Museum of Science and History: Curious World of Patents

MOSH's exhibit on historical patent models will be on display for one more week. In this article we take a look at a few of the items in the exhibit.

Published September 22, 2012 in Weekend Edition -

The Museum of Science and History is running its last week of The Curious World of Patent Models, an exhibit that delves into the short-lived period of time when patent models were a necessity for anyone who wanted their invention secured.

Because of the enormous amount of change in manufacturing and commerce during the Industrial Revolution, Thomas Jefferson formed the US Patent Office and required inventors to submit a working model, usually not larger than 12 inches, of their creation when applying for a patent -- thus the name "patent models."

The rare models are a special addition to MOSH because after The Patent Act, inventors were no longer required to submit a tangible design when applying for a patent, yet the museum temporarily holds some of the original US models that date anywhere from the 1850s to the early 1900s.  

The patent models range from domestic improvements to technical advances and each are accompanied by a hand-written tag featuring the name of the inventor and creation, the patent number and date it was accepted.  In addition, the items are paired with a short, typed copy of the descriptions originally written from the inventors themselves.

Improved Washing Machines -- Patented Aug 9, 1870
by Charles H. DeKnight, Pittsburgh, PA

“The nature of my invention consists in an arrangement of a rubbing-disk within a wash-tub, the lower surface of the said disk, and the upper surface of the bottom of the tub, being provided with a series of curved rubbing strips, said disk being pivoted to a hollow vertical shaft, in which imparts a downward pressure to the rubbing disk, which has a rotating reciprocating motion given to it through the medium of said hollow vertical shaft, driven by suitable driving gear.”

Improvement in Clothes Driers -- Patented May 28, 1872
 by George L. Woods, Manchester, NH

“To use my new improved clothes-drier, turn the crank and the screw to run the carriage down to the convenient height, then place the arms in a horizontal position in the stand … and hang the clothes to be dried on the arms, then turn the crank and screw so as to run the carriage up, and carry the clothes up near the ceiling where the air is warmest and where they will dry soonest, out of the way of a persons’ head who may be passing under the clothes.  When the clothes are dry the carriage may be run down and clothes removed ..."

Improvement in Metallic Burial Cases -- Patented May 7, 1867
by Martin H. Crane, Cincinnati

“This invention relates to a construction of sheet-metal coffins or burial-cases intended to combine the advantages of strength, lightness, and economy of labor and material with a handsome appearance.”

Improvement in Boots and Shoes -- Patented November 16, 1875
by William B. Rice, Quincy, Mass.

“My present invention consists in giving an upper-edge finish to a toe-tip or projection struck up one and the same piece with any sole outside the upper, and without reducing the strength or body of the sole; and also consists in so constructing the shoe that the upper edge finish of such toe tip or protector shall form an uninterrupted or continuous portion of the upper edge or Scotch-edge finish of the sole is carried over the top of the tip thus adding to the strength and stylish appearance of the shoe.

Improvement in Invalid Bedsteads -- Patented by US July 29, 1879
by Gaston D’Haisne, Paris, France

“In some diseases requiring the body or a part of the body to be kept cool, I place upon the bed sectional rubber mattresses adapted to be inflated or filled with cold water.”

The Curious World of Patent Models will run at MOSH, 1025 Museum Circle, until September 30.

Article by Melanie Pagan
Photos courtesy MOSH

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