Extracts from THE SIGHTS AND SECRETS OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL: A WORK DESCRIPTIVE OF WASHINGTON CITY IN ALL ITS VARIOUS PHASES
BY DR. JOHN B. ELLIS
UNITED STATES PUBLISHING COMPANY
411 BROOME STREET
THE PATENT OFFICE
The Patent Office is properly a bureau of the Department of the Interior, but it is in all its proportions and features so vast and imposing that we have decided to devote a separate chapter to it.
It is in charge of a Commissioner of Patents, who is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. It is entrusted with the duty of granting letters-patent securing a profitable reward to any person inventing articles beneficial to civilization. It was formerly a part of the Treasury [sic] Department, and is one of the best known branches of the Government. Patents are not monopolies, as some persons suppose, but are protections granted to individuals, as a reward for, and an incentive to discoveries and inventions of all kinds pertaining to the useful arts. The bureau is allowed to charge for these letters of protection only the cost of investigating and registering the invention. It is a self-supporting institution, its receipts being largely in excess of its expenditures, so that it is confidently expected that it will be able, before many years have elapsed, to pay for its splendid building entirely out of its own earnings. From July 1836, to December, 1860, it issued 31,004 patents, a fact which attests its industry, and the fertility of the American inventive genius. During the Rebellion, many more patents were issued, so that the whole number cannot now be much less than forty thousand.
A large library of great value is attached to the Patent Office, containing many "volumes of the highest scientific value; under judicious arrangement, a collection already rich and ample is forming, of every work of interest to the inventors, and that new, increasing, important class of professional men -- the attorneys in patent cases. Upon its shelves may be found a complete set of the reports of the British Patent Commissioners, of which there are only six copies in the United States. The reports of French patents are also complete, and those of various other countries are being obtained as rapidly as possible. A system of exchanges has been established, which employs three agents abroad; and, in addition to various and arduous duties, the librarian annually dispatches several hundred copies of the reports."
Persons having business with the bureau will always do well to avail themselves of the services of some experienced and responsible attorney, of whom there are many in Washington and elsewhere. This will save endless trouble and annoyances, and much expense, for with all its excellences, the Patent Office is thoroughly under the dominion of red tape.
in which the bureau is quartered occupies two whole squares, and fronts south on F Street, north on G Street, east on 7th Street West, and west on 9th Street West. The length of the building, from Seventh to Ninth Street, is 410 feet, and the width, from F Street to G Street, is 275 feet. It is built up along the four sides, with a large interior quadrangle about 265 by 135 feet in size. It is constructed in the plainest Doric style, of massive crystallized marble, and though devoid of exterior ornament is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. It is grand in its simplicity, and its architectural details are pure and tasteful. It is ornamented with massive porticoes, one on each front, which add much to its appearance. The eastern portico is much admired. That on the south front is an exact copy of the portico on the Pantheon at Rome.
The interior is divided into three stories. The ground and second floors are arranged in offices for the accommodation of the business of the Interior Department, but the third floor is occupied by an immense saloon, extending entirely around the quadrangle. This is used as
but partakes, as far as the south hall is concerned, of the character of a museum. The models and other articles are arranged in glass cases on each side of the room, ample space being left in the centre for promenading. There are two rows of cases, one above the other -- the upper row being placed in a handsome light gallery of iron, reached by tasteful iron stairways, and extending entirely around the east, north, and west halls. The halls themselves are paved with handsome tiles. The ceiling is supported by a double row of imposing pillars, which also act as supports to the galleries, and both the walls and ceiling are finished in marble panels and frescoes. A more beautiful saloon is not to be found in America.
THE SOUTH HALL
You enter from the beautiful south portico, pass through the marble hall, and up the broad stairs to the door of the saloon. Entering it, you find a large register, with pens and ink, at the right of the door, in which you are expected to record your name and the date of your visit.
The first case to the right of the entrance contains
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S PRESS
at which he worked when a journeyman printer in London. It is old and worm-eaten, and is only held together by means of bolts and iron plates, and bears but little resemblance to the mighty machines by which the printing of today is done. But a greater mind than that which invented the steam-press, toiled at this clumsy old frame. It calls up the whole history of the philosopher, and quietly teaches a powerful and wise lesson, as it stands there in its glass case, safe from the defiling hands of relic-hunters.
The next case is devoted to models of water-closets which though useful and instructive, are not calculated to deepen the patriotic impressions aroused by Franklin's press. Then come models of "fire-escapes," some of which are curiosities in their way, and well worth studying. The impression left by the majority, however, is that if they constitute one's only hope of escape in case of fire, an old-fashioned headlong leap from a window may just as well be attempted at once.
Near by are the models of those inventive geniuses who have attempted to extinguish conflagrations by discharging a patent cartridge into the burning mass. The guns from which these cartridges are thrown are most remarkable in design.
Then follow tobacco-cutting machines of various kinds, all sorts of skates, billiard-table models, ice-cutters, billiard registers, improved fire-arms, and toys of different designs, among which is a most ingenious model of a walking horse.
Having reached the end of this row of cases, we cross over to the south side of the hall. The first cases contain models of cattle and sheep stalls, vermin and rat traps, and are followed by a handsome display of articles in gutta percha, manufactured by the Goodyear Company. They are well worth examining carefully.
In the bottom of one of these cases is an old mariner's compass of the year 1604, presented by Ex-Governor Wise, of Virginia, then U.S. Minister to Brazil, in the name of Lieut. Sheppard, U.S.N. The ticket attached to the compass is written in the bold, running hand of the famous ex-rebel statesman. Near by is a razor which belonged to the celebrated navigator, Captain Cook. It was recovered from the natives of the island upon which he was murdered, and is hardly such an instrument as any of those who behold it would care to use. A piece of the first Atlantic cable lies just below it.
Several of the cases following contain the original treaties of the United States with Foreign Powers. They are written upon heavy vellum, in wretchedly bad hands, and have a worn and faded appearance. All, save the treaties with England and the Eastern nations, are written in French, and are all furnished with a multiplicity of red and green seals. The first is the treaty with Austria, and bears the weak, hesitating signature of Francis I. The signature of Alexander I, attached to the first Russian treaty, has more character to it. The treaty of peach with England in 1814, which ended our second war with that Power, bears the signature of George IV, which is so characteristic of the individual, that one almost seems to see the contemptible monarch's face on the parchment. The treaty of 1803, with the Republic of France, is signed "Bonaparte," in a nervous, hasty hand. There is no hesitation about the signature; it is not a clerkly hand, but it is vigorous and decisive. Bernadotte's smooth and flowing hand, treacherous and plausible in appearance, and a true index of his character, adorns the first treaty with Sweden. The original treaty with Turkey is a most curious document. It consists of a number of long slips of parchment, covered with columns of Turkish characters. Near by it hangs a bag, in which it was conveyed to this country. The bat is its legal covering or case, and is provided with a huge ball of red wax by way of a seal. Next to it is the first treaty of alliance with France -- the famous treaty of 1778 -- which gave the aid of the French king to the cause of the suffering and struggling States of the New Republic. It is signed by the ill-fated Louis XVI. The "Louis" is written in a round, scholarly hand, but the lines are delicate, as if the pen did not press the paper with the firmness of a true king. The French treaty of 1822 bears the autograph of Louis XVIII, and that of 1831, the signature of Louis Philippe. Don Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, has affixed his hand to the Brazilian treaty, and the names of Ferdinand (the last, and least) graces that with Spain. These old parchments are very interesting, and one may well spend an hour or two in examining them.
In the glass cases with the treaties are several handsome Oriental articles -- a Persian carpet, and horse-cover, presented to President Van Buren by the Iman of Muscat, and two magnificent rifles, presented to President Jefferson by the Emperor of Morocco. These rifles are finished in the highest style of Eastern art, and are really very beautiful. In the same cases are collections of medals, some of European sovereigns, and others of American celebrities. Among them is a copy of the medal awarded by Congress to the captors of Major Andre. Near these are several splendid Eastern sabres, presented by the great Ali Pacha, the Bey of Egypt, to Captain Perry and the officers of the U.S. Ship of War Concord, at Alexandria (Egypt) in 1832.
THE WASHINGTON RELICS
which are amongst the greatest treasures of the nation. They consist of the camp equipage, and other articles used by General Washington during the Revolution. They are just as he left them at the close of the war, and were given to the Government for safe keeping after his death. Here are the tents which constituted the headquarters in the field of the great soldier. They are wrapped tightly around the poles, just as they were when they were struck for the last time, when victory had crowned his country's arms, and the long war was over. Every cord, every button and tent-pin is in its place, for he was careful of little things. His blankets, and the bed-curtain worked for him by his wife, and his window-curtains, are all in an excellent state of preservation. His chairs are in perfect order, not a round being broken; and the little square mirror on his dressing-case is not even cracked. The washstand and table are also well kept. His knife-case is filled with plain horn-handle knives and forks, which were deemed "good enough for him;' and his mess-chest is a curiosity. It is a plain wooden trunk, covered with leather, with a common lock, the hasp of which is broken. It is divided by small partitions of thin wood, and the compartments are provided with bottles, still stained with the liquids they once held, tin plates, common knives and forks, and other articles pertaining to such an establishment. In these days of luxury, an ordinary sergeant would not be satisfied with so simple and plan an establishment; but our forefathers doubtless considered it well suited to their great commander. His cooking utensils, bellows, andirons, and iron money-chest, all of which went with him from Boston to Yorktown, are in the same case, from the top of which hangs the suit of clothes worn by him upon the occasion of the resignation of his commission as Commander-in-Chief at Annapolis in 1783. A hall-lantern, and several articles from Mount Vernon, a "travelling secretary," Washington's sword and cane, and surveyor's compass, presented to him by Captain Samuel Duvall, the surveyor of Frederick County, Md., are in the same case, as are also a number of articles taken from Arlington House, and belonging formerly to the Washington family.
A coat worn by Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans, and the war-saddle of the Baron De Kalb, a bayonet used by one of Braddock's soldiers, and found on the fatal field upon which that commander met his death-wound, together with the panels from the State-coach of President Washington, complete the collection.
The original draft of
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
with the signatures of the Continental Congress attached, is framed and placed near the Washington case. It is old and yellow, and the ink is fading from the paper. Looking at it, you can hardly realize that this was indeed the first bold proclamation of those great principles which changed the destiny of the world. Near it hangs
as Commander-in-Chief of the American Army, bearing the bold, massive signature of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S MODEL
In the same case is a plain model, roughly executed, representing the framework of the hull of a Western steamboat. Beneath the keel is a false bottom, provided with bellows and air-bags. The ticket upon it bears this memorandum: "Model for Sinking and raising boats by bellows below. A.LINCOLN May 30, 1849"
By means of this arrangement, Mr. Lincoln hoped to solve the difficulty of passing boats over sand-bars in the Western rivers. The success of his scheme would have made him independently wealthy; but it failed, and, twelve years later, he became President of the United States. During the interval, however, the model lay forgotten in the Patent Office; but after his inauguration, Mr. Lincoln got one of the employees to find it for him. After his death, it was placed in the Washington case.
The opposite case contains another memento of him -- the hat worn by him on the night of his assassination.
Passing by a couple of cases filled with machinery for making shoes, we see a number of handsome silk robes, and Japanese articles of various kinds, presented to Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln by the Tycoon of Japan.
The remainder of the hall is devoted to models of machines for making leather harness and trunks, models of gas and kerosene oil apparatuses, liquor distilleries, machines for making confectionery, and for trying out lard and fat. Also methods of curing fish and meat, and embalming the dead. A great medley. A splendid model of a steel revolving tower, for harbor defence, stands near the door, and is one of the most conspicuous ornaments of the room.
THE OTHER HALL
are devoted exclusively to models of patented machinery, and other inventions. The cases above and below are well filled; models of bridges span the spaces between the upper cases, and those of the larger machines are laid on the floor of the hall. Here is every thing the mind can think of. Models of improved arms, clocks, telegraphs, burglar and fire alarms, musical instruments, light-houses, street cars, lamps, stoves, ranges, furnaces, peat and fuel machines, brick and tile machines, sewing machines, power looms, paper-making machinery, knitting machines, machines for making cloth, hats, spool-cotton, for working up hemp, harbor cleaners, patent hooks-and-eyes, buttons, umbrella and cane handles, fluting machines, trusses, medical instruments of gutta percha, corsets, ambulances and other military establishments; arrangements for excluding the dust and smoke from railroad cars, railroad and steamboat machinery, agricultural and domestic machinery of all kinds, and hundreds of other inventions, line both sides of the three immense halls. ONe might spend a year in examining them, and learn something new every day. For every article one can think of, there are at least half a dozen models, and there are many inventions to be seen of which nine people out of ten have never dreamed before. The number increases every year. As the country grows greater, new wants are felt. They are sure to be supplied, and the model-room of the Patent Office keeps a faithful record of the history of our civilization.
THE BUREAU OF AGRICULTURE
The Bureau of Agriculture was formerly a Branch of the Patent Office, but is now separate and distinct from it. It is located in an elegant building near the Smithsonian Institution, and is in charge of the Commissioner of Agriculture. We take the following description of it from a Washington letter recently published.
THE NEW BUREAU
"The old Agricultural Department, tucked away as it was in the vaulted cellars of the Patent Office, had a life, which, to the public, was much like the white sprouts of the potatoes scattered in some of its underground storerooms. The new Department is quite a different institution, and has a vigorous growth in the upper air. The grounds and the building will soon be among the most attractive places to visit in the Capital. In many respects they are so now.
"The new building stands upon a portion of the Smithsonian reservation ....
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