ANNUAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS FOR 1844
28th Congress, 2d Session, Senate [Document] 75
Report of the Commissioner of Patents showing the operations of the Patent Office during the year 1844
January 29, 1845
Read, and ordered that a motion that it be printed, and that 5,000 additional copies be furnished for the use of the Senate, be referred to the Committee on Printing
January 30, 1845
Ordered to be printed, and that 20,000 additional copies (omitting the lists of patents) be furnished; 19,500 of which for the use of the Senate, and 500 for the use of the Commissioner of Patents.
Patent Office, January 28, 1845
The Commissioner of Patents has the honor to submit his annual report for the year ending with the close of 1844.
Five hundred and two patents have been issued during the year 1844, including seven reissues, twelve designs, and five additional improvements to former patents, of which classified and alphabetical lists are annexed, marked N and O.
During the same period, five hundred and thirty-nine patents have expired, as per list marked P.
The applications for patents during the year past amount to one thousand and forty-five, and the number of caveats filed was three hundred and eighty.
The receipts of the office for the year 1844 amount to forty-one thousand two hundred and twenty dollars and six cents, from which are to be deducted, repaid on applications withdrawn, as per statement marked A, ten thousand and forty dollars.
The ordinary expenses of the Patent Office for the past year have been twenty-four thousand two hundred and twenty-eight dollars and four cents; to which add, for library and agriculture, two thousand and seventy-six dollars and forty-nine cents, leaves a net balance of six thousand one hundred and sixty-four dollars and seventy-three cents, to be credited to the patent fund, as per statement marked B.
For the restoration of models, records, and drawings, under the act of 3d March, 1837, the sum of two thousand eight hundred and twenty-two dollars and sixty-six cents, as per statement marked C.
The whole number of patents issued by the United States, up to January 1845, is fourteen thousand and twenty-four. Although the number of patents granted the past year is not so great as that of the year previous, it will be seen that there is an excess of applications to the amount of two hundred and twenty-six.
The increase of models renders daily the transaction of business more difficult. The models of the patented inventions are crowded so much as to prevent classification; while models of rejected applications, equally important for exhibition, to enable supposed inventors to settle doubts as to originality, are not exhibited at all. It has been hoped that the large upper hall, designed originally for models, would not be diverted to other objects without some substitute being furnished. The beautiful collection of curiosities, however, from various parts of the world, forming the National Gallery, are too important and interested to be crowded out. There seems to be no alternative but to extend the building. This can be done at a moderate expense, if the work is performed by contract, under careful supervision. No new plan need now be presented. The original design contemplated two additional wings, one of which, added to the west side, would give sufficient accommodation by furnishing continuous rooms for models and the gallery. The number of applications for the extension of patents during 1844 was twelve. Two were granted, and ten rejected.
The board of commissioners have extended seven patents since the act of Congress approved 4th July, 1836.
Patentees seem to think, that if they pay the fee required, and show that they have not made the patent profitable, (and especially if no objection is urged by the public against the extension,) that the extension will be allowed as a matter of course -- forgetting that all patents granted prior to the reorganization of the Patent Office in 1836 were not subject to examination as to novelty; in other words, any applicant prior to that time, who was willing to swear that he was the first and original inventor, could demand a patent, leaving the courts to settle the questions of utility and originality. Many patents granted prior to 1836 do not, therefore, contain any merit, and an extension of the same would only end in disappointment, if the originality were tested.
By reference to the decisions of the board of commissioners, composed of "the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of Patents, and the Solicitor of the Treasury," it appears that extension of patents cannot be expected when the invention is trivial, and where the right to use and vend the same has been unmolested; or where the machine is not complicated, and little expenditure of time or money is necessary to introduce it -- they believing, it is supposed, that it would be better thus to place before the patentee (who can deprive the public of the use of the invention) the strongest motives to bring the same into immediate use upon fair and equitable terms, rather than delay with indifference fourteen years, thinking that he can get an extension of seven years more. If patents were extended upon applications as a matter of course, it is evident most patentees would apply, and thus make the duration of patents equivalent to twenty-one years -- crowding too, upon the board of commissioners, an amount of extra labor which they could not possibly discharge.
It may be remarked, that, however desirous Congress might have been to make the section of the patent law under which patents are extended clear and explicit, much litigation has arisen upon its construction; and I feel compelled to mention the contradictory decisions, that further legislation may be had, if deemed expedient.
"And be it further enacted, That whenever any patentee of an invention or discovery shall desire an extension of his patent beyond the term of its limitation, he may make application therefor, in writing, to the Commissioner of the Patent Office, setting forth the grounds thereof; and the Commissioner shall, on the applicant's paying the sum of forty dollars to the credit of the Treasury, as in the case of an original application for a patent, cause to be published, in one or more of the principal newspapers in the city of Washington, and in such other paper or papers as he may deem proper, published in the section of the country most interested adversely to the extension of the patent, a notice of such application and of the time and place when and where the same will be considered, that any person may appear and show cause why the extension should not be granted. And the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of the Patent Office, and the Solicitor of the Treasury, shall constitute a board to hear and decide upon the evidence produced before them both for and against the extension, and shall sit for that purpose at the time and place designated in the published notice thereof. The patentee shall furnish to said board a statement, in writing, under oath, of the ascertained value of the invention, and of his receipts and expenditures, sufficiently in detail to exhibit a true and faithful account of loss and profit in any manner accruing to him from and by reason of said invention. And if, upon a hearing of the matter, it shall appear to the full and entire satisfaction of said board, having due regard to the public interest therein, that it is just and proper that the term of the patent should be extended, by reason of the patentee, without neglect or fault on his part, having failed to obtain, from the use and sale of his invention, a reasonable remuneration for the time, ingenuity, and expense bestowed upon the same, and the introduction thereof into use, it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to renew and extend the patent, by making a certificate thereon of such extension, for the term of seven years from and after the expiration of the first term; which certificate, with a certificate of said board of their judgment and opinion as aforesaid, shall be entered on record in the Patent Office; * and thereupon the said patent shall have the same effect in law as though it had been originally granted for the term of twenty-one years. And the benefit of such renewal shall extend to assignees and grantees of the right to use the thing patented, to the extent of their respective interest therein: * [portion between asterisks emphasized. KWD] Provided, however, That no extension of a patent shall be granted after the term for which it was originally issued."
It may not be improper here to notice the construction of this section by the board of commissioners, whose duties are defined by it, viz: that the benefit of the extension inures to assignees according to their respective interest in the thing patented, be it more or less, whether it be a right to use a specific machine or article sold, or a right to make and sell in a town, county, or State.
Had the board doubted upon this point, I feel no hesitation in saying that they never would have consented, "having a due regard to the public interests," to the extension of several patents which have been extended.
If the benefit of extension were confined to the patentee alone, assignees, however late their purchase, and however much they might have expended in fixtures, might be at once enjoined even from using the very article purchased -- a result certainly wholly unexpected to the assignee when he entered into a covenant with the patentee.
In the district embracing New England, assignees have, by the circuit judge of that district, been enjoined fully, in numerous cases, and compelled to purchase even the right to use the invention after extension of the patents.
In the district of Maryland, however, before the Chief Justice of the United States, the same point has arisen, and, after full argument and mature consideration, has been decided directly to the contrary, viz: that the extension of a patent does inure for the benefit of the assignee. Various decisions have been made in circuit courts, where the same was held by the district judge, differing from each other. It is highly important, therefore, that the question of benefit of the extension should be speedily settled by further legislation or by the Supreme Court.
The success which has attended the efforts of American inventors, by taking out patents in Europe, will induce many others to secure the same privileges. Hence the frequent inquiry at the Patent Office, how can patents be obtained abroad? Although willing to communicate all information on this subject that I possess, other duties do not permit me to reply to letters received containing such inquiries. To gratify inventors, I have annexed a brief synopsis (marked E) of the general regulation for taking out patents in foreign countries. With pleasure will it be noticed, that in no country are patents obtained so cheap, or with so little delay, as in the United States; and yet inventors here are proverbially impatient.
The increasing business of this office will soon demand additional force. In the meantime, I cannot omit to present to the consideration of Congress the claims of the scientific corps who conduct the business of the office to a more adequate compensation for their services. I do not allude to the salary of the Commissioner of Patents. Deep study and a knowledge of different languages, a minute acquaintance with the arts and sciences, and much experience, are all required, to fit an individual for the office of examiner; and yet his pay is only $1,500 -- less than is paid for clerical duties in many of the bureaus. The present compensation will be inadequate to induce those now in the office to remain, and much more to replace the assistance needed, if a vacancy occurs. One examiner has already tendered his resignation, and consented to remain, in the hope of further legislation. I beg to ask, if, while the income of the office is fully sufficient to meet all necessary expense, whether it would not be a matter of the deepest regret to part with experienced help, for new and untried hands. What blunders, what errors, what litigation, would ensue! The public, it is hoped, have some confidence in the office. If this confidence is lost, dissatisfaction would arise, and appeals take place. It is due to the corps in this office to say, that their pay is much less than is made to other officers in like capacities. The following sums are paid, viz:
To the chief of the coast survey $6,000
To one assistant 3,500
To two assistants 3,500
To three assistants 3,500
To four assistants 2,000
To five assistants 2,000
To six assistants 2,000
On weights and measures 2,500
In the navy
Engineers for planning engines 3,000
Principal engineer for superintending
and constructing steam engines 2,500
Chief, naval constructor 3,000
United States mint --
Other instances might be cited.
It must be admitted, that the discharge of the duties of several of the above stations does not demand the talents or acquirements necessary for an examiner of patents, who must have a knowledge of the physical sciences, and understand their application to those branches of industry to which they are adapted; possessing, also, a knowledge of the patent law, the decisions of the courts, and at least an acquaintance with the French language.
A reference to the report of the examiner of patents, transmitted with this and my last report, will show their duties, and the abilities necessary to discharge them.
It is a happy circumstance, that few changes have taken place in the effective force of this office since my connection with it. We have every year enjoyed the benefit of accumulated experience.
I have, however, to record with sorrow the sudden death of the late chief clerk, Mr. Hand, a few months since. His removal has been mourned by all his associated. He possessed pre-eminently qualifications needed at his desk; and has left an example worthy of imitation, adding another proof that a faithful discharge of public duties is not incompatible with the life of a devout Christian.
I have added to my report the claims allowed on patents granted, and again requested the report of the examiners on the progress of the arts during 1844. (see F and G,) believing the same will be read with interest, while they will remain on the archives of the office, to instruct those who survive in this department. It is a matter of proud congratulation, that we witness the rapid advancement of the arts and sciences on this side of the Atlantic, and to hear how frequently the skill and experience of our citizens are purchased by the wisest monarchs of Europe. The liberality with which our artisans are compensated abroad is the highest proof of their superiority. Our manufactures are extending throughout the world. The ocean and the land alike bear testimony to American ingenuity. Praise is but a tribute due to her Constitution and the laws, which extend equal rights and privileges to all.
Among the most brilliant discoveries of the age, the electro-magnetic telegraph deserves a conspicuous place. Destined as it is to change as well as hasten transmission of intelligence, and so essentially to affect the welfare of society, all that concerns its further development will be hailed with joy.
Imagination can scarcely conceive what is now accomplished by the electric fluid, when confined and tamed, as it were, to the purposes of life. Distance is annihilated -- thought has found a competitor. Nor is it less gratifying that this discovery is American. To a native citizen belongs the merit of the discovery; and it is hoped that the country of his birth will reward him accordingly. The public, at first, could scarcely believe it possible that intelligence can be sent at the rate of 188,000 miles in a second; nor that the earth would suffice for half of the current of communication; nor that currents of electricity from opposite poles would traverse the same wire at the same time, turning out as it were in passing each other. Such are proved to be facts. One discovery presses upon the heels of another. The desideratum of furnishing electricity by mechanical means is at length found. This discovery, the handmaid of the telegraph, belongs to another of the sons of New England. The practicability of this last invention has been fully tested for 40 miles, leaving no doubt that it will succeed wherever the battery would answer. A fuller description of this invention of Professor Page will be found in the paper subjoined, marked H.
Obstacles seem fast overcome. Rivers no longer remain obstructions; they are passed without any superstructure or any conductor through the water. How this is done, will be seen by adverting to the diagrams on the paper subjoined, marked I.
The numerous requests for information respecting the telegraph since my former report are my apology for inserting in this report some facts mentioned hitherto, since all that is given seems necessary to a full comprehension of this highly exciting subject. This report may go into new hands, who cannot readily refer to a former one, and who will be glad to find all condensed in the one now transmitted to Congress.
The annual agricultural statistics, comprising the tabular estimate of the crops the past year, with accompanying remarks and appendix, will be found subjoined, marked D. If the length of this document is objectionable, I will only say that I have deemed it more acceptable to the public to give the facts established, than deductions from them; more especially, as no conclusive opinion can be justly formed on contradictory statements respecting some important subjects.
The science of agriculture has now become a study, and much greater improvements may be expected. Worn-out lands, that have been, as it were abandoned, are now being reclaimed, under scientific treatment. Guess work and hereditary notions are yielding to analysis and the application of chemical principles. The writings of learned agriculturists in Europe are translated into the English language -- thus pouring a body of new light upon the path of the husbandman. Some extracts from the celebrated Von Thaer's Principles of Agriculture will be found in one of the appendixes to the agricultural report. They evince the deep research and patient investigation of that distinguished philanthropist. Little is accomplished in any science without perseverance. How many bright anticipations have been blasted by a single unpropitious experiment! Without making allowance for ordinary casualties or unforeseen occurrences, how many efforts to improve husbandry by selection of seeds has failed! All has been abandoned, because the first experiment has not been crowned with success -- forgetting that seeds, like animals, must be acclimated, and require certain food not found in every soil. The truth of this general remark may be illustrated by a recent attempt to solve the difficulty in granulating the syrup of corn stalks. Scientific gentlemen at first pronounced the sugar from corn stalk to be grape sugar only, and hence crystallization could hardly be expected. Much disappointed in the result, I transmitted to Boston some of the sugar made by Mr. Webb, of Delaware, and requested another analysis. The second analysis was entirely successful, proving the sugar from corn stalk to be equal to the best muscovado sugar.
In reviewing this subject, it appears that the juice of corn stalk cut too early will not granulate; and this was the cause of the first failure.
There is every reason to believe, that all difficulties in making good sugar from this vegetable will be removed, while the reports of this year show the quality of saccharine matter sufficient to class the crop among the best for profit.
Dr. Jackson's communication will be found in appendix No. 16 to the agricultural report.
To Dr. Jackson we are also indebted for the analysis of several grains. The superiority of one kind of Indian corn over another is surprisingly manifest. One is filled with oil, the other has no trace of it; hence the superiority of the former for fattening animals. Some grapes contain a large quantity of phosphate, (such as beans, etc.;) and hence their consumption tends to increase the bones of animals. Dyspeptics will learn from this why some meal (that which contains oil) is so difficult of digestion. For further remarks on this subject, with illustrations, see appendix No. 6 to the agricultural report.
A description of a new mode of fencing, and also a plan of erecting houses of unburnt brick, has occasioned more inquiries than I could possibly answer. Improvements have been made, both on the ditcher and in the construction of these buildings; and I have thought it expedient to insert in this report a sketch of a building made of this material, as well as improvements made in machinery for excavation, and forming living posts on the embankment, as the most satisfactory mode of meeting the wishes of correspondents. (See papers K and L.)
Having received from I.W.P. Lewis, Esq., a sketch of an improved railroad, constructed entirely of wood, for wheels of the same material, it is added in the subjoined paper, marked M, and will, I trust, be worthy of a trial where timber is plenty, and where funds cannot be obtained for a more expensive track.
Among the first inquiries of the political economist is the question, how can the productiveness of the earth be increased? Modern practice answers it easily. Manure and tillage are the instruments employed; either, alone, is comparatively useless. "Grapes will not grow on thorns, nor figs on thistles;" nor will sour land yield sweet food. The nature of the soil must be changed, and this is effected by draining.
Intimately connected with draining land, is that of subsoiling; indeed, the last has lately been substituted for the former with good success. The cheapness of subsoil ploughs brings them within the reach of every farmer.
The letter from Mr. Verdine Ellsworth shows what can be done by deep ploughing. By superior culture, his land yielded, this year, over 121 bushels of shelled corn per acre. His timothy meadows yielded 3 1/2 tons per acre. This statement is full of encouragement. (See appendix No. 5 to agricultural report.)
Few individuals are aware of the extension of roots in pulverized soil. Von Thaer mentions finding roots of sainfoin from 10 to 15 feet deep in the ground. There are now in the National Gallery corn roots taken from one side of a hill of corn laid bare by the freshet, and presented by the Hon. J.S. Skinner to the National Gallery. The corn was planted on the 20th of May, and roots gathered the 14th July, 1842. In sixty days, some of the large roots extended more than 4 feet, covered with lateral branches. I have caused the roots to be measured. The aggregate of the length of the roots in a hill is, by Mr. Skinner's estimate, over eight thousand feet. The specimen alluded to is open for examination. This fact is here mentioned, to show the importance of deep ploughing, to enable the plant to find nourishment so much below the surface as may avoid the effect of drought, give support to the stalk, and not expose the roots to be cut by needed cultivation. Soil is made by exposure of earth to the atmosphere; and whoever wishes to make permanent improvements will not fail to plough deep.
I hope to distribute to the members of Congress from 20,000 to 30,000 packages of seeds, embracing many that are highly valuable for garden and field culture. If the distribution of seeds is a matter of interest or advantage, I beg, respectfully, to suggest how the benefit might be much increased. By a circular issued from the Navy Department, the navy is instructed to bring to this country seeds that may be found, and that are deemed useful; but this order is inefficacious, because there are no funds to defray the trifling expenses of packing and shipping them. Seeds are offered, sometimes gratuitously, in distant parts of the world; at others, for a small sum. The boxing and porterage require some expense; and however small this may be in a single instance, in the aggregate it amounts to a considerable sum. None of these expenses are allowed by the Navy Department, and hence none are incurred. It is certainly to be regretted that so many fine opportunities for procuring seeds and plants should be lost; and yet the department which refuses to allow the claims mentioned must do it, if at all, without authority. To meet the emergency, it is suggested that the annual appropriation made for agricultural statistics and other purposes should be increased by $1,000; and then the Commissioner of Patents, in conjunction with the Navy Department, could do much to advance national industry; and if there is any appropriation which could gratify the agricultural community, it would be this. I am happy to say that the patent fund is amply sufficient to be charged with this expenditure.
A contract for iron railing around the portico of the Patent Office has been made, and the work will soon be completed, within the appropriation. Lead for the roof of the Patent Office building has been purchased, but did not arrive in time to be laid on this fall. The work will be done early in the spring. Both of these improvements were needed -- the former to protect life, and the latter to protect the public property.
The library will require the usual appropriation, until the loss by the fire shall be restored; and considerable appropriations must be made annually, to enable this bureau to keep pace with the progress of arts and sciences. If the Commissioner of Patents were permitted to take books from the Congress library, this privilege would dispense with the necessity of purchasing some rare publications.
The great anxiety felt in the United States respecting the disease in the potato, by which whole sections of our country have been seriously affected, has induced me to devote much time to investigate this subject; and, if no satisfactory reasons are assigned for the disease, it is hoped some partial preventives, at least, are suggested. Those who are curious to read all that can be collected on this subject will find it in an appendix subjoined to the agricultural report, marked No. 9.
The Hessian fly still continues a dreadful foe to the agriculturist. Hoping to throw some light upon this subject, I have obtained a communication from one of the most scientific gentlemen in the country, who has made the study of this insect the object of microscopic investigation for years. The origin, progress, and changes in this fly cannot fail to interest; and it is confidently hoped, that when its birth, its constitution, and its home, are found, it can be attacked with more certainty of destruction.
Mr. Herrick's communication will be found in the appendix to the agricultural report, as above, marked No. 1. Notice of other insects that affect wheat is added. (See appendix No. 2.)
There is much to encourage the artist and the husbandman. The latter may feel momentarily depressed by the low prices of crops, but he is cheered by the reflection that he is far better off than those in professions proverbially crowded. The cultivator of the soil is, in the fullest sense, the most independent. He raises enough to eat, and can clothe himself; having a surplus to exchange, if he cannot sell. How much better for the young man of this country to aspire to the enviable rank of a scientific and successful agriculturist, than to grasp at the shadowy honors that are momentarily cast around the brows of political combatants.
There is much to console the husbandman in the reduction of the cost of the necessities of life which he has occasion to purchase. Labor-saving machines are being introduced with still greater success. Mowing and reaping will, it is believed, soon be chiefly performed on smooth land by horse power. Some have regretted that modern improvements make so important changes of employment -- but the march of the arts and sciences is onward, and the greatest happiness of the greater number is the motto of the patriot. This is promoted by facilities in production, whether in manufactures or agriculture; and, if we are to compete with the world at large, we must readily embrace the offer of genius and skill; we must yield to competitors equal fertility of soil, and win the race by superior industry and intelligence.
There is, however, a dark cloud which lowers over the Republic. The incubus debt has lost its terrors, and obligation carries with it little self-reproach. Past experience is disregarded. The importation of goods into the United States during the past year will equal one hundred and fifty millions of dollars. Happily for citizens of this country, a portion of the goods imported have been sent on consignment, to be sold for the benefit of foreign manufacturers; and hence they must share in the loss. Still, these goods, if purchased, musts be paid for in produce or specie. If importations must be increased, it is deeply to be regretted that it should take place when the value of agricultural products has so greatly diminished. Unfortunately, American stocks, once sought by foreign capitalists, are now refused; confidence is lost. The Bank of England is loaning its capital at 2 1/2 per cent per annum, while our State stocks, bearing 6, and even 7 percent, are far below par. Has not the time arrived for the South and the North to commence retrenchment and practice more rigid economy? The wheel of fortune will not turn out prizes, nor can patents be granted for paying debts. These must be worked out in the old-fashioned way; and when the people shall take a sober estimate of life, and moderate their wishes to their circumstances, then, and not till then, will they find permanent relief.
H. L. Ellsworth
Hon. Willie P. Magnum
President of the Senate
Statement of receipts for patents, caveats, disclaimers,
improvements, and certified copies, in the year 1844
Amount received for patents, caveats, etc. $41,220.06
Amount received for office fees 1,289.20
Deduct, repaid on withdrawals 10,040.00
Statement of expenditures and payments made from the
patent fund, by H.L. Ellsworth, Commissioner, from
the 1st January to 31st December, 1844, inclusive,
under the act of March 3, 1837
For salaries $15,975.00
For temporary clerks 3,709.67
For contingent expenses 4,443.37
For compensation to district judges 100.00
For the library 663.00
For agricultural statistics 1,413.49
Leaving a net balance to the credit of the patent fund 6,164.73
Statement of expenditures on the restoration of the Patent
Office, under the act of 3d March, 1837
For restoring the records and drawings $2,008.32
For duplicates of models, etc. 814.34
[This annual report also includes reports by the two principal examiners, C.M. Keller, and Charles G. Page. However, neither report contains anything of interest to the history of the Patent Office itself, as opposed to what was patented. KWD]
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