section of this act, the sum of twenty-five dollars, and each of said persons so appointed shall be entitled to receive for his services in each case a sum not exceeding ten dollars, to be determined and paid by the Commissioner out of any moneys in his hands, which shall be in full compensation to the persons who may be so appointed for their examination and certificate as aforesaid."
Under this act the present system of examination was instituted. The machinery which it constituted in case of an appeal being desired from the primary examiner remained in force until March 2, 1861, when Congress passed an act creating a tribunal consisting of three persons, to be known as Examiners-in-Chief. But sometimes persons not connected with the Office were called upon to act as judges in an appeal case. As a new board was organized for such cases, there was often a want of harmony among its members regarding rules of procedure and lack of legal training evident in the decisions reached. When the patent business began to increase rapidly, this system failed to meet the demands of the Office in consequence of the great amount of litigation which arose. Hence the present Board of Appeals was constituted, whose duty it is to hear and determine all questions on appeal from the decisions of the primary examiners.
The statute of 1836 embodied most of the methods for disposing of interfering applications that are now in force. It also provided for an arrangement and classification of models in the Office, so that they should be easy of access for study and inspection. This statute also laid the foundation for the creation of the present valuable scientific library of the Office, and $1,500 was appropriated for it. Up to the time of the fire, in 1836, $1,000 had been spent upon a few unimportant books, which were all destroyed except a single volume of Repertory of Arts. This is now preserved in the United States Patent Office library as the only existing relic of the conflagration of December 15, 1836.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ALIENS
The statute of 1836 retained the discrimination in favor of American patentees, but they were so modified as to only require a residence of one year, and provided that a subject of Great Britain should pay $500 upon making his application, and for all other foreign applicants the fee was $300. This discrimination was kept up in favor of American inventors until the act of March 2, 1861, abolished it. This law provided that there should be no discrimination against aliens unless the country to which they owed allegiance discriminated against citizens of the United States.
THE CAVEAT SYSTEM
The law of 1836 created what is known as the caveat system, by which an inventor could, by paying $20, file in the Patent Office a caveat setting forth the design and purpose of his invention, its principal and distinguishing characteristics, and praying for protection of his right until he could mature his invention. This paper was to be filed in the confidential archives of the Office, and when the patent was taken out, the sum of $20 deposited as a fee for filing the caveat was to apply upon the regular fees for issuing the patent.
This section also provided that if within one year from the time of filing the caveat any interfering application should be filed it was the duty of the Commissioner to deposit this specification, drawings, and models in the confidential archives of the Office, and to give notice to the person filing the caveat of such interfering application, and he must within three months mature his patent and file his description, specification, drawings, and models, or lose the benefit of the security which the filing of his caveat gave him. This act continued in force exactly as it was passed until March 2, 1861, when the fee was reduced to $10, as at present, and the refunding of any part of the sum or placing it to the credit of the inventor when the application was finally made for a patent, was forbidden.
CONGRESS ASSUMES THE SOLE RIGHT TO EXTEND PATENTS
The tribunal which was created by Congress (see preceding section under heading, "Provisions of the act of 1826") for the purpose of hearing and determining applications for extension of patents, continued to exercise that power until May 27, 1848, when Congress passed an act which transferred that duty to the Commissioner of Patents alone. The Commissioner had sole authority for the extension of patents until March 2, 1861, when Congress passed an act extending the patent term to 17 years, and provided that a patent thereafter granted should not be extended. Extensions were, however, made after the passage of this law, of patents granted prior to 1861, but upon patents granted after that date it required a special act of Congress in each case for the Commissioner to grant an extension. And it still requires special legislation to secure an extension.
THE NEW ORGANIZATION
Soon after the passage of the law of 1836 the Patent Office was re-organized, and Henry L. Ellsworth, of Connecticut, was appointed Commissioner of Patents, J.W. Hand chief clerk, Chas. M. Keller examiner of patents, and Henry Stone draftsman. Thomas Johns had charge of files, records, and preparation of official copies and recording of assignments. John J. Roane was appointed clerk for preparing and recording all patents issued. Hazard Knowles machinist, in charge of models, and Henry Bishop messenger.
This organization of the Patent Office was regarded by many as exceedingly extravagant, although its entire force consisted of eight people. Immediately after its organization the Commissioner set at work fitting up a model-room in an upper room of the old Post Office building, which was 40 by 80 feet, and the Commissioner spoke of the model-room as "one of the grandest evidences of inventive genius on the globe." The good results of the system of examination established by this act were early manifest, for in the first part of 1836 under the old system, 625 patents were granted, while in the last half of 1836, under the new law, there were only 97. More than two-thirds of all the applications made were rejected for either want of novelty or usefulness.
ANOTHER COMMITTEE REPORT
After the conflagration of 1836, by which public attention was again directed to the Patent Office, Senator Ruggles, as chairman of the special committee to examine into the extent of the loss by the burning of the Patent Office, said, in relation to this system of examination, "That the provision interdicting the granting of patents for what is not new and original, is the most valuable feature of the act of July last." In the same report, in speaking of the duties of the examiner, he gives the following as the views of the committee as to his duties, and what his qualifications should be:
QUALIFICATIONS OF A GOOD EXAMINER
"It is his business to make himself fully acquainted with the principles of the invention for which a patent is sought, and to make a thorough investigation of all that has been before known or invented either in Europe or America, on the particular subject presented for his examination. He must ascertain how far the invention interferes in any of its parts with other previous inventions or things previously in use. He must point out and describe the extent of such collision and interference, that the applicant may have the benefit of the information in so shaping or restricting his claim of originality as not to trespass upon the rights of others. The applicant should also be referred to the sources of this information, that he may be able to satisfy himself on the particular points of interference. This frequently leads to a lengthy correspondence, before the applicant can be persuaded that his invention or some rejected part of it is not new. He often employs skillful and persevering counsel to urge and enforce by argument new views of the principles of his invention, who sometimes brings to his aid much mechanical astuteness. The examiner must also see that the specification accords with the drawing, and that the model is in conformity with both.
"An efficient and just discharge of the duties, it is obvious, requires extensive scientific attainments, and a general knowledge of the arts, manufactures, and the mechanism used in every branch of business in which improvements are sought to be patented, and of the principles embraced in the ten thousand inventions patented in the United States, and of the thirty thousand patented in Europe. He must moreover possess a familiar knowledge of the statute and common law on the subject, and the judicial decisions both in England and our own country, in patent cases. This service is important, as it is often difficult and laborious. Here is the first check upon attempts to palm off old inventions for new, or to interfere with the rights of others previously acquired. This is also the source whence the honest and meritorious inventor may look for aid and direction in so framing his specification as that he may be able to sustain his patent when issued and find security and protection against expensive and fruitless litigation.
"Suitable qualifications for these duties are rare, and cannot be obtained without such compensation as they will readily command in other employment. It will, undoubtedly, be wise in the Government to affix such salary to this office as will secure the best talent and qualifications. Although an appeal is allowed by law, yet, if a high character is given to it, this will be the best, as it is the most appropriate tribunal for judging of these subjects, and its decisions commanding respect and confidence, there will be but little inclination to take exceptions to its judgment. Thus will be cut off a fruitful source of lawsuits, and our court calendars will cease to be crowded with cases arising out of the interfering rights of patentees. Meritorious inventors will be secure in their rights, and the public relieved from imposition and embarrassment. These are among the first of the objects and merits of the act of last session."
FORCE OF THESE VIEWS IN 1877
These views are of as much force today, in their application to the duties of an examiner, as they were in 1836, and it is not improper to commend here the judgment and foresight of those who uttered them, as well as framed the law upon which the Patent Office has been founded, and upon which all legislation in relation thereto has been built. It is a most creditable monument to their ability and integrity that nearly every essential feature of the law of 1836 is in full force and effect in the administration of their affairs of the Patent Office at the present time.
It has been modified and enlarged in accordance with the growing interest which centered in and about the office, and of course the machinery which it set in motion has been increased and improved in accordance with the ever-changing demands of the age. These improvements are manifold and enter into every branch of public business. What was theory in 1836 is today the perfection of practical operation, each part of the machinery being so close and regular in its workings as to cause scarcely a jar in the vast business it transacts.
As a matter of interest to many who are not familiar with the actual work of an examiner under this law, and the existing rules and practice of the office, we proceed briefly to describe it:
After an application for a patent is completed by filing specification, petition, oath, and drawing, the case is sent to the examiner of the class to which it belongs. His duty is to grant or refuse a patent, as may appear right, after due examination. He is required, first, to diligently scrutinize the specification, to determine if is in proper form and suitable language, himself correcting slight inaccuracies in grammar or orthography; and second, to compare the description of the device in the specification with the drawing and model, as well as with the applicant's statement of the nature of his invention and his specific claims, all of which must agree with one another. If objectionable in form or substance, or if any of the parts named conflict with each other, the attention of the applicant is called to the deficiencies in the first office letter, and he has an opportunity to correct them by amendment.
EXAMINATION RELATES TO BOTH NOVELTY AND UTILITY
This examination relates to both the novelty and utility of the alleged invention. The latter question is easily disposed of, since, under the rulings of the office and the courts, every invention is considered "useful" if not actually found pernicious or dangerous. It sometimes occurs that a mechanical device is pronounced inoperative and a patent refused, but in such a case the applicant is allowed to file affidavits to the contrary. In fact, if the applicant's faith in the utility of his invention is strong enough to lead him to pay the office fees, he is thought to be the best judge of this question.
The question of novelty is hard to decide. This is determined by a reference to American and foreign patents, printed scientific works in all languages, and all the information the examiner is able to collect from all sources relating to the art upon which he is especially employed.
The drawings of American patents are arranged by classes for the readiest reference. The English drawings are in bound volumes, with copious indexes and digests. These are kept in the library. In many examiner's rooms are manuscript digests, prepared with great labor, and setting forth the subject matter of all patents belonging to the particular class under that examiners special supervision. The library is filled with works on mechanics, and some that relate to every branch of industry.
With all these facilities, which are very imperfectly set forth here, the work of the examiner is intricate and delicate. It is an occurrence most rare for a device to be presented which is in all its features fully anticipated, either in some former patent or printed publication. The question usually turns upon distinctive claims for special features in the device, wherein it is alleged to differ from others of the same kind, and the solution of this question involves the nicest discrimination, both as to mechanical construction and interpretation of language and law.
APPEALS FROM EXAMINER'S DECISIONS
After a rejection of his claims, or any part of them, the applicant may amend them, and the new claims are again examined. A second rejection upon the same reference is "final," whereupon the applicant may, if he desires, take an appeal to the Board of Examiners-in-Chief. Should the Board sustain the examiner in his decision, an appeal lies to the Commissioner in person. Should the examiner be reversed, the case is remanded to him for issue.
After rejection by the examiner, the applicant may amend at any time within two years; but if no action is made in that time, the application is considered abandoned.
All applications are examined in the order of their receipt by the examiner. The only exception to this rule are re-issues, extensions, and original applications in which the invention is deemed of special value to the Government, and a request for its speedy examination is made by the head of an Executive Department.
QUALIFICATIONS OF AN EXAMINER IN 1877
Close study, thorough knowledge of the art, keen discernment, and the highest intellectual training are demanded of the examiner. His decision, if favorable to the patent, is final; if unfavorable, it is liable to withstand the scrutiny of an active attorney who will bend all his energies to have it reversed, of the Board of Appeals, of the Commissioner of Patents, or possibly of the supreme court of the District of Columbia, to all of whom the case may successively be appealed. If he allows the case, and the patent ever gets into litigation, his action may be reversed by a United States court. Every action the examiner makes, every letter he writes, is preserved as part of the record, and he makes none without the possibility before him of some such review.
THE AMERICAN SYSTEM COMPARED WITH THAT OF OTHER COUNTRIES
The examination of an application prior to the grant of a patent, and the restriction of the patent to what is new therein, is the essence of the American patent system. The same plan has been recently adopted in a modified form by the government of the Dominion of Canada, and was favorably considered by the World's Patent Congress at Vienna in 1873, and by official representatives of the British and French governments, although it has not yet been adopted in those countries.
Several of the South American republics have patent systems copied mainly from that of the United States, but all these are yet in their infancy.
Until recently German patents were granted only by favor of the crown. A law, based on the English system, was enacted May 25, 1877, and a representative of the German government is now on his way to this country to examine and report upon the operation of our law.
An approximation to the whole number of patents every issued for mechanical inventions in civilized countries would give, to the United States, 200,000; Great Britain, 100,000; France, 60,000; all other countries together 12,000; and these numbers give not a bad idea of the industrial progress of the world during the century. A careful investigation will demonstrate that the progress in mechanics has been just about in proportion to number of patents granted.
Of course there are objections, and serious ones, too, that could be urged against the American system, and experience has indicated some important changes, which will no doubt receive the attention of the Commissioner of Patents in his forthcoming report. A careful review of the different systems in operation in the old world, however, demonstrates the fact that our practice produces more favorable results than any other, and is generally more satisfactory to all concerned, besides being more economical.
The English law allows a patent to any one who makes application in due form. The fees for a patent for fourteen years amount to about $800, and to save these fees an inventor usually employs experts to carefully examine the records of English patents. It may happen, however, (and frequently does,) that from two to ten patents are granted to different parties for the same device. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a person from copying verbatim a patent granted yesterday and procuring a duplicate for himself today, as the grant is to the person who "communicates," (and pays the fee,) and not necessarily to the inventor. The owners of patents must establish their rights in the courts before their claims are respected.
In making application for an English patent a specification and an elaborate drawing are required, but no model. The drawings are copied by photo-lithography, (an improvement borrowed from the United States Patent Office within the past year,) and the patent published as soon as granted.
In France applications are published in official form, accompanied by drawings. If a patent is granted the owner pays a tax of 100 francs -- say $20 -- per annum for fourteen years. At the expiration of the patent by lapse of time or failure to pay the tax, it is published for the information of the people, and becomes public property.
The American system requires a model, drawing, and specification with each application, and a fee of $15. This fee pays for the examination, and in return for it the applicant is informed, from the best official data, as to whether his alleged invention is new in whole or in part. If it possesses novelty, he can obtain a patent by the payment of an additional $20, making $35 in all, as the fee for a patent for seventeen years. (When a case is appealed from adverse decision of the examiner there are small additional fees.) The patent is published as soon as granted, and a certified copy of the specification and a photo-lithograph of the drawing sent to every United States court, where it is open to public inspection. Other copies are kept for sale by the Patent Office, and a digest of the case, containing the claims and vital part of the drawing, is published in the weekly OFFICIAL GAZETTE, which is sent free to eight libraries in each congressional district, and is sent to subscribers at $5 per annum.
THE FIRE OF 1836
On the morning of the 15th of December, 1836, the Post Office building was discovered to be on fire, and, although many of the archives of the General Post Office Department were saved, not a thing was preserved in the Patent Office, save one volume from the library, of little value to anyone. There is no graphic description and very little on record of interest in reference to this important event.
Mr. William T. Steiger, who is still living, and was a clerk in the Office, and resided on E street, directly opposite the Patent Office, says that he was awakened about half past three o'clock in the morning by the information that the Office was on fire. He dressed himself and ran out, and although the fire had evidently been burning for some time, only four or five persons were on the ground. He ascended the steps of the Patent Office building and tried to get in at the east door, but could not do it on account of the dense smoke issuing from it. He then made efforts to spread the alarm, running down Pennsylvania avenue, and from there to C street, where the Commissioner lived. When he and the Commissioner returned to the building they made efforts to reach the Patent Office, but the fire had made such progress their attempts were futile, and everything was destroyed.
CAUSE OF THE FIRE
The Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads submitted, January 20, 1837, a report on the destruction of the Post Office, in which they said that they had examined 32 persons, and that the evidence taken was conclusive that the fire originated in the cellar under the city post office, but in which room they were unable to say with certainty. They were also unable to charge the fire to any particular cause, although they remarked that the ashes which came from the wood fires about the building were stored in a pine box holding from 15 to 20 bushels. This box was in a room in which the Patent Office had its winter wood stored. "It is in evidence," the committee remarks, "that a year before, fire had been discovered in this box but had been extinguished before any damage was done." And the committee adds that "it is possible that the fire originated in this box." A correspondent of the "Journal of Commerce" ascribes the cause of the fire to the ash box, and says:
"These ashes are the perquisites of some of the minor officials, and were gathered in the cellar until they were called for by the purchasers. And when it is remembered that the dry pine wood used for kindling the fires was stored in the same room, there seems to be no necessity for resorting to supposed incendiarism in accounting for the mischief."
REPORT OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE EXTENT OF THE LOSS
On the 19th day of December, 1836, on motion of Senator Ruggles, of Maine, a committee of five was appointed to examine and report the extent of the loss sustained by the burning of the Patent Office, and to consider what measures ought to be adopted to repair the loss, and to establish such evidences of property in patented inventions as the destruction of the models and drawings may have rendered necessary for its security. On the 9th of January, 1837, the committee made an extended report in which they say "the Patent Office contained the largest collection of models in the world.
"It was an object of just pride to every American able to appreciate its value as an item in the estimate of national character, or the advantages and benefits derivable from high improvement in the useful arts -- a pride which must now stand rebuked by the improvidence which exposed so many memorials and evidence of the superiority of American genius to the destruction which has overtaken them.
RAPID PROGRESS OF AMERICAN INVENTORS
"The number of models was about seven thousand. Many of them displayed great talent, ingenuity, and mechanical science. The American inventions pertaining to the spinning of cotton and wool and the manufacture of fabrics, in many respects exceed those of any other nation, and reduced so much the expense of manufacture, that the British manufacturers were reluctantly obliged, at the expense of no little national pride, to lay aside their own machinery and adopt our improvements, to prevent our underselling them even in their home market. In this department were the inventions of Browne, Thorpe, Danforth, Couilliard, Calvert, and some others. The beautiful operative model of Wilkinson's machine for manufacturing weaver's reeds by one operation, was considered one of the most ingenious mechanical combinations ever invented. Of this character was Whittemore' celebrated machine for making wool-cards. There were several models of valuable improvements in shearing and napping cloth, patented to Swift, Stowell, Dewey, Parsons, Daniels, and others.
"In another department were several models of machines for manufacturing cut and wrought nails. The machinery for this purpose, which has reduced so much the price of that imported article, was of purely American origin, and was invented by Briggs, Perkins, Reed, Odiorne, and several others.
"The models of improvements in grist mills, saw-mills, water wheels, &c., were numerous.
AMERICAN INVENTIONS IN THE USE OF STEAM
"The application of steam power to the driving of all kinds of machinery for propelling boats, locomotives, mills, and factories, has brought out a great number of American inventions and improvements, displaying a degree of talent, ingenuity, and science highly creditable to our country. Some of the models in this department were very valuable. America claims the honor (contested, indeed, by England) of the first successful attempt to apply the power of steam to the propelling of vessels. The name of Fulton is associated with one of the noblest efforts of genius and science. It has often been regretted that no model was preserved of his steamboat, which was the first to demonstrate the practicability of making steam subservient to the purposes of useful navigation. There was, however, deposited in the Patent Office a volume of drawings elegantly executed by his own hand, delineating the various parts of the machinery he employed, and embracing three beautiful representations of his steamer making its first triumphant struggle against the opposing current of the Hudson. The steamer was represented passing through the Highlands, and at two or three other interesting points on the river, with a beautiful sketching of the surrounding scenery smiling as it were at the victory which science and arts had at last achieved over the power of the winds and the waters, and at the opening era of steam navigation, the benefits of which have since been so widely diffused. It contained also an account of his experiments on the resistance of fluids, and various estimates of the power required to propel vessels of various tonnage and form through the water at a greater or less speed. This volume, which should have been preserved among our choicest archives, shared the fate of everything else in the Office. What sum would be too great to be expended in replacing it?
AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY AND IMPLEMENTS
"The department of agriculture contained a great number of models of highly useful improvements in the implements of husbandry. The number of inventions which had for their object the advancement of the agricultural interests was about fifteen hundred; those which pertained to navigation were little short of a thousand. The inventions and improvements in factory machinery, and in the various manufactures, were upwards of two thousands. In the common mechanical trades there were as many more. It were vain to attempt to enumerate or classify them within the reasonable space of a report of the committee. There was no art or pursuit to which ingenuity and invention had not lent their aid.
"That this great national repository should have received so little consideration heretofore as to be left so long exposed to conflagration, which has at last swept every vestige of it from existence, cannot be too deeply deplored. But the reproach does not rest at the door of the present Congress. The act passed at his first session, re-organizing the Office, containing many important provisions for its management, and the appropriation for erecting a fire-proof building for the accommodation and preservation of the records, models, &c., which is now under construction, attests the interest inspired and the attention devoted to it, though, unfortunately, too late to rescue it from destruction."
REFLECTIONS ON THE USE OF MODELS
If this statement of the condition of the Patent Office was true in 1836, what might be said for the model room of the present time? Seven thousand models comprised what was then called the grandest collection in the world. If such solicitude was felt for its welfare when the patent system was just gaining a foothold, what could be said of it at the present day? And how varied and great are the interests affected, and what multitudes are thrilled at the destruction which has overtaken so large a portion of these representatives of American skill and industry.
The 7,000 models of 1836 had expanded to nearly 200,000 in 1877. They were arranged, before the fire, in classes, each class in chronological order. This vast collection illustrated to the eye of the visitor, almost at a glance, the growth of each art. Some of them, such as sewing machines, harvesters, and the like, were purely original American inventions. This collection was the one thing of all others which foreign visitors were eager to see, and it was universally admired and commended by them. There was nothing equal to it in the world. Besides being a grand example of the progress of American industry, it was a useful school for those who take an interest in mechanics, whether for profit or pleasure. It is in daily use by people of every class who are interested in industrial arts, as a record in which every stage of progress is to be found and opportunities for future improvements indicated.
As to its usefulness there has never been a question, opinions only varying as to the extent of its value for the purpose for which it is used. The intelligence which founded the Patent Office fully appreciated the value of the collection for which the foundation was then laid. The views of the committee upon this subject were fully set forth in a report made by Senator Ruggles, after the fire of 1836, from which the following quotations are made:
"The specifications, models, and drawings are required that, after the patent term shall have expired, the public may have the benefit of a disclosure of the invention, so full and intelligible that any one can apply its principles to practical use or make the foundation of further improvements.
VALUE OF MODELS
"It is a still more erroneous idea that no drawings or models of new inventions are of use to the public unless the machinery they represent is susceptible of a practical application to the use designed. Mechanical science, like all others, is matured and perfected by degrees, and by calling to its aid the investigations and ingenuity of various minds. Most inventions are but the foundation of progressive improvements. It is necessary to know what has been done in order to know what remains to be accomplished. Every age avails itself of the experience and discoveries of that which preceded it. Were it otherwise, knowledge would be stationary, and every generation, instead of being wiser than others gone by, would be employed in learning over again what had been acquired before. The drawings and models of even those inventions which are imperfect or incapable of producing the desired effect serve to show how far others have progressed, and either furnish hints for the full accomplishment of the design or as beacons to enable others to avoid fruitless labor and expense. Whoever would attempt to improve the arts must begin where others have left off; hence the model rooms of the Patent Office were constantly visited by men of genius and science from all sections of the country, and from Europe, where they were able at once to discover how far American invention had gone, and where they frequently derived important hints from inventions and contrivances of apparently but little value.
MODELS INDISPENSABLE FOR THE USE OF PATENT OFFICIALS
"They would seem, also, to be almost indispensable, in deciding upon new applications for patent, to enable the proper officers to judge of the originality of the invention, and to prevent the issuing of interfering patents. It often requires a very close examination of the principles of a machine, and a careful comparison of the models and drawings, to discover how far they interfere with previous inventions. The provision interdicting the granting of patents for what is not new and original is the most valuable feature of the act of July last. But it will be impossible for the Commissioner to administer the law in that particular, according to its intent, without models and drawings of inventions previously patented. The consequence would be, in effect, the restoration of a great portion of the evils of the former system in multiplying conflicting rights, leading to much perplexity and extensive litigation. Much of the ground traveled over in the last forty years would have to be traveled over again before the point could be reached at which we had arrived prior to the late conflagration.
RESTORATION OF LOST MODELS RECOMMENDED
"The committee therefore believe that it is important to the interest of the country, as well as to the security of individual rights, that measures be immediately adopted to replace, as far as practicable, the records, drawings, and models which have been destroyed. After much inquiry and consideration the committee are satisfied that, notwithstanding the apprehensions and anxiety so generally entertained, a restoration is practicable to a very gratifying extent. The first step must be to procure, for the purpose of being copied and recorded anew, the original patents. In most instances descriptions and specifications of the inventions, and in, perhaps, a sixth or eighth part of the cases, drawings also have been annexed to the patents when granted. Drawings have been attached only when referred to in the specifications. The whole number of patents is a little upwards of ten thousand. It is believed that from six to seven thousand may be obtained for record. Many of the deficient drawings may be obtained from patentees, or may be supplied by the assistance of those whose familiar knowledge of the inventions will enable them, aided by the specifications, to delineate them with much accuracy. Many copies heretofore certified from the record to be used as evidence in the courts will supply others.
MANY MODELS NEED NOT BE REPLACED
"Of the models, such as were trifling and unimportant, containing no new principle or combination of mechanism, and not useful for any of the purposes before alluded to, it will not be necessary to replace. The whole number of models was about 7,000. It is the opinion of the Commissioner and others most conversant with the subject that 3,000 of the most important can be replaced, which will form a very interesting and valuable collection -- less numerous, indeed, but more select, and scarcely less useful, than that which has been destroyed. Some of these would be replaced by voluntary contribution. But the greatest portion of them -- even of those whose restoration would be most desirable -- the committee are satisfied can only be had by means in the hands of the Government. If it were in the power of the Government to compel patentees to replace the models and drawings last by its improvidence, it would be an onerous and unjust tax upon those who, by their ingenuity, and at their own expense, built up an institution which, in its connection with manufactures, with agriculture, and even commerce itself, has done much to advance the prosperity of the country. They have paid into the Treasury $156,907.73 more than has been required to meet the expenses of the Office, including the salaries of the officers employed in it; and the committee cannot hesitate in recommending the appropriation of that balance to carry into effect the provisions of the bill which is herewith submitted."
THE LAW OF 1837 -- DUTIES OF THE COMMISSIONER
In addition to this report, this committee presented a bill in conformity with their views. This bill became a law on the 3d of March, 1837. It gave any person in possession of a patent issued prior to the 15th of December, 1836, the right to record the same anew in the Patent Office, without charge, together with the descriptions, specifications, and drawings belonging to the same. This law also imposed upon the Commissioner of Patents the duty of obtaining, as far as practicable, copies of patents, specifications, drawings, &c., for the purpose of having them transcribed and recorded. It also gave the Commissioner authority to record any authenticated copy of the original record, specification, or drawing which he could obtain, and he was also permitted under this act to record any drawing produced as a delineation of the invention, if it was re-enforced by an oath and referred to in the specification, even if it was not originally annexed to the patent.
PROVISIONS FOR OBTAINING COPIES OF DESTROYED MODELS AND DRAWINGS
It made it the duty of the several clerks of the judicial courts of the United States to transmit to the Commissioner a statement of all authenticated copies of patents, descriptions, specifications, and drawings executed prior to the 15th day of December, 1836, which were on file in his office, and it also made it obligatory on this class of officers to make out and transmit to the Commissioner for record a certified copy of every such patent, description, specification, or drawing as the Commissioner should specially require.
CERTIFIED COPIES TO BE PRIMA FACIA EVIDENCE
The second section of this act provided that all copies of this record of specifications and drawings certified to by the Commissioner or chief clerk should be prime facie evidence of the particulars of the invention and of the patent granted. Therefore, in any United States court, in all cases, copies of the original record of the specifications and drawings would be evidence without proving the loss of the originals. And to compel patentees to record anew, it provided that no patent issued prior to the fire of 15th day of December, 1836, should be received in evidence in any of the courts of the United States after the 1st of June, 1838, unless it had been recorded prior to that time in the Patent Office prior to its being offered as evidence; and no assignment of such patent was to be useful as evidence unless it had been recorded anew under the same conditions as proscribed for the original patent. The third section of the act made it the duty of the Commissioner, upon the application of the patentee or other person interested therein, whenever it should appear to him that the patents so applied for had been destroyed by the burning of the Patent Office building on the 15th day of December 1836, or otherwise lost prior to that time, and which patent was to bear the date of the original, to attach his certificate, showing that it was made and issued pursuant to this act. It made it obligatory, however, upon the patentee to deposit in the Patent Office, before this duplicate patent should issue, copies of the original model, drawings, descriptions, and specifications, duly verified under oath, which copies were to be admissible as evidence and held to protect the rights of the patentee to such extent, and that only, as they would have been protected by the original patent and specification.
DUPLICATE MODELS TO BE OBTAINED
The fourth section of the act made it the duty of the Commissioner to obtain duplicates of such models as were destroyed by the fire on the 15th December, 1836, as were most valuable and interesting, and whose preservation would be most important to the public; and it appropriated a sum not exceeding $100,000 for that purpose. It also authorized a temporary board of commissioners, composed of the Commissioner of Patents, and to be appointed by the President, to consider and determine the best mode of obtaining models of suitable construction, and also what models should be procured in pursuance of the act. Section 5 provided that whenever a patent should be returned for correction or reissue, and the patentee should desire to have several patents issued for distinct and separate parts of the thing patented, he might do so upon the payment of $30 for each additional patent, but before any one of them should be corrected and reissued a duplicate model and drawing of the thing as originally invented, verified under oath, was to be deposited in the Patent Office. The same section also provided that there should be no improvement made to any patent heretofore granted, nor any new patent be issued for an improvement to any machine, manufacture, or process to any person, nor any disclaimer be admitted to record, until a duplicate model and drawing of the thing originally intended, verified under oath, should have been deposited in the Patent Office.
It also provided that there should be no patent granted for an invention, improvement, or discovery, the model of which shall have been lost, until another model, if required by the Commissioner, should be deposited in the Patent Office. The compensation to be paid for these duplicate models and drawings was to be determined by this board of commissioners, under the limitations and restrictions of the act. The 6th section provided that in all cases, after the passage of this act, duplicate drawings, whenever the case would admit drawings, should be furnished by the applicant and considered as part of his specification.
The 8th section made all applications for improvements, re-issues, &c., subject to the same examination and revision as an original patent, and placed them exactly on the same footing in the Office as though it were a new application for an original patent or improvement. The 10th section gives the Commissioner power to appoint agents in the principal cities of the United States to receive models, specifications, and specimens, and to forward the same to the Patent Office, the transportation of which was to be charged to the patent fund. The 11th section authorized the appointment of an additional examiner and an additional clerk, and authorized the appointment of temporary clerks to carry out the provisions of the act. The last section of the act appropriates all money in the Treasury of the United States prior to July 4, 1836, to the credit of the patent fund, for the payment of the expenses of the Patent Office, and authorized the Commissioner to draw against it for that purpose. Under the provisions of this act the Commissioner began a correspondence with every person who had secured a patent up to the 15th of December, 1836, and in his report for the year 1837 he mentions that "2,000 patents had been restored during the year, and that by the steps he had taken he thought the most valuable records would be restored." In his report for 1837 he also notes the fact that he had nearly completed an alphabetical and classified digest of all the patents granted by the United States up to the time of the fire. This index was afterwards completed, and is the only record of the early transactions of the Office in existence.
The Commissioner, in his report for 1838, speaks of the models and drawings restored as amounting to several thousand, and he seems to have regarded the Office as pretty fairly re-organized in this year, although it was not until 1849 that the restoration of the destroyed models, drawings, &c., authorized by the act above cited, was discontinued. Out of the $100,000 appropriated for this purpose, only $88,237.32 was expended. The labor attending this expenditure was very great, and extended over a period of twelve years, during which time the Office was constantly in correspondence with thousands of inventors in different parts of the country. A few of the most valuable models and drawings destroyed could not be duplicated at any cost, but nearly all that were of importance were restored.
EXAMINER OF INTERFERENCES
The act of July 8, 1870, remodeled and restated much of the law which had been enacted prior to that date in relation to the granting of patents. It created the office of Assistant Commissioner, as also that of Examiner of Interferences, which officer was to have primary jurisdiction in determining the extent of interfering applications. Prior to the creation of this office each examiner had jurisdiction, and determined interferences in the particular class over which he presided. The Examiner of Interferences hears and determines upon the law and the evidence all cases of interference which arise in the Office. It may be said to be a purely judicial position, and is, perhaps, more strictly so than any other in the Office.
VALUE OF PHOTO-LITHOGRAPHY TO THE PATENT OFFICE
Perhaps one of the most valuable auxiliaries to the business of the Office, and one of the most important scientific inventions of the age is the system of photo-lithography which it now employs in the reproduction of its records. For years the increasing business of the Office and growing demand for copies of drawings and illustrations seriously taxed the patience and ingenuity of its officials. Patentees and those interested in certain classes of patents were obliged to have tracings or drawings made at large expense, occasioning vexatious delays and a vast amount of hard work. In 1861, during the administration of Mr. D.P. Holloway, an effort was made to reproduce drawings by the common silver print photograph. Before the experiment was fully tried, however, the war so disturbed the patent business that it was discontinued. But from the first issue of July 1, 1869, the Office resumed reproduction by this process, twelve copies of each patent being made. Some of them are still in existence, and, as compared with the present complete and economical system, are great curiosities.
FIRST ATTEMPT AT PHOTO-LITHOGRAPHING
On January 1, 1870, the person then doing this work made his first attempt at photo-lithographic reproduction. So successful was the effort that on July 1 of the same year the first contract was entered into for reproducing the current issues by this process. Twelve copies of each patent were published on sheets 10 by 15 inches. Applications for these copies increased rapidly, and, although the system was in its infancy, it gave such satisfaction and promised so well for the future that on July 1, 1871, the second contract for this work was entered into, three hundred copies of each patent being ordered on sheets 7 1/2 by 11, the present size. This number was found to be in excess of the demand, and was soon reduced to 150 copies of each patent, which is the number still reproduced. During this year the success of this system was so fully established and the benefits derived, both by the public and the Office, so great, that the reproduction of back work by classes of inventions was instituted, and up to the present time the following full classes have been reproduced:
LIST OF DRAWINGS REPRODUCED
1. Aeration and Bottling
4. Baths and Closets
6. Bee hives
7. Beer and Wine
8. Bleaching and Dyeing
10. Bolts, Nuts, and Rivets
13. Brakes and Gins
15. Brushes and Brooms
21. Carriages and Wagons
23. Chemical Miscellaneous
29. Crinoline and Corsets
34. Driers and Kilns
38. Felting and Hats
47. Garden and Orchard
53. Hardware manufacture
61. Hydraulic Engineering
65. Kitchen Utensils
66. Knitting and Netting
67. Lamps and Gas fitting
73. Measuring Instruments
76. Metal Working, bending and straightening
77. Metal Working, boring and drilling
78. Metal Working, forging, swaging, and riveting
79. Metal Working, punching, cutting, and shearing
80. Metal Working, rolling
81. Metal Working Tools
82. Metal Working, turning, planing, and milling
86. Needles and Pins
87. Oils, Fats, and Glue
92. Paper making
93. Paper manufactures
99. Preserving Food
104. Railways. The Way
105. Railways, (Cars and Interior Fittings)
106. Railway Cars, (Exterior Mountings and Fittings
107. Railway Track and Car Irons and Fittings, manufacture of
111. Seeders and Planters
112. Sewing machines
114. Ships (1) construction
115. Ships (2) propulsion
126. Stoves and Furnaces
134. Tubing and Wire
135. Umbrellas and Fans
137. Water Distribution
138. Water wheels
141. Wood screws
And the subdivisions of --
Buttons and Machines
VALUE OF THIS METHOD OF SUPPLYING AND PRESERVING DRAWINGS
In these classes there are 95,000 patents, a copy of any one of which can be obtained for 25 cents, or in any number exceeding twenty for 10 cents each. Before this system was inaugurated, the average cost would have been $2 per sheet. Recognizing the great value of this class of reproduction, the Office is at present engaged in completing the remainder of the classes, and it is the intention of the Commissioner that they shall be entirely completed during the present year. Then a copy of any patent granted by the United States can be procured promptly, and at the prices before mentioned. The sale of these copies, in addition to being of incalculable benefit to the public, is also a very considerable item in the earnings of the Office, as an average of at least 2,000 copies are furnished each business day of a year, and the number is being steadily increased and will be greatly augmented when the full list of classes is reproduced. But the greatest value of the system is the almost perfect security it gives to the records of the Office in case of a fire, a practical illustration of which is furnished by the recent conflagration. The original drawings of the issue of September 4, 1877 -- some 300 in number -- were in the model room at the time of the fire for the purpose of identifying the models for classification. They were entirely consumed, as were also the models belonging thereto; and had it not been that they had been reproduced, great loss and annoyance would have been caused to the patentees, the public, and the Office. This reproduction was done at a very small cost, and in fact will return a profit to the Office in the copies sold, besides causing no loss or annoyance to any one. The Office can repair the damage at its leisure, and in the mean time protect all the rights of the patentee. As another illustration of the value of this system, the late fire furnishes this striking example: The following list of drawings in the class of Wood Working, which were in process of being traced by employees in the model room, preparatory to being photo-lithographed, both models and drawings were destroyed, and the only means at present by which a drawing record can be restored is from the description as contained in the specifications which were preserved. These the Office must replace at considerable outlay and trouble:
DRAWINGS TO BE REPRODUCED FROM SPECIFICATIONS
Making Wooden Screws
No. 6,668 Garside and Betjamann, August 28, 1849
No. 8,416 Lewis, S., October 7, 1851
Circular Saw Mills
No. 14,241 Hurlbut, W.W., February 12, 1856
Circular Sawing Machines
No. 37,816 Hughes, H.E., March 3, 1863
No. 438 Russell, I.D., March 17, 1857
No. 15,304 Rice, O., July 8, 1856
No. 41,397 Richmond, F.J., January 26, 1864
No. 56,426 Mac Lennan, D.R., July 17, 1866
No. 16,883 Scotton, S., March 24, 1857
No. 17,454 Scotton, S., June 2, 1857
No. 1,074 Baldwin, E., January 31, 1839
No. 30,623 Dyer, E.G., November 13, 1860
No. 11,036 Russell, D., June 6, 1854
No. 11,618 Russell, T.H., August 29, 1854
No. 2,566 Sheffield, J., April 16, 1842
No. 3,667 Stetson & Co., July 15, 1844
No. ----- Pierson, W., December 31, 1833
No. 3,715 Gilman, E.C., August 23, 1814
Reciprocating Saw Mills
No. 425 Brown, L., February 3, 1857
No. 34,942 Burns, W.R., April 15, 1862
No. 2,444 Cook and Co., February 1, 1842
No. 6,981 Dugard, T., November 20, 1849
No. 42,276 Deputy, J.J., April 12, 1864
No. 42,277 Deputy, J.J., April 12, 1864
No. 10,130 Frazee, B., October 18, 1853
No. 2,704 Hammilton, J., July 2, 1842
No. 3,053 Hamilton, J., April 15, 1843
No. ---- Naylor, T.B., June 2, 1836
No. 7,325 Parsons, E.H. and S., April 30, 1850
No. 714 Secor, J., April 28, 1838
No. 3,858 Stigleman & Co., December 16, 1844
Of the models destroyed the following classes have been reproduced and can be purchased from the Office for 25 cents each, or 10 cents each for twenty and upward:
DRAWINGS ALREADY REPRODUCED
Class No. of patents
1. Aeration and Bottling ............................. 1127
4. Baths and Closets .................................. 742
6. Bee hives .......................................... 723
10. Bolts, Nuts, and Rivets ............................. 41
13. Brakes and Gins ................................... 1200
14. Bridges ............................................ 625
15. Brushes and Brooms ................................ 1063
17. Butchering ......................................... 394
20. Carpentry ......................................... 1542
21. Carriages and Wagons .............................. 5700
31. Dairy ............................................. 2175
37. Excavators ......................................... 743
40. Files ............................................... 93
47. Garden and Orchard ................................ 1167
53. Hardware manufacture ............................... 158
55. Harrows ............................................ 901
56. Harvesters ........................................ 4050
59. Horseshoes ......................................... 137
61. Hydraulic Engineering .............................. 443
72. Masonry ............................................ 510
75. Metallurgy ........................................ 1500
76. Metal Working, bending and straightening ............ 92
77. Metal Working, boring and drilling ................. 395
78. Metal Working, forging, swaging, and riveting ...... 358
79. Metal Working, punching, cutting, and shearing ..... 366
80. Metal Working, rolling ............................. 288
81. Metal Working Tools ................................ 391
82. Metal Working, turning, planing, and milling ....... 304
83. Mills ............................................. 2006
94. Paving ............................................. 565
97. Plows ............................................. 3286
98. Pneumatics ........................................ 1540
103. Pumps ............................................. 2310
104. Railways. The Way ................................. 2280
105. Railways, (Cars and Interior Fittings)..........)
106. Railway Cars, (Exterior Mountings and Fittings..).. 5267
107. Railway Track and Car Irons and Fittings,
manufacture of ................................. 153
108. Roofing ............................................ 421
111. Seeders and Planters .............................. 3075
119. Stabling ........................................... 891
130. Thrashing ......................................... 1380
131. Tobacco ............................................ 769
134. Tubing and Wire .................................... 246
137. Water Distribution ................................ 2008
138. Water wheels ...................................... 1280
And the subdivisions of --
Bench planes ....................................... 252
Bale ties .......................................... 541
Printed copies of specifications from November 20, 1866, to date, are also furnished by the Office.
EFFECT OF THE FIRE ON "PENDING" AND "REJECTED" CASES
The result of the late fire was by no means as disastrous as that of 1836, although twenty times the amount of property was destroyed. In 1836 the model, written and illustrated records of the Office were all consumed, while very little original was destroyed by the fire of September 24th except models. Of these there were three distinct classes: the patented, the "pending," and the rejected models. A few words will indicate their value respectively, and the possible results of the loss.
When an application is sent to the examiner, the model goes with it, and is placed, during the pendency of the application, on its proper shelf in his model cases. So great is the number of applications, however, in some classes, that for a few years past the examiners' cases were overcrowded, and it became necessary, at short intervals, to remove all but the newest models to small rooms in the west hall of the model room, where they were kept as part of the secret archives of the Office. There they remained until the application was finally disposed of, either by allowance or abandonment. These constitute the class of pending models, of which several thousand were destroyed, a classified list of which is hereafter presented. [omitted]
Their value is difficult to ascertain. Many of the cases will undoubtedly be rejected, when the models will cease to have value except as curiosities. In case of allowance of any, the inventor will be invited to furnish a new model, which, after careful comparison by the examiner with the specification and drawing, will, if found satisfactory, be placed in its proper case precisely as if it were the original.
The pecuniary loss in these cases falls on the inventor alone. Hard as this may appear, where an expensive model has been destroyed through no fault of his own, there is no law under which he can find relief. He may, however, decline to furnish another model. This, of course, is at his option.
In allowed applications the models, while awaiting payment of the final fee and issue of the patent, are kept in close cases also in the west hall. These belong to the class of "pending" models, but are technically known as "issue" models, and also numbered several thousand. A circular has been sent to each of the inventors, inviting him to furnish a duplicate, on the receipt of which the case will be remanded to the examiner. If he finds the model acceptable, it can be regarded as if original.
The rejected models are referred to and their value fully explained in the estimate of the losses treated of in the first part of this article.
It will be seen that while the aggregate money value of these models is very great, the loss is nevertheless widely distributed, and by no means irreparable.
The questions which arise on the restoration of models and the continuance of the model system involves many conflicting interests, which will doubtless receive a great deal of attention and discussion. Many arguments, both pro and con, might be presented to sustain different theories advanced, but they are not needed to demonstrate the fact that the subject is an intricate as well as an important one, upon which there is great diversity of opinion. Speculations or arguments, then, as to the value of individual sentiments, or what will or what should be the action of Congress or the recommendations of the Commissioner of Patents, would be of little value here. The questions which this conflagration brings up for settlement must be disposed of after a careful investigation and consideration of all the interests involved. If it should be decided to restore any of the models destroyed, how many, and of what classes, will perhaps be the most delicate question to determine, and one which will call for the exercise of great discretion, care, and judgment. No doubt a large number of the models destroyed would be restored voluntarily by the patentees themselves, for they very generally have an ambition to have their inventions on exhibition, where they can be constantly under the eye of those whose interest in patent matters calls them to a study of the contents of this National Museum of Mechanics for either profit or pleasure. Indeed, the Commissioner is in daily receipt of propositions looking to the restoration of destroyed models, but to all such inquiries there can be but one answer, and that is, that pending legislation by Congress the Office cannot take the subject into consideration, and while there is no objection to receiving duplicates of the models destroyed they can have no legal value whatever or be of any use to the Office or inventor except as exhibits to illustrate the progress of that branch of industry to which they belong.
Every possible effort has been made to preserve and arrange the model collection undisturbed by fire, as well as that part of it injured by water or removal, and it has been carefully cared for and placed in as perfect order as the crowded conditions of the two uninjured halls, in which it is stored, will admit. The Commissioner has had taken from the debris and carefully preserved as many of the models made of metal as it was possible to gather in a fair state of preservation, and when opportunity offers will have them carefully assorted and cleaned. Many of them are nearly, if not quite, as perfect as before the fire, and it is believed that from 5 to 10 per cent, may yet be identified, and be for all practical purposes as valuable as ever.
The Patent Office, since its foundation, has earned, over and above its expenses, nearly two millions of dollars, and this amount represents but an insignificant part of the sum it has placed to the credit of the wealth of this nation. This sketch of its operations might be extended almost indefinitely, for the history of the Patent Office is an important part of the record of the material progress of the land. To follow in minute detail every change which has taken place in its management, or to advance arguments and theories as to its future -- which events and the judgment of the power which controls it may decide without foundation -- will hardly be expected in an article having for its primary object the placing of an important event in its history in an authentic shape for future reference. Interest in the subject has led, however, to the addition of some historical data and incidents not directly connected with the particular event which made this record necessary. The object sought is to interest all who may chance to look over them, and especially those whose interests or inclination brings them into friendly relations with this important branch of the public service. This bureau deals with a greater number of the people of the country than any other, and its operations affect, directly or indirectly, nine-tenths of the people of this nation. To the arts it has created and fostered, the country owes much of its present development, and it may not be unreasonable to expect that, if sound judgment and discretion dominates in shaping the legislation that the present emergency makes necessary, its future usefulness will be greater even than its past.
EXPLANATION OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS
The plans, sectional vies, &c., of the United States Patent Office building as it appeared before and after the fire of September 24, 1877, herewith presented, will be found an interesting part of the history of that important event. The first is a perspective view of the building as it appeared before the fire, the only inaccuracy being in the steps of the entrance on F street, which were somewhat changed when the street was cut down, some years since. The lower figure of this view, showing the Ninth and G street wings, is the only drawing of this portion of the building in existence, and was made especially for this work. The autograph signatures of the officials of the Interior Department and heads of the different bureaus occupying the building at the time of the fire are affixed to this illustration.
The second view minutely shows where the fire first appeared on the roof above the rejected model room, and the exact points on either side where it was arrested.
The third view shows the construction of the roof.
The fourth view shows the location of the various classes in the portion of the model rooms destroyed, and by reference to the printed list of the models of the various classes of inventions can be determined.
The fifth are sectional views of the Ninth and G street wings, the upper portions showing the walls of the burned model rooms. These views also show the construction of this part of the building.
The sixth and seventh views represent the two halls of the model room as they appeared on the morning after the fire. These views are reproduced from drawings made from the photographs taken by Mr. L. E. Walker, the photographer of the United States Treasury Department, and convey as perfectly as possible the appearance of the model room floor on the G and Ninth street wings. The Heliotype views of the exterior and roof of the building are highly commended, as they present a faithful picture of those parts and the shutes erected from the windows from the windows on both sides of the burned portions for removing the debris, as well as the masses of iron girders, &c., piled around the building. They are not referred to by number, as they are a different class of views from the others and can be readily recognized. The plans of the basement and first and second floors show precisely the location of, and duties performed in, each room at the time of the fire.
The last sketch is of importance as showing by comparison the immense growth of the Patent Office consequent upon the rapid stride of American art and ingenuity with the past thirty years. The whole collection presents, as clearly as may be, the exterior and interior of the building from every point of view which can render anything to satisfy curiosity or give instruction.
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