Report of the Commissioner of Patents
Patent Office, 16th January, 1850
Sir: -- Agreeably to the requisition of the act which makes it the duty of the Commissioner to communicate to Congress the condition of the Patent Office "in the month of January annually," the undersigned respectfully submits Part First of the report for the year just expired. Part Second, assigned to Agriculture, cannot be ready for some months. Under no circumstances could it be prepared by the time designated by law for the presentation of matters relating to inventions, since that would involve the collection and arrangement of statistics for the year before the year expired.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
To Hon. Millard Filmore,
Vice President of the United States,
and President of the Senate.
Financial, Statistical, etc.
The whole number of applications for patents received during the year ending December 31st, 1849, is nineteen hundred and fifty-five; the number of caveats filed during the same period is five hundred and ninety-five. The whole number of patents issued during the year 1849, is ten hundred and seventy-six; including thirty re-issues, five additional improvements, and forty-nine designs. No disclaimers have been entered during the year. Within the year 1849, seven hundred and fifty-one patents have expired; a list of which is annexed, marked F. There were eleven applications to extend patents, the terms of which were about to expire; seven of which were granted and four rejected. None have been extended by act of Congress within the year.
The receipts of the Office for the year 1849, on account of applications for patents, caveats, additional improvements, re-issues, extensions, recording assignments, powers of attorney, etc., and for copies, amount to $80,563.17; to which sum has been added $150.00 received of L.B. Shepperd, Esq., (late United States District Attorney, New York) recovered of Messrs. Brown and Maher for violation of the 5th section of the act of Congress, approved August 29th, 1842; and the sum of $39.61 on sale of old matting and carpeting, making the whole receipts of the Office for the year the sum of $80,752.78, as per statement marked A.
The expenses of the Office for the year 1849 are as follows: For salaries, $29,072.11; contingent expenses, $12,367.70; library, $2,748.41 [fn. Of the above sum $2,500 were paid for books ordered in previous years.]; temporary clerks, $10,040.01; agricultural statistics, $3,395.76; refunding money paid by mistake, $509.12; analysis of breadstuffs, $1,400 [fn. Part of this amount is from the appropriation of 1848]; librarian, $290.00; Chief Justice of District of Columbia, sitting on appeals from Commissioner of Patents, $100; on applications withdrawn, $17,793.33; amounting, in the whole sum, to $77,716.44, as per statement marked B: -- leaving a balance to be carried to the credit of the Patent Fund of $3,036.34, as per statement C.
On the first day of January, 1849, the amount of money in the Treasury to the credit of the Patent Fund was $216,468.83. Of this sum, $50,000.00 was appropriated by Congress by the act approved March 3d, 1849, for the erection of the wings of the Patent Office, which has been drawn out and expended. The net receipts of this Office for 1849, added to the balance remaining, makes the amount in the Treasury to the credit of the Patent Fund on the 1st day of January, 1850, $169,505.17, as per statement D.
At first glance it may be matter of surprise to some that the amount carried to the credit of the Patent Fund for the year ending December 31st, 1849, should be comparatively so small. This apparent deficit is fully explained by the following remarks taken from the report of the late Commissioner for the year 1848:
"The large balances over expenditures which have accrued during the last four years were caused in part by the great increase of applications for patents which accumulated to such a degree as far to exceed the ability of the examining force to dispose of them, thus occasioning a disproportion between the applications and withdrawals as compared with former years. That cause has been removed by the recent increase of the force of the Office, and it may now be expected that until the Office is relieved of its accumulated business, the proportion of withdrawals to the receipts of the Office will be greater than in former years, and consequently the balance which will accrue to the credit of the Patent Fund will be less."
As illustrative of the correctness of the above, it may be well here to state, that out of the receipts of this Office for the year 1849, the sum of $11,353.33 has been paid on withdrawals of applications made previous to that year. The amount refunded on withdrawals upon applications made in 1849, is $6,440. Thus it will be perceived that, had no portion of the receipts of the Office been paid back on withdrawals except on applications made in 1849, the amount carried to the credit of the Patent Fund from the business of the past year would have been $14,389.67,
The number of cases on examiners' desks January 1st, 1849, was five hundred and thirty-nine; the number of applications received during the year, nineteen hundred and fifty-five, making the whole number of applications before the Office for the year, twenty-four hundred and ninety-four. Of this number, nine cases remained unexamined on the 31st December 1849. The business of the Office for the past year shows the examination of two thousand four hundred and eighty-five applications, resulting in the issue of ten hundred and seventy-six patents, and fourteen hundred and nine rejections and suspensions, as exhibited per statement E.
The act of March 3d, 1837, constitutes the Chief Justice of the District of Columbia a court of appeal from the decisions of the Commissioner of Patents. The very great increase of Patent business has resulted in rendering the duties of that officer in many cases onerous, and the compensation allowed by law disproportionate to the services rendered. An increase of the amount now paid him, would be no more than an act of justice in view of the duties imposed upon him by law.
With respect to the modification of the patent laws, I beg leave to refer to the able reports of my immediate predecessor, whose views as to the necessity of giving further security to inventors, accord with my own, and to whose forcible language on the subject I can add nothing. It is admitted that all legislation which has in view the security of an exclusive right, is intended to guard the public good against a violation of the faith reposed in its bestowal. That, on the other hand, it is equally the duty of the legislature, if it deems proper to extend to individuals or corporations such right on certain conditions, to protect them in its enjoyment. That such in a greater or less degree is not the case in regard to inventors must be obvious to those who have been conversant with the operation of the patent laws now in force. It is not expected, in view of their modification, that a perfection can be attained which will meet every emergency; but the least which should be done is to apply a remedy whenever an object designed by enactment, is defeated in its operation.
Some years of experience seem to have illustrated the inoperative effect of the law intended to secure the inventor in the enjoyment of his privilege. Were all men equally capable of producing, fewer would be found engaged in plundering inventions which belong to his neighbor. Such, however, not being the case, unfortunately the lack of inventive talent is in many instances supplied only by the desire for gain, and ingenuity in attaining it, at the sacrifice of the real mechanist.
The public mind, interested in the progress of the arts, as fostered by the establishment of this office, is now turned towards a remedy of the evil; and to the undersigned it seems but justice that the remedy should be applied.
Inadequacy of protection, is what is chiefly complained of -- the violation of a right as sacred as any personal possession, without the remedy guaranteed against a petty larceny. It is manifestly unjust that the time and means of the inventor should be expended in defending that the which the Government accords as peculiarly his own, in every instance where a willful trespasser is called upon to respond in damages for infringement. He is thus subjected to all the horrors of interminable and ruinous litigation; and, if his assailants are more fortunate in having the means of attack than he of defense, his case is hopeless, and he may be likened, as once were chancery clients, to sheep that, having taken shelter in the hedge, come forth "piteously complaining," leaving their fleece upon the bush.
It may be contended that all other titles to property are justly subject to investigation without limitation; -- and that an exception in this instance would be a departure from the well settled principles of practice and law. The argument might be good, were all property equally the result of mental creation and equally susceptible of public invasion. Unlike a chattel, it can be stolen by one, or a thousand, and by all at the same time. Its appropriation by one interposes no obstacle to its larceny by another, and thus the inventor is subject to be plundered by every person who chooses to violate his right. He appeals to the law for redress, and the remedy he adopts proves to be one of self-immolation.
May not, then, the claim of the patentee to his invention present an exception to the general rule governing title -- an exception demanded in justice to himself, and without involving any burden to the public? It is intended in its very inception, to subject it to a thorough and rigid examination by competent justices of its originality as well as usefulness; and thus, in the outset, determine the merit that constitute the requisite upon which a law of title is founded. In the invention of a device, is created a title to it by the inventor himself; and he holds his title against the world, independent of statute enactment, and without fear of fraud, so long as he keeps the production of his mind a secret from his fellow-men. He thus has not only possession, but the right of possession, and the right of property in it, which together complete his title. It is its disclosure, and the resulting benefit to the public, for which the law designs a correspondent benefit to himself; and to this end, carefully guarding the rights of all, it is asked that a modification which shall meet the case be enacted. I would therefore respectfully solicit for this subject the attention and favorable consideration of Congress.
The law now permits what is termed a "re-issue," embodying matter not claimed in the original patent, if shown by the model and drawings. It thus, in effect, makes a new claim admissible, for what originally, may not have been designed to be patented, or supposed to be of essential value. The device having been part of the first construction of the machine, is now claimed; and, having been new at the date of the original application, a right to its exclusive use is demanded. The grant of this right, in many instances, interferes with machinery subsequently invented by others, thus cutting off such inventors from the benefit of its use. In support of the present construction of the law, it is alleged, that inasmuch as it was through inadvertence or mistake of the applicant in the first instance, that he did not include in his claim the feature desired to be embraced in the re-issue; a patent should now be granted lest the injustice be done of withholding the benefit of an invention actually his own, though not originally claimed. The law has made time and the public use of a device one test of its patentability. An inconsistency therefore, exists between a reissue and an original application. In the latter case, prior use for two years is a bar to a patent, whereas in the case of a re-issue such prior use is no bar, and it may be granted at any time during the life of the patent. Thus a device may have been in public use for years, for which a patent on a re-issue is desired, but still no objection, under the present law, is made, if it comes within the scope of such an application. A just complaint may be made that devices of old patents, in a great degree inoperative as to any practical purpose, may be claimed on re-issue and an exclusive right to them procured, thus operating against a beneficial invention, containing the same feature subsequently patented or in common use. A system of tribute is in this way levied, originating with the indefatigable explorers of old and useless patents, whose object is to discover something which they may now claim under the law, and which can be used to legal advantage in defiance of equitable right. A party not the inventor presents an assignment of a worthless patent, obtained, perhaps, for a trifling consideration -- procures the re-issue -- and accomplishes his purpose. In my opinion, the restriction of the law in one case and the non-restriction in the other, are in principle at variance, to say nothing of the hardships arising from its practical operation. It is, therefore recommended that no re-issue, containing a claim broader than the original claim, be granted, unless application therefor be made within two years from the date of the original patent.
By reference to the statement of receipts and expenditures of this office for the current year,it will be found that eleven thousand three hundred and fifty dollars and thirty-three cents has been refunded on withdrawals made previous to the first day of January, 1849. This sum has been drawn entirely from the income of the office for the past year, and although that amount is even greater than the sum carried to the credit of the patent fund for the year 1848, still it is but reasonable to suppose that the number of applications rejected must yearly increase in a far greater proportion than the number of patents issued, and thus, from year to year, the revenue of the office be decreased. From the report of '48, it will be found, that a period of four years (from 1841 to 1845,) the number of rejections were only thirteen hundred and ninety-nine. From the period of four years following, they amount to three thousand three hundred and fifteen; and for the years 1849, to fourteen hundred and nine. It may therefore be confidently anticipated, that the next like period of time will exhibit a corresponding increase of rejections compared with the patents issued. To provide for this contingency, it becomes necessary to devise means of increasing the receipts, and thus avoid a deficit which might otherwise occur. For this purpose, I would suggest the following amendments of the fiscal laws governing this office; and this is done with less hesitation, inasmuch as they will merely serve to apportion more justly the fees demanded in each case to the services rendered.
First. -- Whenever a patent is refused, the applicant is entitled to receive back two-thirds of the fee paid, leaving, in ordinary cases, for the services rendered by the office but ten dollars; whereas the actual expenses of examination, etc., in this office is, on an average, much more than that sum, and the deficiency must be made up by others. Thus the quasi inventor, who has given nothing to the arts, fails to pay his proportion of the expense of the office, while the real inventor is required to make up the deficiency. It not unfrequently happens that the office is speculated upon by inventors and agents with regard to examinations. They find it (as some have admitted) cheaper to give the office ten dollars for the investigation of a case than to purchase the necessary books and examine for themselves. By this means an amount of labor is often involved, costing the office in almost every instance, more than the amount received. But this expense to the office is doubled, and often tripled, after the examination, by rehearings and by a correspondence with the disappointed applicant, continued from one to twelve months in duration. In view therefore of the foregoing considerations, I would recommend, that but one-third of the fee should be returned in cases of withdrawal. Upon this subject communications have been received from persons whose opinions are entitled to great consideration. The following extract is from a letter received from a gentleman who was fourteen years in this office, but who now, having no official connection with it, may be regarded as free from bias:
"As the increased expenditures of the Patent Office may produce a deficit in the revenues, and I had occasion some few years back to investigate this subject, I take the liberty of submitting for your consideration some suggestions which may aid you in determining the best course to be pursued.
"From my knowledge of inventors, I am safe in saying that they are willing to submit to the payment of a higher duty than thirty dollars for a patent, if it be necessary, in order to secure and maintain an efficient and prompt administration of the Patent Office.
"An efficient, judicious, and prompt examination of applications for patents is of the first importance to inventors; for on the efficiency and good judgment of the examination depends, in great measure, the integrity of patents, and on the promptness of it, the success of the inventor's enterprise. There is no estimating the loss which inventors sustain by reason of delays in the grant of patents; if therefore an increase of fees should be required to maintain such prompt and efficient administration of the office, you may rest assured that your recommendation will be supported by nearly, if not all the inventors in the country. But I feel satisfied that this measure will not be necessary. The present law authorizes the repayment of two-thirds of the fee paid into the treasury, on the withdrawal of an application, and as about one-half of the applications are rejected, the withdrawals reduce the receipts of the office one-third, which if retained, would make the revenue amply large to cover all the expenses necessary to the desired efficiency of administration.
"I have never been able to see any sound reason for the provision of the law authorizing withdrawals. A duty is imposed on applicants for patents, not as a payment to the government for the protection which it extends to the patentee, but simply to cover the expenses which the government incurs in adjudicating the claims of applicants, and in granting patents; and in view of this, it was estimated that thirty dollars for each application would cover the average expenses. Now, if it cost as much to examine and reject an application as it does to grant a patent, why should the patentee pay more than the unsuccessful applicant. From my experience, more labor is bestowed by the office on the rejected applications, than on the successful ones, and for this reason -- the rejection can only be made after a careful and laborious investigation -- and the disappointed applicant never remains satisfied with one examination and rejection. He will persist in urging his claims, and often with the assistance of skilled counsel. The views submitted must be examined, and arguments answered, all of which involve much labor and require much skill. But with successful applications, the one examination is sufficient; and at most it is only necessary to see that the application is properly amended in accordance with the first examination. When the application is passed, there remains but the expense of engrossing and recording, which on the average, makes but a small part of the expense.
"I feel satisfied that after a careful examination you will find, that the rejected applications -- those that have been withdrawn have cost the government more than the granted applications -- and, if I am right, they should certainly cost the applicant as much.
"But there is another light in which this subject should be considered. The present law encourages the making of applications for matters of doubtful novelty; and in the course of my practice, I have often been told by applicants, after assuring them that there was no novelty in their alleged inventions, that they would nevertheless try, for if they failed it would only cost them ten dollars as they could withdraw twenty dollars.
"In view of all this, would it be just to impose an additional duty on patentees -- the real inventors, who really confer a benefit on society -- to shield the unworthy applicants or the pirates who seek to obtain surreptitious patents for the inventions of others.
"If there be any justice in requiring the payment of a duty to defray the expenses of the Patent Office, unsuccessful applicants should be required to pay as much as patentees." ...
Second -- A fee of twenty dollars is required upon the filing of a caveat. Upon the filing of the application by the inventor, the whole fee of twenty dollars is allowed in the fee for the application, leaving nothing for the caveat; so that he who has the benefit of the caveat and the application also, pays no more than he who files his application merely. Caveats are a source of constant labor, anxiety and expense to the office, and he who files them and derives from them security for his rights, should, in common justice, pay the expenses they impose upon the office; for unless the expense is paid by him who derives the benefit, it must fall on those who do not. I would, therefore, recommend that twenty dollars, as heretofore, be required upon the filing of each caveat, but that only ten dollars of this fee be allowed in part payment of the fees on completing the application.
Third -- The law now in force allows a patentee to take out a patent for any additional improvement made upon his patented invention, upon the payment of fifteen dollars, whether he be a citizen of the United States or a foreigner. There seems to be no just reason for this distinction between fees for original patents and for letters patent additional. The nature of the invention is the same in both cases; and the questions which arise under the original, arise also under the application for additional letters patent. There are, moreover, some questions to be settled under the latter application, which do not arise in the former. On the whole, the actual expense to this office attending the grant of letters patent additional, or the rejection of an application therefor, are at least as great as in cases of an original application. A distinction in the fees could hardly have arisen from a correct apprehension of the subject. Besides, the privilege of receiving this patent for half the usual fee, is confined to the prior patentee, but, if one of his neighbors invent the same thing, he must pay the full fee of thirty dollars for his patent. If a subject of the Queen of Great Britain be the patentee, he can take out a patent for his improvement for fifteen dollars; while any one of his fellow subjects would be required to pay five hundred dollars for a patent for the identical improvement. There is obviously a burdensome discrimination in the provision in question, and by the distinction made, the law becomes partial in its operation. I would therefore recommend that all provisions in relation to letters patent additional be repealed as unnecessary and unequal. Unnecessary, because, if such improvements are patentable at all, they are so under the general provisions of the law; and unequal, because they extend privileges to a few which are withheld from the many; and that without any particular merit on the part of those privileged.
Fourth -- The foregoing objections apply with equal force to the law which provides for the re-issue of patents upon payment of a fee of fifteen dollars. All the labor and expense attending the grant of letters patent in any case, are required in a case of re-issue; and, in addition to those which are usual, other questions sometimes of great difficulty arise. It is not sufficient to determine whether the thing claimed in the re-issue is new, but it must be determined whether it was new when the patent was granted. This precise ascertainment of dates, therefore, requires much careful research, and consequent labor, which would be wholly unnecessary in ordinary cases. In other particulars, these cases often require more care and labor than is usual with common applications; and it is safe to say that each application for a re-issue costs this office nearly double the ordinary expense of applications upon which the full fee is paid. It is therefore recommended that upon all applications for re-issue of patents, at least the full fee of thirty dollars should be paid, and that no part of it to be returned in case of rejection.
The foregoing suggested amendments ought, in my opinion, to be made upon a simple ground of a fair division of the expenses of this office among those whose interest it was established to protect, even though no increase of revenue were required. Should too much revenue accrue, a general diminution or reduction of fees should be adopted, instead of relieving one class of applicants from their just proportion of the burden and imposing it upon another.
It has been proposed to grant "patents of importation," agreeably to the practice in England, France, Belgium, and other countries, with the view that valuable inventions, now supposed to be used in secret, may be brought from abroad. On the other hand, it is alleged, and with reason, that the granting of monopolies to mere introducers, regardless of the rights of authors, is no better than fostering espionage and legalizing fraud; establishing premiums for the most adroit of freebooters. Certain it is, not a few American inventors suffer by the practice. It has almost become a regular business for patent speculators to cross the Atlantic with discoveries surreptitiously obtained, and after securing or selling them, to laugh at the owners for not being sufficiently alert to reap the advantage themselves. The system is unworthy of an enlightened people, and can never be adopted without reacting, sooner or later, on those who uphold it. That which is fraudulent between individuals can hardly be anything else when a government is a party, no matter by what name the transaction may be designated, nor by what pretenses justified. If a new machine or manufacture is beyond our imitation, without instruction as to its production, it ought to remain so till we study the secret out. Our law awards patents to "original inventors," or their assignees. This is what the highest morality demands, and in its working it has proved consonant to the soundest policy. In every point of view, it would, in the opinion of the undersigned, be better to adhere to it, than to adopt the devious practice prevailing elsewhere. The general sentiment of the age, on these matters, is fast ripening; and soon international policy will no longer sustain the spoilation of "true inventors," let them be located where they may.
There may be special exemptions to the opinions thus stated, and these would consist of processes of manufacture not new in the country where they are employed, not the property of any individual, and studiously withheld from publication by the authorities of the state, thus monopolizing a peculiar branch of manufacture. When such processes are discovered and introduced, Congress has the power, by special legislation, to reward the introducer, and such legislation would be, I conceive, all that a sound policy could recommend in the matter of granting patents for introduction.
To furnish a synopsis of Patented Inventions from 1790 to 1850, the subjoined analytical tables, (marked J.) have been prepared by Mr. Lawrence, Chief Clerk, in which he has particularized the several states to whose citizens the patents were issued. Great pains have been taken in their compilation, and every person interested in marking the progress of invention on this continent, can hardly fail to be gratified in perusing them.
[A] Statement of receipts for patents, caveats, additional improvements, re-issues, extensions, recording assignments, etc., and for certified copies. Amount received for patents, caveats, re-issues and additional improvements $75,690.00 Amount received for recording assignments, etc., and for copies 4,873.17 Amount received of L.B. Shepherd, United States District Attorney, New York, recovered of Brown and Maher for violation of act of May 29, 1842 150.00 Amount received for sale of old matting, etc. 39.61 __________ $80,752.78 [B] Statement of expenditures and payments made from the Patent Fund by the Commissioner of Patents from January 1st, 1849, to December 31st, 1849, inclusive, under the act of March 3d, 1837, and subsequent acts of Congress making provision for the expenses of the Patent Office, viz.: For salaries $29,072.11 " Contingent Expenses 12,367.70 " Books for Library 2,748.41 " Temporary Clerks 10,040,01 " Agricultural Statistics 3,395.76 " Refunded money paid by mistake 509.12 " Analysis of breadstuffs 1,400.00 " Librarian 290.00 For Withdrawals $17,793.33 " Compensation of District Judge 100.00 ___________ $77,716.44 [C] Statement of the Receipts and Expenditures of the Patent Office for the year 1849 Amount received from all sources $80,752.78 Amount of expenditures of all kinds 77,716.44 ___________ Amount carried to the credit of the Patent Fund for the year 1849 $3,036.34 [D] Patent Fund, January first, 1850 Amount of fund on 1st January, 1849 $216,468.83 Amount drawn out for erection of wings to Patent Office 50,000.00 ___________ $166,468.83 Amount carried to credit of Patent fund for 1848 3,036.34 ___________ Amount remaining in Treasury to credit of Patent Fund, January 1st, 1850 $169,505.17 [E] Statement of applications on hand January 1st, 1849, and number received during the year and acted upon No. of cases on examiners' desks, January 1st, 1849 539 " applications received in 1849 1,955 _____ " before the office during the year 2,494 " of Patents issued during the year 1,076 " applications remaining unexamined 9 " of rejections and suspensions 1,409 ______ 2,494
Proposed Applications of the Patent Fund
I. Publication of the Specification and Drawings
II. Preparation of a General, Analytical, and Descriptive
Index of Inventions
III. Institution of National Prizes
Proposed Applications of the Patent Fund
Of the disposal of the Patent Fund, patentees have ever been jealous; but if they have complained of drafts made on it to subserve other interests, it was because of their anxiety to have it expended in such a way as to meet the cordial assent of all classes of society: one associated with the interests and honor of all.
The Patent Office is a self-sustaining institution; its receipts exceed its expenditures, and have exceeded them for several years. The surplus money paid in by inventors, and known as the Patent Fund, amounted on the 1st of January, 1849, to $216,468.83. Of this sum $50,000 were appropriated by Congress at the last session toward defraying the cost of the additions to the building, recently commenced, and have been withdrawn on that account -- a diversion of the funds which is believed by inventors to be unjust.
These additional structures are not required for the proper business of the office, but are intended to accommodate other branches of the government, and those better able to pay for them. After contributing $108,000 to erect the present building, it is deemed manifestly wrong to absorb what has always been considered the inventors' own fund, to increase the facilities of other departments. When the upper saloon of the present building (more than one third and by far the best part of the whole) -- temporarily occupied by the collection of the Exploring expedition and the National Institution, is restored to the office, on the completion of the Smithsonian Institution to which the collection is to be removed -- no further accommodation as regards room will be required by this bureau. The undersigned therefore asks, in the name of the inventors of the Union, a restoration of the sum withdrawn, and authority to devote the fund to purposes more immediately connected with the progress of science and art. The amount of the Patent Fund, January 1, 1850, was, as already stated, $169,505.17.
The fifth and sixth sections of the act of Congress, establishing the Smithsonian Institution, provide for the "erection of a suitable building for the reception and arrangement, upon a liberal scale, of objects of natural history, including a geological and mineralogical cabinet."
In the first annual Report of the board of regents, it will be seen that a building was commenced with this view, a part of which was specially designed, and has been constructed, to receive the "National Museum," which includes the collections now stored in the upper saloon of this office.
The building is so far advanced, that it is believed if ordinary effort be made, the rooms designed for the Museum can be sufficiently completed to receive the collections in the course of the present year, (1850,) when the hall which they now occupy may be restored to the office for the display of its models.
It is most desirable that Congress should act on this matter at the present session, since the cost of finishing the buildings now commenced, and the remainder contemplated in the original plan, will require appropriations, as it is understood, to an amount varying between five and six hundred thousand dollars -- so that, if the Patent Fund is to meet the demand to the utmost of its ability, it will be wholly swallowed up, and the cherished purposes of inventors with regard to it entirely frustrated.
There are several essential desiderata to make this bureau what it ought to be, and to some of them the Patent Fund, in the opinion of the undersigned, should chiefly be dedicated. Probably by no other channels of expenditure can the public and inventors themselves be so immediately and enduringly benefited -- by none can more certain and rich returns be realized. Among them are --
I. Publication of the Specifications and Drawings
In several respects this bureau, in its organization and practice, is in advance of patent offices in other countries. According to antiquated fooleries about "divine rights," by which everything belonged to kings and nothing to the people -- not even the fruits of their ingenuity -- inventors abroad still pray for and accept patents as "special acts of the sovereign's grace." With us the insulting and debasing proposition is effectively ignored. Not subjects, but freemen, inventors here claim and receive patents as of right -- their own right.
Nor are they subjected to the claims of numerous offices, at least of which the ingenious of some lands are required to call and pay enormous fees for no services rendered, [fn:
This practice, and also one relating to legalized "expedition fees," are elucidated in the recent report of a committee appointed to inquire into the British Patent Laws, with a view to their improvement and the removal of abuses.
"After the patent bill is prepared, the patent is forwarded through the Signet and Privy Seal offices? Yes. That part of the proceeding is regulated by the statute of Henry VIII, is it not? Yes, entirely, and which was passed for the purpose of creating fees -- the 27th of Henry VIII., chapter 11, which requires that every patent should be brought to the clerks of the Signet and Privy Seal, and go through certain stages. Up to that stage, I believe, it is a matter of practice which the particular offices could control. From that stage it is a matter regulated by an act of Parliament, passed simply for the sake of fees, and is a very great hardship. If you have two names, you have the expense very much increased -- three, and so on, without any corresponding benefit or protection; in fact, the offices are absolutely useless.
"Is it not stated in the preamble to that statute, that the object is to increase the fees to the clerk at the Signet and the clerk at the Privy Seal Office? Yes -- it states that the clerks of the Signet and Privy Seal give their daily attendance for great and weighty affairs, and have no fees, 'other than cometh and groweth of the said Signet and Privy Seal.' And that statute was passed simply as a means of paying the clerks, by requiring every grant to pass through their hands. They receive fees which are not specified on those grants." -- Evidence of Thomas Webster.
"Are the proceedings at the Signet Office and the Privy Seal Office anything more than formal with regard to new inventions? Nothing more than formal, but they are dilatory. Great complaint has been made, and with reason, at the confinement to one seal-day in the week. The rule is to deposit the bill on Thursday at one o'clock in order to be in time for the seal on Friday. If it passes over one o'clock on Thursday, it is delayed a week. The Privy Seal, however, may be obtained in a day, on payment of five guineas as an 'Expedition Fee.'" -- Evidence of William Spence.] or for services next to none, ere the royal permission for a patent to issue can be obtained -- a part this of that gigantic system of wrong by which the industrious have been taxed to support the vicious and idle -- a system originating in times when the masses were acknowledged serfs, and cherished till it pervaded every industrial profession, and hung, as it still hangs in many lands, a dark spectrum overshadowing human enterprise.
Our example in establishing a single and a moderate fee, and dedicating whatever surplus funds may accrue to the benefit of those from whom they were received, has awakened inquiry abroad, and led to comparisons and investigations which promise to result in modifications of exactions that have often reduced genius to beggary, and legal technicalities that have sent not a few of the earth's purest spirits to harbor with maniacs. Any step toward the freedom of the arts -- the universal emancipation of ingenuity -- is matter of rejoicing to the friends of progress, be it taken where it may.
In our extended Union one patent covers every state; but with some governments an invention, although new to every part of the country, can only be secured for a whole by taking out separate patents for separate sections -- a practice acknowledged to have been instituted, and still clung to, for the purpose of extorting from inventors additional fees.
A foreign journalist, representing a city deeply interested in manufacturing improvements, "regards with satisfaction the recommendation of the committee on the Signet and Privy Seal Offices, to abolish the system of enforcing, for the sake of fees, separate patents for each of the three kingdoms."
"Any one," says the writer, "who is accustomed to glance at the pages of our scientific, and particularly of our mechanical serials, must be struck with astonishment and admiration at the inconceivable ability, manual skill, and even genius, continually striving to urge on the wheels of material improvement. There is no scheme too brilliant or too daring, no difficulty of execution too intricate, to baffle or to daunt them. In the air, the water, and the earth, these spirits are continually toiling, wasting health, and strength, and means, in some effort or another. It is little enough that when the object is attained, some interloper should not be suffered to step in, appropriate the invention, and intercept the profits. The law has wisely pronounced that enterprise shall have its reward in fourteen years' monopoly of any new and original invention. That is not much, but public policy will allow no more. It has always, however, been a hardship that an extravagant expense is required to secure a patent. Separate writs must be taken out for England, Scotland, and Ireland, and hundreds of pounds are swallowed up in procuring them. Not seldom a poor man is obliged to resign all the profit of his discovery from pure inability to take out the protection. That ought not to be; and no sophism has sufficed to convince us that any expense beyond the minimum possible cost is advisable in such cases. It is indeed said, that the charge prevents the inventors of trifles or insignificant plans from taking out patents. But it is as likely to prevent a very different class. It is a test utterly unsatisfactory in every respect, and should not be suffered to exist, especially when the abolition of protective laws has placed our own skill and industry in competition with those of the whole world. We therefore look with satisfaction on this recommendation."
The superiority of our system consists also in the rejection of intricate legal forms, so that every inventor of ordinary capacity may make out and pass through the office his own papers, without the intervention of attorney or agent: -- also in the requirement of models, and their free examination -- in the information and advice, verbally and by circulars, gratuitously given -- access to the office library -- and in the practice of examining into the novelty and value of devices and discoveries for which patents are asked. Not a week elapses without ingenious men been prevented from spending their money on patents, by what they see and learn here. Every applicant in person is advised to look through the models, examine the specifications and claims on file, and the published reports of the office, before making application: it is perhaps superfluous to add that many who follow the advice see that they are anticipated, and make no application at all. Surprised to find themselves on beaten tracks, instead of ranging, as they supposed, through untrodden fields, they have their attention turned to more promising directions, and a future waste of time and means prevented. But few inventors can afford the expense of travelling to and from the capital to make such inquiries.
But after all that can be said in favor of our practice, in one essential particular we are in the rear, viz.: -- In the publication of descriptions and drawings of inventions patented. No greater boon could be conferred on inventors than an annual volume or two devoted to this purpose. For want of such a work, an incalculable amount of intellectual and physical efforts -- of time, money, material and ingenuity -- has been wasted within the last twenty years; while every day is adding to it and to the number of those who spend the best part of their lives in devising and maturing what has already been done. In no country do the ingenious labor under the disadvantage to so great a degree as in ours, although in none can sources of information be of more immediate and lasting benefit.
The publication of the specifications and drawings of patented inventions has for many years been practiced in England, France, and most of the European states, as a part of the general system, legalized, for the protection of inventors and the encouragement of useful arts. In England the publication is conducted by private enterprise; but in most other European states, it is obligatory, sometimes on the patentee, and sometimes on the government. From the etymology of the term, Letters-patent are letters which lie open; and in law the grant of the same is equivalent to publication; but in effect it is hardly so, as the archives of public offices are difficult of access, and the parchment in the hands of its possessor, is generally a sealed document to the world. The insertion, therefore, of suitable descriptions and illustrations, in some public journal, is necessary, to apprise the public of the progress of inventions, to prevent infringements through ignorance or mistake, to avoid occasions for contests about priority of invention, and to save inventors the trouble and expense of wasting their energies upon what has already been secured to another. It also stimulates improvement, and awakens commendable emulation.
The following is an extract from the patent laws of Bavaria. Article 59. "Extracts from this Register [the official register of patents] ought to be inserted periodically, in the most widely-circulated gazettes, in the journals of industry, and in the advertising papers of the provinces. The Minister of the Interior ought to take care that the most extended publicity be given to the description of the objects invested with a patent, immediately after the expiration of the first three years -- to be computed from the day of publication of the patent granted -- in order to contribute the utmost possible to encourage the spirit of invention and extension of industry.
"The publication of discoveries, etc., at the term above fixed, can not be postponed by the Minister of the Interior, but in extraordinary cases, and for well-grounded reason -- the patent sufficiently protecting the patentee against the infringement and violation of his privileges."
In some European states, the publication is not ordered until the expiration of the patent, that the public may then be informed of what has become their property. In others, advertisement or publication is enjoined upon the patentee immediately after his patent is secured.
In the following countries specifications and drawings are published at the expense of the government: --
Bavaria -- three years after the grant
France -- after the first annuity is paid
Belgium -- after the expiration or forfeiture of the patent
Netherlands -- same as Belgium
Wurtemburg -- optional with the government
Roman States -- after expiration
In some states all patents are published; in others, it is discretional with the minister; and, in others, certain inventions or classes are directed to be withheld.
The bill for the amendment of the patent laws, introduced at the last session of Congress, proposed to authorize the Commissioner of Patents to publish such specifications and drawings as might be deemed expedient in the Journal of the Franklin Institute.
The importance of some medium of communicating to the public full descriptions of patented inventions was urged upon Congress by Messrs. Ellsworth and Burke; and its attention to the subject is again invited.
II. Preparation of a General Analytical and Descriptive Index of Discoveries and Inventions: --
An urgent desideratum in mechanical literature -- the want of which is increasingly felt, day by day. Expensive as it will be, the world of inventors must have it. Of sufficient moment for the joint undertaking of enlightened nations, every people should feel the duty of contributing their appropriate share to a precis of the arts, science, and manufactures of the planet; a work that, above all others, would elucidate and serve to perpetuate the essential and progressive elements of civilization. It is due to remote posterity, that an account of what has been done, up to our day, should be transmitted, that it may be known how far the intellect of the species had expanded in the nineteenth century -- to what extent the real sources of physical and mental elevation had been disclosed, and how far turned to account.
How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered into the world! For want of a condensed exhibition of what is known, how many solitary students spend half their lives in discovering what had previously been repeatedly ascertained! This thought, or something like it, of Buffon, is vastly more applicable to inventors than to litterateurs -- to our times than his. Knowledge is increasing at an unprecedented rate, but not near so fast as the means for circulating it. New books are being multiplied by tons, new thoughts, comparatively, by scruples; so that unless measures are taken to gather together and condense the useful matter in printed sheets, most of it will be lost by dilatation; -- the best ideas will become diluted, and, at length, drowned in oceans of words.
An American section or chapter of the proposed compilation, would be of high and immediate value to this office, and to every inquiring mind in the Union. A gift also to the ingenious of the rest of the world, it would be acknowledged by similar presents sent to us in return. With the information it should contain, applicants for patents would become their own examiners. Each could put his hand at once on what might otherwise require years to find, if found at all. Hence, before embodying his conceptions in expensive forms, he would ascertain their novelty, or want of it, and be led to proceed with confidence, or to abandon or modify his schemes.
However serviceable to applicants the appointment of examiners has proved, the system of search is necessarily defective for want of such a work. It is impossible in every cast that comes before them, to wade through the numerous treatises, journals, foreign and domestic, encyclopedias, etc., and the piles of specifications and caveats in the office -- their whole time would not suffice for this; yet to arrive at a safe conclusion, the contents should be known to them. Patents have been issued for devices already figured and described in popular journals. A general and analytical index only can prevent this. For want of it, the labors of examiners result in no permanent advantage to the public, the office, or to inventors, other than those on whose inventions they pass. No results are recorded; and hence (except when the memory of an examiner supersedes the necessity) the same routine of reference to serial and standard works, to models, specifications, etc., is without ceasing, repeated.
The process is not unlike that of supplying water to cities located on the banks of rapid streams, by ladling it into vases borne through the streets on the heads of men and women; while, with the contemplated lexicon, it might be likened to the more philosophical and cheaper one of making the current itself send the fluid through tubes into every room of every dwelling, instead of hiring people to bring it by driblets in. A sum equal to one year's salary of the examiners ($16,000) would go far to bring about the change; the work once completed, fully posted up, and a copy placed in every city, town, and district library, would in each place be a fountain of knowledge to which inquisitive spirits might ever have recourse.
It would save half the examiners' time, and supersede three-fourths of an irritating correspondence, arising from disallowed claims. Till it is undertaken, the examining corps will have to be increased with the increasing business of the office; when done, no such reinforcement would be wanted.
It would be difficult to overrate the saving of time, money, material, and mental expenditure that would accrue to the country if the ingenious had the means of readily ascertaining what has been done in the lines of their speculations. A very inadequate idea may be gathered from the number of applications for patents rejected and suspended yearly for want of novelty or merit. In 1848 there were 948; and in 1849 over 1,400. Yet cases that come under the notice of this office constitute but a small part of the labors of those who sacrifice years in unfruitful researches, for lack of information which an index of inventions would give them.
In a pecuniary point of view, such a work is therefore most desirable to this office, to inventors, and the public at large. When made accessible to popular reference, it will be the saving of millions. No state paper could surpass it in importance, nor in lasting value.
Till it is done, a majority of applicants for patents must continue to meet with sore disappointment. The only safe rule with them is always to make themselves acquainted with what has been attempted, before incurring any serious outlay. They should never presume that their devices have not entered other heads than their own, until, by a searching inquisition on every hand, the presumption remains in their favor, unimpaired. No better advice than this can be given them. But how are they to follow it? Nineteen twentieths have few or no reliable sources of information within their reach; and not one in a hundred can afford the expenses of a visit to Washington, and a residence there, for the purpose of consulting the office records and library.
When such a work as the one contemplated shall be compiled and put in print, patents for perpetual motions will cease to be asked for. Those then inclined to follow these phantoms would see that others had pursued them through the same deceitful tracks as they themselves. But the rule of the office is now to decline an examination of papers relating to such devices, unless accompanied with working models, that power-generating machines may no longer impeach their specifications -- a rule really favorable, though seldom acceptable to applicants, since it requires them to solve the impossible problem before spending their money to patent it -- in other words, requiring them to exhibit a machine actually giving out what was never put into it.
If Congress decide that the work shall be undertaken, it should be confined to American discoveries and inventions, at least till they are collated, including of course, patented devices, up to the time when the regular publication of specifications and drawings is begun. Both for economy and utility, the descriptive matter should be concise and expressive -- pages should be compressed into lines. When illustrations are required, a few strokes of the graver would, in hundreds of cases, be enough with, and often without, a dozen lines of letter press.
It is evident that the work should be placed in charge of a person or persons peculiarly fitted for it by previous habits and studies. Much care and consideration should be exercised in definitely determining on the plan and details. Not less than three individuals could be advantageously occupied upon it -- the compiler, an assistant, and a draughtsman. Essential aid might be contributed by the examiners. I respectfully propose that six thousand dollars be appropriated from the patent fund from the purpose of beginning the work, and that the same amount be authorized to be drawn yearly to continue it, till otherwise ordered by Congress.
[The remaining portion of this section of the annual report was not copied because it is not relevant to anything that interests me concerning the history of the Patent Office. KWD]
Historical Notices of Inventors and Patentees
Facts and incidents connected with the early history of steam engines and steamboats on this hemisphere, and such as relate to the development of other chief elements of civilization, are rich in interest, and will become more and more so as time rolls on. There is no doubt that many may be gleaned from private documents, old pamphlets and newspapers, but which, like memorabilia of the revolution, if not gathered soon, will be irrecoverably lost. Embracing notices of early inventors and the first patentees, it is deemed an appropriate duty of this office to collect and preserve them. I therefore propose to incorporate such as can be procured, in the annual reports, to which they will impart increased value, at least in the estimation of the inventors, and yet add but a very few pages to each. An illustration of what is intended is furnished in the subjoined documents relating to
1. A description of his boat, elucidated by a cut, both communicated by him to the Columbian Magazine.
2. A pamphlet written by him entitled "The Original Steamboat," etc., from a copy in the library of Peter Force, Esq. With the postscript, it occupies thirty-four pages.
A Description and Figure of John Fitch's Steamboat, by himself.
To the Editor of the Columbian Magazine:
Philadelphia, December 8, 1786
Sir: The reason of my so long deferring to give you a description of the steamboat has been in some measure owing to the complication of the works, and an apprehension that a number of drafts would be necessary in order to show the powers of the machine as clearly as you would wish. But as I have not been able to hand you herewith such drafts, I can only give you the general principles. It is, in several parts, similar to the late improved steam engines in Europe, though there are some alterations. Our cylinder is to be horizontal, and the steam to work with equal force at each end. The mode by which we obtain what I take the liberty of terming a vacuum, is, we believe, entirely new, as is also the method of letting the water into it and throwing it off against the atmosphere without friction. It is expected that the engine, which is a twelve-inch cylinder, will move with a clear force of eleven or twelve hundred weight after the frictions are deducted; this force is to act against a wheel of eighteen inches diameter. The piston is to move about three feet, and each vibration of the piston gives the axis about forty evolutions. Each evolution of the axis moves twelve oars or paddles, five and a half feet, which work perpendicularly, and are represented by the stroke of the paddle of a canoe. As six of the paddles are raised from the water, six more are entered, and the two sets of paddles make their strokes about eleven feet in each evolution. The cranks of the axis act upon the paddles about one-third of their length from the lever end, on which part of the oar the whole force of the axis is applied. Our engine is placed in the boat about one third from the stern, and both the action and reaction turn the wheel the same way.
With the most perfect respect, sir, I beg leave to subscribe myself,
Your very humble servant,
[Woodcut, entitled "Plan of Mr. Fitchs Steam Boat"]
The Original Steam-Boat Supported; or a Reply to Mr. James Rumsey's Pamphlet: Shewing the True Priority of John Fitch and the False Datings, etc., of James Rumsey.
Printed by Zachariah Poulson, Jun.
On the West Side of Fourth Street, Between Market and Arch Streets
Agreeably to a promise made in the Independent Gazetteer, I now present to the public a reply to the pamphlet published by Mr. Rumsey of Virginia -- and, as I have no matter to conceal, or disguise, and wish my readers to have a full and fair view of the whole controversy, I have reprinted and annexed Mr. Rumsey's pamphlet, which will discover to every impartial person who will take the trouble to examine the subject, that he hath no sort of just pretension to the claims he hath exhibited. His skill in the mechanism of a steam engine, may possibly be greater than mine, and in the article of condensation, I freely acknowledge he is my superior, having acquired the art of condensing (with the dash of his pen), one whole year into the compass of six days.
Philadelphia, 10th May, 1788.
The Original Steamboat Supported, etc.
It is the duty of every man not only to avoid the commission of a crime, but so to conduct himself through life as to bear the strictest scrutiny.
In a pamphlet published by Mr. James Rumsey and lately circulated in this city, as well as probably in other states, I am charged as the perpetrator of crimes atrocious in their nature, but of which my conscience fully acquits me. It is an exercise of malevolence in the extreme, thus publicly to prefer charges against an innocent person without previously knowing or inquiring for the defense of the supposed offender, and shows an inability in the accuser to support his charges. Unfortunately for Mr. Rumsey, I trust we are now before an impartial public, where justice unbiased by a party or undue influence, will decide between us. Conscious of my conduct, in the prosecution of this business, being that of an honest man, it is incumbent on me to recite the circumstances, and facts relative thereto.
I confess the thought of a steamboat, which first struck me by mere accident about the middle of April, 1785, [fn.: Vide No. 1 and 2.] has hitherto been very unfortunate to me; the perplexities and embarrassments through which it has caused me to wade, far exceed anything that the common course of life ever presented to my view. After pondering some days on the thought, I made a rough draught, but not daring to trust my own opinion too far, I consulted Mr. Daniel Longstreth, the Rev. Nathaniel Irwin, and sundry other gentlemen of Bucks county, Pennsylvania.
About the middle of June, 1785, I went to Philadelphia, and shewed it to Dr. Ewing, Mr. Patterson, and other respectable characters in the city, from whom I met with no discouragement. In June and July I formed models, and in August laid them before Congress, as will appear in their files. In September I presented them to the Philosophical Society, as per certificate.
[Strangely, No. 1, 2, and 5 are near the end of this book. KWD]
September 27th, 1785 -- At a special meeting of the American Philosophical Society, a model accompanied with a drawing, and description of a machine for working a boat, against the stream, by means of a steam engine, was laid before the society by John Fitch.
At a meeting of the American Philosophical Society, on December 2nd, 1785 -- A copy of the drawing and description of a machine for working a boat against the current, which some time ago, was laid before the society by Mr. John Fitch, he this evening presented to them.
Extract from the minutes,
One of the Secretaries
In October I called on the ingenious Mr. Henry of Lancaster, to take his opinion of my drafts, who informed me, that I was not the first person who had thought of applying steam to vessels; that he had conversed with Mr. Andrew Ellicott, as early as the year 1775, and that Mr. Paine, author of Common Sense, had suggested the same thing to him in the winter of 1778; that some time after, he (Mr. Henry) thinking more seriously of the matter, was of the opinion it might be easily perfected, and accordingly made some drafts, which he proposed to lay before the Philosophical Society, and which he then shewed me, but added, as he had neglected to bring them to public view, and as I had first published the plan to the world, he would lay no claim to the invention. The following I have been favored with from Mr. Ellicott.
Baltimore, April 26th, 1787
I do hereby certify, that early in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, Mr. William Henry, of Lancaster, conversed with me on the subject of steam, and intimated that he thought it might be advantageously applied to the navigation of boats.(Signed)
[fn.: Vide Mr. Henry's certificate No. 5]
From Lancaster I went to the Assembly of Virginia, first waiting on Governor Johnson, of Maryland, who notwithstanding the letters that he has since written in favor of Mr. Rumsey, acknowledged a merit in my invention, and that it ought to be encouraged, as will presently appear. During my journey through Maryland, In October, I passed through Frederick Town, and every where published my plan. In Virginia, I waited on his Excellency General Washington, who, in the course of conversation, informed me that the thought of applying steam was not original, that Mr. Rumsey had mentioned steam to him; but nothing that passed in the conversation with General Washington had the least tendency to convey the idea of Mr. Rumsey's relying on steam, and General Washington's letter, page 10, in Mr. Rumsey's pamphlet, clears up the matter -- for the General himself did not conceive of any such thing. Knowing that the thought of applying steam to boats, had been suggested by other gentlemen long before, I left his Excellency General Washington with all the elated prospects that an aspiring projector could entertain, not doubting but I should reap the full benefit of the project; for although I found that some had conceived the thought before, yet I was the first that ever exhibited a plan to the public; and was fully convinced that I could not interfere with Mr. Rumsey, otherwise the known candor of General Washington, must have pointed out to me such interference. I immediately applied to the Legislature of Virginia, for assistance, to execute my plan, who signified their wish to encourage my designs, but that the state of their finances prevented it. The then Governor of the state Patrick Henry, Esq., received from me an obligation with provision, that if I procured in that state, a sale for one thousand of my maps of the N.W. part of the United States, at 6s 8d each, I should exhibit a steamboat on the waters of Virginia, within nine months, or forfeit and pay to the State of Virginia £350, as appears by the following certificate:
I certify, that John Fitch has left in my hands a bond, payable to the Governor for the time being, for £350, conditioned for exhibiting his steamboat, when he receives subscriptions for 1000 of his maps, 6s 8d each.November 16th, 1785
I then returned to Maryland and acquainted Governor Johnson of my expected assistance in Virginia, and that I intended applying to the Assembly of Maryland, then sitting, to promote and patronize my scheme. Governor Johnson gave me the following letter to General Smallwood, the then Governor of the State:
Fredericktown, November 25, 1785
Sir: Mr. John Fitch, of Bucks county, in Pennsylvania, called on me in his way to Richmond; he has gone through a variety of scenes in the back country, which has enabled him to collect a knowledge of a great part of the new States, on which and other helps he has made a map useful and entertaining. His ingenuity in this way strongly recommends him. But his genius is not confined to this alone; he has spent much thought on an improvement of the steam engine, by which to gain a first power, applicable to a variety of uses, amongst others, to force vessels forward in any kind of water. If this engine can be simplified, constructed, and made to work at a small expense, there is no doubt but it will be very useful in most great works, and amongst them, in ship building. Mr. Fitch wants to raise money to make an experiment on boats. The countenance that he has met with in Virginia, he hopes, will enable him to do it. He wishes, also, to make other experiments, and is willing to enter into engagements to apply a large proportion of the sales of his maps, his principal fund. I believe his passion for this improvement will be ample security for his applying the money in that way. All that I have to request of you, sir, is that you will give him an opportunity to converse with you. You will soon perceive he is a man of real genius and modesty; your countenancing him will follow of course.
I am, sir, your excellency's most obedient and humble servant.
His excellency Governor Smallwood
Favor of Mr. Fitch
From hence it plainly appears that Governor Johnson could not, at that time, have any idea of my scheme interfering with Mr. Rumsey's, as seems to be now insinuated in that gentleman's letter to Mr. Rumsey, No. 14 of his pamphlet.
I attended the session of the legislature about three weeks after receiving this letter, and on my petition for assistance to execute my plan, they made me the following report, or nearly in these words, as may appear by examining their minutes: "However desirous it is for liberal and enlightened legislatures to encourage useful arts, yet the state and condition of our finances are such that there can be no advance of public money at present." From this report it is proved beyond all doubt that the Assembly of Maryland did not conceive my plan the same as Mr. Rumsey's. Finding that I was undoubtedly the first person in America that could be termed the inventor of a steamboat, either agreeably to custom or equity, I thought it prudent to apply to the different States for the exclusive privileges for the emoluments of such invention, which were granted by New Jersey in March, 1786, by Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania in the winter and spring following, and by Virginia in October, 1787.
I have, from the time of my first thought, pursued my scheme with unremitted application, without a suspicion of an interruption, until the circulation of Mr. Rumsey's invidious pamphlets, the contents of which I now find it necessary next to take under consideration, not doubting but that the design and tendency of that production will be a sufficient apology for the plainness with which I shall treat it.
Mr. Rumsey says, in page 2, that "in the months of September, 1784, he exhibited the model of a boat to his excellency General Washington, at Bath, in Berkeley county, calculated for stemming the current of rapid rivers only, constructed on principles very different from (his) present one. Satisfied of the experiment of her making way against a rapid stream by the force of the stream, the General was pleased to give me a most ample certificate of her efficacy." Here it is to be observed that no mention was made by General Washington of steam, at the time of such exhibition; the principles upon which the boat was propelled were entirely unconnected with, and distinct from, steam, being simply a model propelled by water wheels, cranks, and setting poles -- a mode which was many years ago tried on the river Schuylkill by a farmer near Reading, but without success. From an exhibition of this plan it was that Mr. Rumsey procured the certificate from General Washington, and on that certificate were Mr. Rumsey's laws founded. In his petition to the several legislatures he prayed for no exclusive right for the use of steamboats, neither did he mention steam to their committees, or even suggest an idea of the kind: as proof of which I offer the following petition to the Assembly of Pennsylvania, the certificate from General Washington accompanying it, and the certificate of Manuel Eyre, esquire, who was one of the committee of Assembly who reported in Mr. Rumsey's favor.
I have seen the model of Mr. Rumsey's boats, constructed to work against streams, examined the powers upon which it acts, been eye-witness to an actual experiment, in running water of some rapidity, and give it as my opinion (although I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of working boats by mechanism and small manual assistance against rapid currents; that the discovery is of vast importance, may be of the greatest usefulness in our inland navigation, and if it succeeds, of which I have no doubt, that the value of it is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the works, which, when seen and explained, may be executed by the most common mechanic.
Given under my hand at the town of Bath, county of Berkeley, in the State of Virginia, this 7th of September, 1784.
To the honorable, the Representatives of the State of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met:
Gentlemen: Whereas your petitioner has formed a plan for facilitating the navigation of rapid rivers, he therefore doth propose to construct a certain species of boats of the burden of ten tons, which shall sail or be propelled by the combined influence of certain mechanical powers thereto applied, the distance of between twenty-five and forty miles per day, against the current of a rapid river, notwithstanding the velocity of the water should move at the rate of five miles per hour and upwards, with the burthen of ten tons on board, to be wrought at no greater expense than that of three hands. And as a premium of so useful an invention, your petitioner prays for an act to pass this honorable house granting to your petitioner, his heirs and assigns, the sole and exclusive right of constructing, navigating, and employing boats constructed upon his new invented model, upon each and every creek, river, bay, inlet, and harbor within the limits and jurisdiction of this commonwealth, for and during the term of ten years, fully to be completed and ended, to be computed from the first day of January next; provided always, that the legislature of this commonwealth may, at any time within the term aforesaid, abolish the exclusive right herein prayed for, by the payment of ---- pounds in gold or silver. And your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall pray.
The foregoing is a true copy of the original petition remaining on the files of the General Assembly, and read in the house November 26th, 1784.
J. Shallus, Ast. Clk.
Philadelphia, the 6th May, 1788
This may certify that I, the subscriber, was in Assembly for the year 1784, and was appointed one of the committee to report on Mr. James Rumsey's petition for his boat to go against the streams of rapid rivers, and that there was no mention nor any idea held up to the committee that it was to be propelled by the force of steam.
Now I ask, whether it does not amount to a positive proof that Mr. Rumsey had no sort of reference to or dependence on steam? General Washington says: "It is so simple that it may be executed by the most common mechanic;" which his excellency would not have said of a steam engine -- a machine that has cost me two years to understand and complete. If we examine the petition, we shall find that it confirms the General's idea of simplicity; for Mr. Rumsey says, "It may be wrought at no greater expense than that of three hands;" plainly indicating that the expense of fire was not in contemplation. And to put the matter out of all doubt, Mr. Eyre declares, "There was no idea up to the committee that it was to be propelled by steam."
All Mr. Rumsey's laws were obtained, in consequence of his model, shown to General Washington at Bath, which, as I have said, was nothing but water wheels, cranks and setting poles; therefore he could have no pretension to the use of steam, under those laws. With the same propriety his claim might extend to every power and every machine in the United States, as soon as any man would be safe in expending his money, but all must be swallowed up by his pretendedly ambiguous laws. But I am happy in knowing, that his laws as well as his claims cannot interfere with mine; for, had he professed any reliance on steam, or any intention to apply it to his boats, he certainly would not have neglected inserting so important a part of the scheme in his petitions to the different legislatures -- nor would he have prayed to be invested with the exclusive privilege to use boats constructed on such different principles from those he really intended to pursue. In Mr. Rumsey's act passed in Pennsylvania, it is styled, "The exclusive right of constructing, navigating, and employing boats built and to be built on his new invented mode." And this new invented mode, viz.: cranks, water wheels and setting poles, is all he was entitled to under that law. Can it be supposed that the legislature would not have included steam in their laws if they had been informed by Mr. Rumsey that it was his grand dependence, the essential, the vital part of his scheme, as he now professes. That they had no such intimation given to them as is very evident from their encouragement to me; and the laws since passed are the fullest proofs of the received meaning of Mr. Rumsey's petitions, viz.: that they had no connection with steam. And that Mr. Rumsey did not think himself misunderstood must certainly be granted, because he made no objection to any of my petitions, as interfering with his laws, which, agreeable to his own declarations, were founded on principles very different from a steamboat. That he had no claim to steam under his laws is evident, from his confession in page 4, line 31, where he says, "I find my idea of steam was nearly matured before steam had ever entered his head, by his confession to Governor Johnson, viz.: April, 1785." Now can it be supposed Mr. Rumsey had made considerable improvements on steam engines in 1784, or that he had obtained laws securing a right to the use of steam in boats, when, at the time of his petitioning for, and the passing of those laws, he confesses his idea of steam was not matured.
He says, in page 3, line 1, "In the course of the fall and winter, (of 1784,) he made progress in some steam engines" -- and page 16, line 7, of Governor Johnson's letter, "I think in October of 1785, you told me you relied on steam for your first power, and wished me to promote your having some cylinders cast at my brother's and my works -- the attempt did not succeed." Speaking of General Washington, the Governor adds, "But the General seems to have thought it an immatured idea that he did not imagine you then relied on;" viz.: in November, 1784. These two last acknowledgements on the part of Mr. Rumsey, must destroy the facts alleged in the first, viz.: that "He made progress in steam engines in the fall and winter of 1784." For the information given to General Washington, in confidence, respecting the boat, was such that the General "did not think he then relied on steam;" which is fully confirmed by his making use of the General's certificate to the Assemblies, wherein the discovery is treated as being "enhanced by its simplicity, and may be executed by the most common mechanic" -- which surely no person would say of a steam engine.
His application to Governor Johnson for castings for a steam engine, is insinuated to have been in October of November, 1785, which I must deny, and refer to the Governor's own letter for the proof; being confident that no such application had been made to that gentleman by Mr. Rumsey, previous to my obtaining the letter of recommendation to Governor Smallwood. But even had it been true, it goes no further back than October or November, 1785, which was the very time I was publishing my plan through Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and was near three months after the time I laid it before Congress. And yet this attempt to have a cylinder cast at Governor Johnson's works, in October or November, 1785, is the first essay towards bringing forward a steam engine that is offered in proof, admitting it to have been at the time Governor Johnson supposes, which I cannot allow, for reasons I shall present offer in addition to what I have already said on this head. Then how are we to reconcile the assertion of Mr. Rumsey's having made considerable progress in steam engines in the "fall or winter of 1784," when it appears his first attempt [by this account] was not made until after October or November, 1785, as mentioned by Governor Johnson's letter. I shall hereafter show, to a demonstration beyond all possibility of doubt, that this same engine, said to have been completely made in Fredericktown, in December, 1785, was not begun until March, 1786. On comparing Governor Johnson's letter, sent under my care to General Smallwood, dated November 25th, 1785, (a considerable time after I first explained to him my model, and acquainted him of my intentions of pursuing the scheme,) with his letter to Mr. Rumsey, dated December 18th, 1787, it must unavoidably call in question the memory or candor of the writer -- the latter I most certainly ought to acquit, and should have been happy had I obtained the least explanation on this head, when I lately made a journey to his house, expressly to procure it. Possibly it may still be received. If Governor Johnson knew and believed the legal priority of Mr. Rumsey's claim to a steamboat, and was entrusted with his secret, how was it possible he could have encouraged a man "of real genius and modesty" (as he was pleased to term me) to proceed on an experiment, which, terminate as it would, must inevitably end in loss and disappointment. For, should the experiment fail, which was then thought very doubtful, the small fund which I should raise by the sale of my maps must likewise fail -- for I was to expend it in Virginia, as appears by Governor Henry's certificate. page 5. Should the experiment succeed to the utmost of my wishes, I should suffer more severely, not in my money and time only, but in my reputation -- and meet the treatment of a man trespassing on the rights of a fellow citizen, who had a law in his favor.
Had Governor Johnson, at the time he encouraged me, known the priority of claim to be fairly and justly in Mr. Rumsey -- had he been then in possession of his secret -- or had he believed any title vested in Mr. Rumsey to the exclusive use of steam, under the law of Maryland, so recently passed in his favor, the Governor certainly would not have requested a gentleman of General Smallwood's rank to countenance me -- not only to trespass on the rights of Mr. Rumsey, but to violate a law which, as Governor of the State, he was bound to support. Another circumstance corroborates my assertion of misrelation of facts as to time.
It will be recollected that Governor Johnson's letter, recommending me so very minutely and warmly to the patronage of Governor Smallwood, was dated 25th November, 1785, you told me you relied on steam for your first power and wished me to promote your having some castings at my brother's and my works -- the attempt did not succeed. I considered myself under an obligation to secrecy, 'till in the progress of making copper cylinders in Fredericktown, some time after, when I found that the designed purpose of the cylinder was a subject of pretty general conversation." Now the Governor's letter in my favor was dated 25th November, 1785, and the whole machinery is sworn to have been completed on the 1st December following, only six days after the time of my getting this letter of recommendation -- and as the cylinder was a subject of "pretty general conversation," I could not have been kept in ignorance by the Governor, from his "obligation to secrecy," because it was no longer a secret at Fredericktown.
The thing was impossible in its nature, that the cylinders and copper works should have been making, and a subject of general conversation in Fredericktown on the 25th day of November, 1785, the time I was obtaining my letter of introduction to Governor Smallwood in that very town, and must have heard it myself, if Governor Johnson had been so disingenuous as to conceal it from me, which is absurd to suppose; for I made my business publicly known in that town; and, therefore, if Mr. Rumsey's cylinders were the subject of general conversation, I must have heard it from every quarter; therefore, it clearly follows that the conversation about the casting of the cylinders, the obligation of secrecy, and the general conversation about the design of the cylinders in Fredericktown, could not have happened in the year 1785. If Mr. Rumsey had made Governor Johnson his confidant "in October or November, 1785," it is highly improbable that he would so far have deceived Mr. Rumsey and me as to encourage my pursuit of a similar nature, within so short a time as six days of its being completed. And it is equally improbable that Mr. Rumsey should have communicated this secret, and requested his assistance in procuring castings immediately after my being with the Governor, as there was not time for it, the engine being sworn, as I have said, to have been completed, six days after that visit. Then the following conclusion may be safely drawn, that Governor Johnson did at some subsequent day (so long after as that he forgot the letter he had given me) offer to assist Mr. Rumsey with castings, which not succeeding, an application was made to coppersmiths in Fredericktown, the ensuing spring, who, in the course of the summer 1786, delivered their work to Mr. Rumsey. About this time it was that the matter became a subject of "general conversation;" and if winter stopped the putting the whole machinery into motion, as sworn to by Messrs. Barns & Morrow, it was the winter of 1786, which is long after my boat was built, and my model of a steam engine completed. Of this my readers will soon be fully convinced. And a further weighty proof is, that Mr. Rumsey professes his hurrying on his engine was on account of my setting up pretensions, it cannot be believed that he would suffer my petition to lay before the Assembly of Maryland, and be reported in my favor, about the 20th December, 1785, nineteen days after he says his boat and engine were finished. Mr. Foy, the member from Fredericktown, must have told the tale, and laid in a claim for his countryman. But I repeat it again, that I was in that very Fredericktown, on my way to the Assembly, in the fall of 1785, every where publishing my scheme, and no engine was begun there during that year, nor until March following, as will be fully shown. But before I come to my proofs, I wish to confute him out of his writings.
Let me pursue his explanation still further, and ask what could be the use of secrecy in this business, if Mr. Rumsey, as he alleges, was secured in the use of the invention by law? Could he expect any countenance from the public for a scheme wrapped up in secrecy, and which is confessed by Governor Johnson to have remained so until after I had published my plan, both in Maryland and Virginia. Mr. Rumsey and his confidential friends might have died, and then no advantage could have arisen to the community; and until such advantage was publicly imparted, certainly nothing could be expected from the public.
In page 16 he inserts part of a letter from General Washington, in answer to his of the 10th March, 1785, "It gives me much pleasure to find by your letter that you are not less sanguine in your boat project than when I saw you at Richmond, and that you have made such further discoveries as will render them more extensively useful than was at first expected." But still it is plain that the General only alluded to the setting pole plan, for in his answer to Governor Johnson (even after my petition was before the Assembly of Maryland,) he still thought that Mr. Rumsey had no reliance on steam." The General's saying that he thought Mr. Rumsey's idea of steam was "immature" in November, 1784, (the time they were at Richmond,) is a proof that Mr. Rumsey's "being not less sanguine" must have alluded to his setting pole scheme, because no man can be said to be sanguine in any thing of which he has but an "immatured idea;" and "further discoveries" will not apply to steam; because steam could be no new discovery, and was mentioned to the General at Richmond; nor is any thing mentioned of steam in the General's letter, at least in the extract. It is reasonable to suppose, if steam had been the dependable discovery, it would have been treated on more largely, and have produced a more pointed answer. The truth is, Mr. Rumsey placed no dependence on steam until my plan came forward and his own had failed. Conscious of the weakness of his claim, and the futility of his arguments to support it, he found that something more was necessary than merely an "immatured idea;" therefore, to add weight to his plea, he endeavors to establish himself under the solemnity of oaths, and attempts to prove that the machinery for his steam engine was executed in Baltimore and Fredericktown, so as to be completed and put together on the 1st of December, 1785. These solemn and positive declarations are contained in the depositions of Charles Morrow and Joseph Barnes, (No. 11 and 12 of his pamphlet,) who are probably interested in the scheme. The reader will please to examine these depositions -- they are produced to support facts, which he is conscious ought to have existed at the time they specify, otherwise his pretensions would consequently fail. These two witnesses testify to absolute facts, and yet affix different periods of time for one and the same transaction. Page 13, line 14 of Charles Morrow's deposition, he says, "About the first of December, 1785, it appears to the said Charles that the whole of the machinery was ready to be fixed to the boat, which came down to the falls of Shenandoah for experiment, but the ice then commencing prevented it for the winter." And line 28, of the same deposition, he says, "In the spring of 1786 the machinery was put on the boat and the first trial made, said Charles being on board." Page 15, line 11, of Joseph Barns's deposition, he says, "In December, 1785, it was put on the boat at Shenandoah falls." These different declarations, or different times affixed, at which the machinery was put on the boat, of themselves tend much to destroy the validity of their oaths; for the time the machinery was put on board must have been a fact so notorious that it could not admit of a mistake, in a mind properly impressed with the importance of an oath. In page 10 and 11, William Askew swears that Mr. Rumsey's machinery will not weigh more than eight hundred pounds, and that he is well convinced it may be made for £20. It is a well known fact that of Mr. Rumsey's machinery the greatest part must consist of copper or brass, such as cylinders, tubes, cocks and valves, together with curious wrought iron. Now eight hundred pounds (were it all made of iron) could not cost less than double the sum. As this evidence is not brought to prove any thing about Mr. Rumsey's priority, it is of no importance, and the absurdity it contains might have been spared. Whether his machine or my machine is best, is nothing to the purpose. I have been daily altering, and never watched his motions and blunders, as it is evident he did mine. He, it seems, made a secret of his doings, whilst mine were open to all the world.
It is proper I should not pass over this part of my work, without acknowledging that I have been greatly indebted to the assistance of my ingenious friend, Mr. Henry Voight, of this city; who has uniformly, from my first undertaking to build a boat, afforded me valuable hints; and has united with me in perfecting my plans. To his inventive genius alone, I am indebted for the improvement in our mode of creating steam; a thought which struck him above two years ago, the drawing having been shown to several persons; for we never made a secret of any part of our works; but a fear of departing from old established plans, made me fearful of adopting it, until I had found by his invention of creating steam, that a condenser might be constructed on the same principles, (viz., a spiral pipe or worm) only by reversing the agent, for the best way of applying fire to evaporate water into steam, must also be the best way of applying cold water to condense steam, that is, the bringing the greatest quantity of fire into action upon the greatest surface of water -- or the contrary; and we had an additional inducement to study this subject, because the common way of fixing boilers, requires a great a load of brick work, that it overloaded our boat. Therefore, the first thought that must occur to every man, attempting to raise steam on board a boat, must be to acquire that method which would require the least weight. Since Mr. Rumsey has been in town, I have been told that he says I have got his mode of creating steam; whether that be the case or not (or whether he has got mine) I do not at present know. But as both Mr. Rumsey and Mr. Voight laid their drawings and plans before the Philosophical Society the same day, it will appear how far they are alike. And Mr. Voight made a prior entry of his plans, in the Protonotary's office in this city. If there should happen to be any similarity between them, it would be nothing surprising; having the same load on both their minds, they both sought relief; and, as sick persons, lacking a doctor, chance might have led them to the same man; and I had an undoubted right to apply every medicine that suited the disorder -- but I will proceed with the pamphlet: --
In page 17, Henry Bedinger says, that Mr. James Rumsey informed him in or before the month of March, 1784, that he intended to give trial to a steamboat, and he believes he mentioned such intention of Mr. Rumsey's in Kentucky, which seems to have been a breach of honor, as it must be supposed Mr. Rumsey gave it to him in confidence; for he treated his idea of steam as a secret to Governor Johnson, long after; thus on the disclosure of this friend, Mr. Rumsey builds a charge against me, as having filched his scheme in Kentucky; this, like his other charges, is founded in falsehood, for it is a well known fact that I have not been in Kentucky since the year 1781. The deposition of George Rootes, No. 8, and Nicholas Orrick, No. 10, testifying to his having informed them, in the year 1784, of his projecting a steamboat is quite useless, for reasons already given. Messrs. Henry and Paine projected it before him; and if bare projection was sufficient to build a claim on, I have no doubt but there are people now in their graves, whose heirs might set up more early claims than either of us. If Mr. Rumsey was in 1784 projecting a boat to work by steam, with a view of carrying it into actual execution, why did he not apply for the use of steam in his laws? The reason is plain, -- General Washington gives it for him; it was "an immatured idea, and on which he thought he did not rely." I must therefore contend that these depositions lose their weight, and the whole of his conduct proves to a demonstration, that he could not have been engaged in making steam engines at the time mentioned by those witnesses, with a view of applying them to his boat. In page 20, No. 18, he inserts a paragraph of a letter said to have been written by a Mr. Daniel Buckley, near Philadelphia, by which he fixes the time of his applying himself to the "perfecting his steam engine with much ardor." In part of said inserted extract, speaking of me, he styles me "a Mr. Fitch, of Philadelphia;" now this letter, if the facts it recites are true, must have been written after the 17th of April, 1786, and not in 1785, as insinuated by Mr. Rumsey;, for I was not an inhabitant of Philadelphia till after that period; nor did I ever hear that Mr. Rumsey was employed in making a steamboat, until long after that time; consequently I could not have used any expressions about it until after April, 1786. This is a very important part of the prevarication, and carrying the air of great plausibility, I must beg my reader's close attention to it, as I shall prove it to be false. Page 3, he says, "I wrote to General Washington the 10th of march 1785, that I intended applying both powers (meaning steam as one) to build a boat after the model of one he saw at Bath, etc. I bore the pelting of ignorance and ill-nature with all resignation, until I was informed some dark assassins had endeavored to wound the reputation of his Excellency, and the other gentlemen who saw my exhibition at Bath, for giving me a certificate. The reflections upon these worthy gentlemen gave me inexpressible uneasiness, and I should certainly have quitted my steam engines, though in great forwardness, and have produced the boat for which I had obtained the certificate, for their justification and my own, had not Mr. Fitch come out at this critical minute with his steamboat; asserting that he was the first inventor of steam, and that I had gotten what small knowledge I had from him, etc." Now this embarrassment being confessedly subsequent to the letter to General Washington just mentioned, viz., 10th March, 1785, the letter asserted to have been written by Mr. Buckley, is incontrovertibly fixed between this date and the 1st of December following, the time sworn to for completing the steam engine; therefore, as Mr. Rumsey quitted his setting pole scheme and "pursued" the perfecting his steam engine with increased ardor (page 3,) on the receipt of this letter, it becomes of moment to ascertain its exact date; and I shall show that this letter, which set Messrs. Rumsey and Barnes to work in such haste, and with such "increased ardor," was not written until near a year after the time it is pretended, and the copper works said to have been made in 1785, were not begun until 1786, so that this machinery, completed so briskly, and sworn to have been on board in December, 1785, has made a jump of just twelve months, in order to persuade the public into a belief that Mr. Rumsey's works were begun time enough to supplant mine. "At that critical minute," says he, "came out a Mr. Fitch, asserting I had got what small knowledge I had from him." At what critical minute, I ask? -- Mr. Rumsey's third page will tell us. In March, 1785, he informed General Washington by letter, that he intended applying steam to boats; in December following, Messrs. Barns and Morrow swear the boat was ready; and his exhibiting this boat, he confesses, was hurried on by the intelligence received from Mr. Buckley; consequently this work and this "increased ardor" was subsequent to the date of the letter from Mr. Buckley. Then, If I can fix the time of Mr. Buckley's writing the letter, I shall establish a certain fixed period at which Mr. Rumsey acknowledges his works were not on board his boat; and I felicitate myself in being able to do it so incontestably, as to prove from his own writings that he has given false dates, and assigned false reasons for his movements. He knew at the time of inserting that quibbling account, that it would not bear the light, and therefore did not dare to give the date of Mr. Buckley's letter, wrote at that "critical minute," for Mr. Buckley's letter would have shown that this "critical minute" was not in 1785, when they swear the steamboat was ready, but in the summer of 1786, full twelve months after I had made my plans public, and was procuring patterns for my present cylinder, and had made a complete model of a steam engine, in brass and iron. I have been at the pains of walking 66 miles to Pequa and Lancaster to see Mr. Buckley, that I might obtain an additional proof (to the many others I shall produce) that Mr. Rumsey has transposed the order of time, and antedated facts. Mr. Buckley frankly told me all he knew of the matter, and fixed the time of writing his letter, so circumstantially, to have been in 1786, and not in 1785, that not a doubt can remain -- and it will further appear from the certificate he has given me, that the coloring as to fact, as well as to date, has been grossly disingenuous, as will be seen on comparing his certificate, No. 18, with the following:
This may certify that the paragraph that Mr. James Rumsey has copied from my letter, which he applies to the injury of Mr. John Fitch's character, was not told to me by Mr. Fitch, but by other persons, who, for reasons, were convinced of his priority of invention. And as to the time of writing the letter, it was when Mr. Samuel Briggs was making patterns for Mr. Fitch's castings. As witness my hand this 12th day of May, 1788.
On my return to Philadelphia I applied to Mr. Briggs in order to ascertain the time of his making my patterns, and he freely gave me the following certificate.
This may certify whom it may concern that in the summer of 1786, I performed some turning work for John Fitch, being patterns for castings for his steamboat, and before that time I made no work for the said John Fitch; that I am acquainted with Daniel Buckley, and saw him at my shop during that summer, and at sundry times since, and we have frequently conversed about James Rumsey, but the particulars of any conversation with him I do not recollect.
Affirmed the 15th May, 1788, that the foregoing is just and true, before
Thus, independent of all other proofs, have I brought a conclusive evidence out of Mr. Rumsey's own writings and from his own testimonies, that the steam machinery sworn to have been on board in December, 1785. could not have been ready until December, 1786. And here I might safely rest my defense, and very properly quote Mr. Rumsey's own words, (annexed to this certificate, No 18,) viz: "Should he incline to assert hereafter, what credit he will deserve has been so clearly proved that future impositions may be avoided, and those who spread a slander they do not believe deserve the contempt of all honest men."
But I will proceed, and must not omit remarking that this third page of his work is very fatal to him. He says, "I should certainly have quitted my steam engines, (engines only in idea,) though in great forwardness, and have produced the boat for which I had obtained the certificate, etc., had not a Mr. Fitch come out at this critical minute with his steamboat," etc. And further adds, "Had I exhibited my first boat, it would have been construed into an acknowledgement of Mr. Fitch's assertion, by producing a boat with which steam had nothing to do. These considerations compelled me to pursue the perfecting my steam engines with increased ardor." Thus I have a proof from himself that the certificates from General Washington, etc., (which procured his laws in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania,) had no reference to steam; consequently my laws for the exclusive use of steam applied to boats cannot interfere either with his laws, or his expectations at the time of asking for them. I applied to the several legislatures openly and unguardedly, without friends and without patrons, and from the pure merit of my pretensions, met with success, without a whisper being breathed that I was interfering with Mr. Rumsey. I am confident that he never conceived me to be a rival in navigating boats until he found his own plan hopeless and mine likely to succeed.
In his third page he says, "I wrote to General Washington 10th March, 1785, that I intended applying both powers to a boat built after the model of the one he saw at Bath; but the disadvantages before mentioned still remained, and, as I could gain truth only by successive experiments, incredible delays were produced, and though my distresses were greatly increased thereby," etc. It is truly amazing that -- though he had long before this letter been making progress in steam engines, and gaining truth by successive experiments and incredible delays, insomuch that, at the time of his proposing to get cylinders cast at Governor Johnson's works, in October, 1785, he had the principal part of his work untouched -- I say it is amazing that these incredible delays would all vanish as in an instant, and that, between the time of his failing at Governor Johnson's works, in October or November, 1785, and the first of December following, he should have completed his whole machinery, ready to be put on board. A steam engine is a complex piece of work, and his subsequent transactions show that he found it so; for it has taken him from the summer of 1786 (when he removed his works from Fredericktown) to the winter of 1787 to make them ready for a fair experiment. No person, therefore, can be brought to believe that his first machinery could have been conjured together in little more than thirty days. No such thing happened. I have already sufficient proof to the contrary, and have no doubt but a multitude of corroborating witnesses will voluntarily offer themselves when this pamphlet gets down to Fredericktown and Shepherdstown, where I shall take some pains to have it circulated. It is truth alone I am in search of, in order to wipe off the imputations from my own character; for as to stability of title to my exclusive rights, I shall not cast away an anxious thought about it. I am secured by my laws, and my "coadjutors," as Mr. Rumsey is pleased to term them, I am sure, have no sort of apprehension about the moneys they have risked, and only wish that I should remove any aspersions that may be unjustly cast upon me. Thus far, it may be said, they have an interest in my success, because a law in my favor in Maryland is yet depending.
I must not yet quit the subject of Mr. Buckley's letter, in his third page, from whence it is plainly to be gathered that, subsequent to his letter of 10th March, 1785, to General Washington, he meant to tell the world he was busily employed in private experiments on steam engines, and that although his first setting pole boat "bore the pelting of ignorance and ill nature," yet he did not set about making a steam engine for this boat until (as he calls it) the critical moment when a Mr. Fitch, with his steam engine, came out, asserting that he was the first inventor of steam, and that "I had gotten what small knowledge I had from him." Now all his experiments were privately conducted, and he does not pretend to have begun his boat engine until Mr. Buckley had sent notice that I charged him with stealing knowledge from me, I would ask any man where I was to obtain the grounds for my charge? It could not be until I had begun my own engine, and made it everywhere public. Then it follows that my pretended complaint against him must have been subsequent to my own works and prior to the beginning of his works for his boat in November, (as he calls it) which, from his own statement, has laid a fair and just foundation for my claim of public priority, for private priority is out of the question, as Mr. Henry, Mr. Ellicott, and Mr. Paine are before us both.
Nay, even after the real steam engine for his boat was actually begun, we find it kept as the most profound secret; and from Charles Morrow's deposition it is declared, that the boat came to Shepherdstown early in the fall 1785; that Mr. Barnes went to Baltimore shortly after, to have some machinery cast; and on his return from Baltimore was sent to Fredericktown in order to have some other things made (which could not consistently with Governor Johnson's letter, be earlier than the beginning of November) and about the middle of November they were all finished, viz.: a boiler, two cylinders, pumps, pipes, etc. I confess that this is very brisk work for a country town -- more than ever I could get in the city of Philadelphia.
At Baltimore four large cocks were bespoke by Mr. Barnes, and the brass-founder was told they were for the Warm Springs of Virginia as will presently appear; Governor Johnson was entrusted with the scheme in confidence, and the copper works were carried on in Fredericktown with great secrecy, insomuch that a citizen hearing it rumored that they were for a steam engine, applied to see them, but was refused, (as will be shown,) and the matter still remained a secret, until as Governor Johnson says, "the designed purpose of the cylinder, was a subject of pretty general conversation in Fredericktown." Then during this interval of privacy, surely any man that should have conceived the same idea, and brought it forward to public view, ought to be entitled to the right and advantage of the discovery -- for all these confidential persons, as I have already said, might have died, and the world have lost the benefit. Let me consider the danger of admitting this new doctrine of claims: A man makes a valuable discovery, he pursues it at a great expense and publishes it to the world; a set of men combining together, shall afterwards come forth, swear for each other, that they had been making the same kind of engine, many months before, and bring proofs from respectable characters, that they had hinted at the practicability of such a scheme, even before their private experiments. Will any man of the least particle of understanding allow, that this private work shall be admitted to contain sufficient evidence to overset the public works of a fair and open artist? Surely not. If it was once allowed, men would not be wanting to swear away from the real inventor, the most valuable discoveries in the world. All they would desire from the public claimant, would be, for him to fix the earliest date of his discovery, and if it was twenty, or even fifty years back, they would prove that they themselves, their fathers or grand fathers, or some distant friend, had communicated it many years before. There is no end to this kind of proof; and both reason and law unite in defending the first public discoverer. It would be dangerous in the highest degree to deviate from this rule. If Mr. Rumsey did really in good faith and conscience intend to carry into execution, the secret he communicated to General Washington, I can only say he was unlucky in delaying it so long, as to let me, with my subsequent discoveries, come forward before him; what I did was public -- it was notorious to all Virginia and Maryland, and not a murmur was raised against me, not a syllable uttered (that I ever heard) charging me with interfering with Mr. Rumsey. The Assemblies of Virginia and Maryland encouraged my scheme, and nobody told me I should interfere with him. My petitions laid long before the Assembly of Virginia, and a law was ultimately passed in my favor, without objection or complaint. Mr. Rumsey was insinuated that I got my first thought from Captain Bedinger in Kentucky, who went there in 1784; nay, he goes so far in one place, as to say, he "was told so," and in another that "circumstances leave little room to doubt it." I have already declared that I have not been in Kentucky since the year 1781; thus falls to the ground, this part of his "plagiarism" allegations. But I will suggest to him, that it is much more probable that all his determinations of beginning his steam engine, might have come to him in a much straighter line, than from Kentucky to me. Captain Bedinger is so uncertain about the matter of his ever having mentioned steam in Kentucky, that he only says coldly, that he "believes" he also mentioned "that it worked by steam." I will remind Mr. Rumsey, that I not only believe that I presented my plan to Congress, before the time he pretends to have spoken to Governor Johnson about getting cylinders for him,. and before his copper works were bespoke, but the files of Congress will prove, that in August, 1785, I laid my plan before them; and nobody will suppose it was a very indirect road from Congress to each of the Untied States. A very few days after my plan was laid before them, Mr. Rumsey might have been furnished with a copy of it; and if any member of Congress should know of such a transaction (certainly very innocent in itself) he will confer a great obligation on me by communicating it. But in Philadelphia it was public before it went to Congress, and long before Mr. Rumsey's orders went to Fredericktown or Baltimore. I have a fair right to suppose all these things, and Mr. Rumsey's giving me no opposition in my application for exclusive laws, and even permitting his law to expire in Pennsylvania, without trying to derive any benefit from it, amount to positive proof that he had no serious thoughts of applying steam, until it was too late. I promise him, I shall not be so dilatory in exhibiting my boats in Virginia, conformably to my law. I trust to the goodness of my cause and the honor and generosity of my country, -- and that I not only have a substantial right by exclusive laws, but by justice and equity.
The affidavits from William Askew, No. 6, and Henry Bedinger, No. 7, to prove that Mr. Rumsey's boat is much superior to mine, is acknowledging on the part of Mr. Rumsey, that his pretensions to the invention are but weakly founded. However faulty my works might be, and however perfect his own, it would have no force in the determination of our title to the invention; but argues a wish in him to gain an advantage on principles different from those on which our dispute must be ultimately decided in the opinion of the world. But even this position of Mr. Rumsey's I will not allow; for on a comparison of the velocity and bulk of both boats, and the force applied, it is evident that mine exceeded in the proportion of more than two to one. I had a bulk of water to remove equal to above twelve tons, whilst he had to contend with no more than three tons, if I am rightly informed; and our cylinders (or moving powers) were nearly; if not quite equal; yet my boat was urged forward with nearly the same velocity as his boat; therefore, his mode hath hitherto no superiority. As to his drawing water in at the bottom, and pushing it out at the stern of a vessel, it is not new invention, but was long before presented to the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia. The thought came originally from France, of which I was acquainted before he bespoke any of his works for steam, and contended the right of using it with Mr. Arthur Donaldson, in the beginning of 1786, before the Assembly of Pennsylvania, as he attempted at that time, to assume the discovery to himself.
I well remember when Mr. Arthur Donaldson proposed before the Committee of Assembly, a method of navigating boats by a stream of water forced through by means of a steam engine, that you appeared to be acquainted with the principle, which was said to be originally Dr. Franklin's, and that you then declared it had been your intention to have made an experiment upon it.
Mr. John Fitch, May 17, 1788
In spite of all opposition I was left in full possess of that or any other way I chose, provided I worked by steam, and no man can take it from me until my laws expire. I conceive we have by no means come to the greatest perfection of applying our power. I am now trying an experiment, and the machine is nearly finished, to propel a boat, not by expelling water, but air, and hope Mr. Rumsey will allow that this is a mode peculiar to myself; but if he pleases, he will deny it, and assert that he had privately tried some experiments to ascertain is practicability. I further hope that the public will make great allowances for my not being more forward in my plans, especially when they consider the great difficult of procuring proper workmen, together with the new and unexplored ground that I had to travel over, but hope shortly that I shall have it so perfect as to give full satisfaction of its utility.
In page 5, he asserts that my boat will not be propelled at the rate of more than three miles per hour, when no tide opposes; this assertion, I believe, will shortly be proved both rash and envious. I can make her go not only three, but three times three.
But as I have before mentioned, this is taking up the dispute upon different principles than those Mr. Rumsey found necessary to hold up to public view, viz.: -- that he was the inventor of the steamboat. This leads me to consider the principles on which exclusive privileges are founded, agreeably to justice and policy. If we have recourse to the enlightened nations of Europe, and more especially to England, whose laws respecting the title to property, are (with little, and in some cases, with no variation) in force among us, we shall find that their laws imply that no species of property ought to be held more sacred than the property of inventions; for having their origin in the imagination of man, uncertain in their operations, and expensively perplexing in experiment, it becomes necessary to have some mode established to secure to the owner the full benefit of his invention, which might otherwise prove his ruin. To prevent which, justice and good policy have pointed out a remedy, and custom has established it on a permanent basis. The inventor can claim no benefit from his thoughts or inventions, before he makes a public declaration of such invention in some place of record established for such purposes; that is -- he who invented and published a steam engine will have an exclusive right for a certain number of years for all steam engines; at the expiration of which, each improver has an undoubted right to the benefit of any improvement. On these principles, he who first invented and published the idea of a steamboat, invests himself with a fair and just title to all steamboats for a certain time, which in justice and policy, government is bound to support. The State of Pennsylvania hath given her sentiments on this head, and hath declared such to have been her explanation of the title to inventions by rejecting Mr. Arthur Donaldson's petition to have me confined to a certain mode of applying my power. It was not the mode of using the force of steam which had any merit in this invention, but it was the idea of connecting steam with navigation, that justly claimed the public patronage, as soon as that idea was made public, and the benefit of it applied for.
I shall now introduce the proofs I have promised, and show to the world what degree of credit and countenance ought to be given to a man who, in order to deprive me of my just rights, has brought forward evidences to swear to facts which are totally false. You will see that transactions are antedated, and a deception intended, with a view both of disgracing and robbing me. Confident that gross misrepresentations had been made use of, I was at the expense and trouble of two journeys to Fredericktown, in Maryland, the scene of his operations, and there I was soon confirmed in my suspicions that this plausible pamphlet was built on falsehood, and that the patrons whom Mr. Rumsey's address has procured him in this city, have committed themselves too unreservedly to a stranger. I now find the reason of his so long delaying to put in his claim -- it was that a period might elapse sufficient for memory to be uncertain, and for facts to be transposed in the order of time; the death of one of his principal workmen also rendered it probable that some of his pretended proofs might be difficult to detect. A love of justice has induced a number of persons to step forward and testify in the most unequivocal manner that the works sworn by Mr. Rumsey's evidences to have been finished the 1st December, 1785, were not begun until March following, when he must have been very fully possessed of a knowledge of my pretensions.
The ten following certificates will prove fully the antedating:
The affidavit of Frederick Tombough, Smith and partner of Mr. Zimmers, the copper-smith in Fredericktown, who made the copper work for Mr. Rumsey's steamboat.
Maryland, Frederick County, April 18, 1788
Then appeared before the subscriber, a justice for said state and county, Frederick Tombough, aged about thirty-nine years, who being sworn on the holy Evangelists of Almighty God, deposeth and sayeth, that some time in March, 1786, he, this deponent, was in partnership with Matthias Zimmers now deceased, in a black-smith's shop adjoining said Zimmers' coppersmith shop, and that he remembers two copper pipes being brought into his shop by said Zimmers, to fix the seams -- which pipes, he was told, were for Mr. Rumsey's steamboat -- and further, that he knew of no work being done in Mr. Zimmers shop on account of said boat, previous to the time above mentioned.
The certificate of Mrs. Zimmers, widow of Mr. Zimmers, which is corroborated, and the time established by the next certificate:
This may certify that I, the subscriber, wife to the late Matthias Zimmers, deceased, have no accounts in my books so as to ascertain the time of Mr. Rumsey's bespeaking his machinery for his steamboat, or as to the time of his taking it away -- but that Michael Baltzel turned works to finish the first machinery said Rumsey had of my husband, according to the best of my knowledge. As witness my hand, this 29th April, 1788.
The certificate of Michael Baltzel, Turner, which establishes the time of Mrs. Zimmers' fact.
Fredericktown, 17th April, 1788
This may certify that I, the subscriber, turned works for Mr. James Rumsey, of Virginia, for his steamboat, viz., a round piece of wood about 8 inches diameter, and about 4 feet long, etc., to round his copper works upon. Said turning was done in March, 1786. As witness my hand.
The certificate of Mr. Jonathan Morris, innkeeper, which confirms the assertion in Governor Johnson's letter, that the "designated purpose of the cylinder, was a subject of pretty general conversation" in Fredericktown, and therefore, had it been prior to my petition to the Assembly in Maryland, the middle of December, 1785, Mr. Foy, the member of assembly resident in that town, must have known it, and the house have received information from him, when probably they might have assigned other reasons for rejecting my petition than mere bareness of finances. If all the machinery was ready to put on board, as Mr. Morrow swears, in the 1st December, it must have been a fact notorious to the whole town; but the following declaration shows that so far from being on board in December, 1785, it was shut up as a secret even so late as the latter end of March following; so that this "pretty general conversation," which Governor Johnson speaks of, could not have happened until about this time, and all the evidences I produce confirm my assertion, that Mr. Rumsey did not begin his steam engine, until I had published my plan all through Maryland and Virginia. The certificate is as follows:
Fredericktown, 18th April, 1788
This may certify, that I the subscriber, was towards the latter end of March, 1786, informed that Mr. Matthias Zimmers had begun some machinery for Mr. Rumsey's steamboat. Accordingly I called on Mr. Zimmers to see it, but was refused the sight of it, as it was then retained as Mr. Rumsey's secret; but was informed that it was begun at the beginning of the same month, this I declare to be the truth as near as I can recollect. -- As witness my hand.
The deposition of John Peters, who performed such parts of Mr. Rumsey's machinery as were made of tin
Frederick County, Maryland, April 18th, 1788
I the subscriber was a journeyman and worked for Mr. Matthias Zimmers, and began to work in the tin business, at the same time Mr. Zimmers did begin the copper works for Mr. James Rumsey, of Virginia, for his steamboat, which said copper and tin works were begun in March, in the year 1786.
Sworn before me, Jacob Young, one of the justices for Frederick County, Maryland
The deposition of John Frymiller, who was apprentice to Mr. Zimmers at the time he made the copper works for the steam engine, shewing not only that the works were begun and finished in a shop next to Mr. Tombough, but that no part of the said machinery was begun before the spring, 1786.
State of Maryland, Baltimore County
On the twenty-sixth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, before me the subscriber, one of the justices of the peace for the county aforesaid, personally appeared John Frymiller of Baltimore town, in said county, and made oath on the holy Evangelist of Almighty God, that during the time he was an apprentice to the late Mr. Matthias Zimmers of Fredericktown, in Frederick county and state aforesaid, deceased: when he the said Matthias Zimmers, made Mr. James Rumsey's machinery for the steamboat; that he, the deponent, did work at the said James Rumsey's machinery. That it was begun in the spring of the year 1786, and that no part of said machinery was begun before the time above mentioned, by the said Zimmers, to the best of his knowledge -- and further that the said machinery was begun and finished in a shop adjoining Frederick Tombough's smith shop, (which said Tombough was as the deponent has been informed, in partnership in the smith's business at said time, with said Zimmers) in which said Matthias Zimmers had his coppersmith's fires for brazing, etc., and further this deponent saith not.
Sworn before me
The following certificate proves that Mr. Rumsey's machinery was made by Mr. Zimmers, in Fredericktown, in the spring of 1786, there being but two coppersmiths in Fredericktown, viz.: Messrs. Matthias Zimmers and John Minshall, the certifier.
This may certify that I the subscriber, coppersmith, have resided in this town about three years, during which time there have been no coppersmiths resided in the town, except Mr. Matthias Zimmers and myself, and that I was knowing to Mr. Zimmers making copper works for Mr. Rumsey's steamboat, and am of opinion it was late in the spring or summer, before said Rumsey took said works from Mr. Zimmers in the year 1786. As witness my hand, 29th April, 1788, at Fredericktown, Maryland.
The foregoing testimonies, I presume, will carry full conviction that Mr. Rumsey has shifted his dates, and has got two of his workmen to swear to it. For Messrs. Barns and Morrow, if they had consulted their accounts, must have found that they had made a lapse of a whole year at least, and that the December, 1785, which they speak of must have been December, 1786. The circumstances of being stopped by the ice proves it to have been in the winter, and therefore must inevitably have been in the winter of 1786. But this was too late a date to serve their purpose of supplanting my claims and just rights, which I mean to maintain under the laws I have already obtained, and have no doubt of succeeding in my applications to the other assemblies, when they come to see my proofs, and Mr. Rumsey's false datings. He has mentioned the obtaining part of his works from Baltimore, where I can also show he has used the same want of candor, and it will confirm the proofs from Fredericktown.
It appears the four large cocks for his steam pipes and works, were bespoke of Christopher Raborg, in Baltimore, by Mr. Barns, who, the better to conceal the "designed purpose of the cylinders," told him they were for the Warm Springs in Virginia. Perhaps a little mental reservation might cover this deviation from fact. But Mr. Raborg had no account thereof and could not give the time with precision, though he believes they were made in the fall of 1785. The certificates No. 20 and 21, which follow, prove that the time was certainly in the spring, 1786. As these certificates appear to refer only to cocks made for the Warm Springs, I had considerable doubts about admitting them into my defence; because Mr. Rumsey on finding that I proved them to be made in March, 1786, might (if he pleased) adhere to Mr. Barns's declaration of their being made for the Warm Springs and not for the steamboat. But I am happy in having a confirmation under Mr. Rumsey's own hand, published in Mr. Oswald's paper of the tenth instant, where he informs the public, "Mr. Raborg was the person who undertook to make cocks for my steamboat, and by him I shall prove that they were finished at the time he mentioned to Mr. Fitch, viz: the fall of 1785."
Christopher Raborg's certificate is as follows:
This may certify, that Mr. Joseph Barns did bespeak of me four brass cocks, which he said were for the warm springs -- that being disappointed by my journeymen, I got them made by Mr. Charles Weir & Co. Said cocks I do believe were made in the fall of 1785, but have no charge made of them to ascertain the time with precision. This I assert, as witness my hand, at Baltimore, this 26th day of April, 1788.
The certificate of Charles Weir, who speaks with tolerable certainty of the works being made in the spring of 1786.
This may certify that when I was in partnership with Isaac Causten I made four brass cocks for Mr. Christopher Raborg, for which I received the money, and charged myself with it -- that my books are destroyed and I cannot exactly recollect the time of their being made, but am persuaded it was early in the spring of the year 1786. This further may certify that I never made the exact number of four cocks for said Raborg, except only that one time. As witness my hand, at Baltimore, 26th day April, 1788.
The certificate of Isaac Causten, who ascertains upon good grounds that the said work was done and charged on the 29th March, 1786.
This may certify, that I, the subscriber, with my partner, Charles Weir, made four brass cocks for Mr. Christopher Raborg, and charged them in the partnership account. Said book has since been destroyed, but from some loose papers I found charged to Mr. Raborg on the company's account, on the 29th March, 1786, four brass cocks, which, with other accounts, I have drawn out into my day book. Neither have I made the exact number of four cocks for him at any other time. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 26th day of April, 1788.
The reader will, doubtless, on an examination of the two pamphlets, perceive things in their true light, and that Mr. Rumsey made no pretense to use steam till after the failure of his boat on the principles exhibited at Bath, after I had invested myself with an undoubted title, by exhibiting the invention to Congress in August, 1785, and had published it to the States of Virginia and Maryland, who became virtually bound to secure me the right. Mr. Rumsey prosecuting his works in secret, and appearing at this late date with antedated facts, is a full proof that he had no claim to the invention -- nor is there any one principle of law or equity on which he can found his pretensions. If he claims it on his thought, Mr. Paine, Mr. Henry, and Mr. Andrew Ellicott are long before him; if on forming drafts without communicating them to the public, he must acknowledge Mr. Henry's priority; but if it is to be decided, as it certainly must, by the established mode of public declaration on record, my title is indisputable. Being, therefore, certain of the stability of my claim, founded on the modes established in justice and policy, I have not a doubt but my country will secure and protect the right she has so deliberately granted to me. Under this security I embarked my time, my fortune and reputation; and, thus embarked, I am certain I have nothing to fear -- but shall depend with full confidence on a continuance of that justice which is due to the rights of the citizen and the honor of my country.
Philadelphia, 10th May, 1788
Since this Pamphlet went to press a second edition of Mr. Rumsey's pamphlet has been printed in this city, in which a short advertisement is prefixed, and an extract of his own letter to General Washington, which are as follows:
The following pages are taken from a pamphlet published in Virginia, to prove the author's prior right of applying steam to propel boats, etc., as well as to establish the principles on which he has done it. A few copies were then thought sufficient for that purpose, but as Mr. Fitch intends to answer the pamphlet, it is therefore necessary to re-publish as much of it as respects Mr. Fitch, which is done with no other variation from the original than to correct a few of the omissions and mistakes that were introduced into the first publication, from the hurry in which it was done, (as the author at that time could not attend the press,) and was circulated with an apology annexed to the postscript, for the imperfection of the impression. Of these corrections perhaps Mr. Fitch may take some notice; if he should , such part of the old pamphlet shall be re-printed (verbatim,) to convince the public that the subject has not been varied, but a little better explained. The sophistry in Mr. Fitch's reply (should it contain what he informs me it does) is evidently calculated to make impressions unfavorable of me on the public mind, and to wound the reputation of several respectable characters. I must therefore beg the public's indulgence to suspend their opinion for a few weeks, when I shall have it in my power to lay before them such additional statement of facts, supported by such respectable testimony, as will incontestably prove the unjustifiable steps Mr. Fitch has taken to deprive the author of his discoveries, and to injure the reputation of sundry gentlemen.
No. 19 is added to this publication -- it is part of a letter wrote by the editor to his excellency General Washington, dated the 10th of march, 1785, which will show that the editor had fixed on a method of applying steam to propel a boat before Mr. Fitch knew (from his own account of the matter,) that steam had ever been made use of for any purpose whatever. How, then, is it possible he should have the prior right to this discovery? If it is asked who made the most promising experiment, it would be found that my experiments, two years since, exceeded the best he has ever made. Must I then be deprived of my discoveries, which are substantial, because I endeavored to keep them secret until perfected? Justice will never suffer it. I therefore, with the greatest confidence, look up to my countrymen for their support, according to the merits of my cause -- and have the honor of subscribing myself their most devoted humble servant.
Philadelphia, May 7th, 1788
As to his advertisement, I have fully proved that he made no experiment on his boat with steam two years ago, his machinery being at that time in Fredericktown. And his boat so far exceeding mine will also appear a wrong assertion, as the greatest distance he pretends to have propelled his small boat is four miles, and that appears to be a mere ideal estimation. In my boat, by the same force applied, I let out three miles and a quarter per hour by the log line. This is departing from the merits of the dispute -- but to convince the public of his assertion on this head being absurd, I shall introduce certificates No. 24, 25, 26. As to his request of suspending the public opinion, I rest my cause on solid and fair conclusions drawn from his pamphlet, a very safe and candid judgment may be formed of the merits of Mr. Rumsey's pretensions, it being evident that all his false assertions and false datings will never prove that two and two are not four.
These may certify that the subscriber has frequently seen Mr. Fitch's steamboat, which with great labor and perseverance he has at length completed, and likewise been on board when the boat was worked against both wind and tide, with a very considerable degree of velocity, by the force of steam only. Mr. Fitch's merit in constructing a good steam engine, and applying it to so useful a purpose. Mr. Fitch's merit in constructing a good steam engine, and applying it to so useful a purpose, will no doubt meet with the encouragement he so justly deserves from the generosity of his countrymen, especially those who wish to promote every improvement in the useful arts in America.
Philadelphia, December 12th, 1787
Having also seen the boat urged on by the force of steam, and having been on board of it when in motion, I concur in the above opinion of Mr. Fitch's merits.
From the well known force of steam, I was one of the first of those who encouraged Mr. Fitch to reduce his theory of a steamboat to practice, in which he has succeeded far beyond my expectations. I am now fully of opinion that steamboats may be made to answer valuable purposes in facilitating the internal navigation of the United States, and that Mr. Fitch has great merit in applying a steam engine to so valuable a purpose, and entitled to every encouragement from his country and countrymen.
Philadelphia, December 13th, 1787
Copy of Mr. Rumsey's extract No. 19
The following is part of a letter wrote by the editor, to his Excellency, General Washington, dated the 10th of March, 1785.
After mentioning that kind of machine for propelling boats, which the General had seen a model of, I proceed to say -- "I have taken the greatest pains to perfect another kind of boat, upon the principles I mentioned to you at Richmond, in November last, and have the pleasure to inform you that I have brought it to great perfection; it is true, it will cost something more than the other way, but, when in use, it will be more manageable, and can be worked with as few hands; the power is immense -- and I have quite convinced myself that the boats of passage may be made to go against the current of the Mississippi or Ohio rivers, or in the Gulf Stream (from the Leeward to the Windward Islands) from sixty to one hundred miles per day. I know this will appear strange and improbable to many persons, yet I am very certain it may be performed, besides, it is simple (when understood) and Is also strictly philosophical.
The principles of this boat I am very cautious not to explain, as it would be easily executed by an ingenious person.
The plan I mean to pursue, is to put both the machines on board of boats [fn.: There were two boats connected, in the model I exhibited at Bath, in September 1787, which is the reason I speak of boats in the plural, as experiment had convinced me that a single boat would not succeed on that principle.] built on a large scale, and then, sir, if you would be kind enough to see them make actual performances, I should not doubt but the assemblies would allow me something handsome, which would be more advantageous to the public than to give me the exclusive right of using them."
As to the extract of his letter to General Washington of the 10th of March, 1785, it is nothing more than a declaration that he intended something; that even if it was steam he meant to make use of, it was a profound secret which he was then cautious not to explain. But let us take a view of this letter, and I have no doubt but from the very wording of it, it will very clearly appear that the utility of steam (if that was what he meant to convey) was with him at that time very doubtful, and upon which he could have no kind of dependence; and holding up the idea of secrecy so punctually, lest some artist, more ingenious than himself, could complete a steamboat before him, shows indubitably that he conceived it as an agent at a great distance from him, and upon which he had no reliance, or from which the public could then expect no advantage, and indeed I am confident that his ideas of a steam engine (if any he had, which I much doubt) were very inferior to Messrs. Henry's, Ellicott's, Paine's, etc., in the year 1778, but as no publication to the world took place by then, they are candid enough not to claim it as an invention of theirs. But should I even go so far as to admit he had thoughts of applying steam, and that he intended exhibiting a steamboat to General Washington, it was nothing more than an intention he held in secret, on the 10th of March, 1785, and even by his declarations to Governor Johnson, if they were as early as October or November, 1785, he kept it then a secret -- nothing was imparted to the public, therefore nothing was due from them. I had long before declared my intention throughout the United States. Maryland and Virginia had virtually pledged the honor of their states to secure me in this right. Virginia has since supported that honor. by cheerfully passing a law for that purpose, and Maryland, I doubt not, as also other of the United States, will pay equal regard to justice and policy.
N.B. As the application of steam to vessels will undoubtedly claim the early attention of the world, as the least expensive and safest mode of navigation, I doubt not but the impartial public will yet, with pleasure, secure in me those rights, for which security, had I applied on the first exhibition of my scheme, would have been granted without murmur or delay; but as a confidence in the honor of my country, and a want of finance, were then the preventatives, the delay certainly will not operate now against me, as the utility of the invention more clearly appears, and thereby the attention of my country more reasonably claimed.
The following certificates were omitted in their proper places.
I do certify, that as I was returning with John Fitch from Neshamany meeting some time in April, 1785, as near as I can recollect the time, when a gentleman and his wife passed us in a riding chair; he immediately grew inattentive to what I said. Some time after he informed me that at that instant the first idea of a steamboat struck his mind.
An extract of a letter from James Scout.
You are desirous of knowing from me when the first thought of a steamboat came in your head; this I cannot tell, but this you told me; that in the month of April, 1785, you were travelling down Street road, in company with Mr. James Ogilbee, and Mr. Sinton passed you on Street road, that then the first thought occurred to you of a steamboat, and the month of May or June following, you showed me a plan of your machine on paper; this truth I shall seek no further testimony to support; 'tis too generally known; let them that doubt it come and hear more from
Your humble servant
April 15th, 1788
This is to certify, that Mr. John Fitch called upon William Henry, Esquire, my late husband in his life time, about two years and an half since, when Mr. Fitch showed to him drafts and a model of a machine how to propel a boat through water. And further, that I have frequently heard Mr. Henry applying steam as a means to urge boats through the water by force of it, and that he had proposed laying a model of a machine for that purpose, before the Philosophical Society, long before Mr. Fitch called upon him.
Witness my hand, this 12th day of May, 1788.
Test. -- Jno. Jos. Henry
This eminent inventor died during the past year. The following tribute to his memory is entitled to a place here, inasmuch as Mr. P. took out seventeen American patents -- the first one in 1799, for nail making machinery.
"A simple and unostentatious notice of the demise of this remarkable man, is all the tribute that the public press has yet paid to his memory. The merits of our ingenious countryman deserves more. He has passed quietly away from the scene of his labors; but he has left his mark upon the age.
He was descended from one of the oldest families in that ancient portion of the State of Massachusetts, the county of Essex -- a region of stubborn soil, but rich in its production of men. Matthew Perkins, his father, was a native of Ipswich, and his ancestor was one of the first settlers of that town. Matthew Perkins removed to Newburyport early in life, and here Jacob Perkins was born, July 9th, 1766. He received such education as the common schools of that day furnished, and nothing more. What they were in 1770 may be guessed. At the age of twelve he was put apprentice to a goldsmith of Newburyport, of the name of Davis. His master died three years afterwards; and Perkins at fifteen was left with the management of the business. This was the age of gold beads, which our grandmothers still hold in fond remembrance -- and who wonders? The young goldsmith gained great reputation for the skill and honesty with which he transformed the old Portuguese joes, then in circulation, into these showy ornaments for the female bosom. Shoe buckles were another article in great vogue; and Perkins, whose inventive powers had begun to expand during his apprenticeship, turned his attention to the manufacturing of them. He discovered a new method of plating, by which he could undersell the imported buckles. This was a profitable branch of business, till the revolutions of fashion drove shoe buckles out of the market. Nothing could be done with strings, and Perkins put his head-work upon other matters.
Machinery of all sorts was then in a very rude state, and a clever artisan was scarcely to be found. It was regarded as a great achievement to effect a rude copy of some imported machine. Under the old confederation, the State of Massachusetts established a mint for striking copper coin; but it was not so easy to find a mechanic equal to the task of making a die. Perkins was but twenty-one years of age when he was employed by the government for this purpose; and the old Massachusetts cent, stamped with the Indian and the eagle, now to be seen only in collections of curiosities, are the work of his skill. He next displayed his ingenuity in nail machinery, and at the age of twenty-four invented a machine which cut and headed nails at one operation. This was first put in operation at Newburyport, and afterwards at Amesbury, on the Merrimac, where the manufacture of nails has been carried on for more than half a century.
Perkins would have realized a great fortune from this invention, had his knowledge of the world and the tricks of trade been in any way equal to his mechanical skill. Others, however, made a great gain from his loss; and he turned his attention to other branches of the mechanic arts, in several of which he made essential improvements, as fire engines, hydraulic machines, etc. One of the most important of his inventions was in the engraving of bank bills. Forty years ago counterfeiting was carried on with an audacity and a success which would seem incredible at the present time. The ease with which the clumsy engravings of the bank bills of the day were imitated, was a temptation to every knave who could scratch copper; and counterfeits flooded the country, to the serious detriment of trade. Perkins invented the stereotype check-plate, which no art of counterfeiting could match; and a security was thus given to bank paper which it had never before known.
There was hardly any mechanical science in which Perkins did not exercise his inquiring and inventive spirit. The town of Newburyport enjoyed the benefit of his skill in every way in which he could contribute to the public welfare or amusement. During the war of 1812 his ingenuity was employed in constructing machinery for boring out old honeycombed cannon, and in perfecting the science of gunnery. He was a skilled pyrotechnist, and the Newburyport fireworks of that day were thought to be unrivaled in the United States. The boys, we remember, looked up to him as a second Faust or Cornelius Agrippa; and the writer of this article has not forgotten the delight and amazement with which he learned from Jacob Perkins the mystery of compounding serpents and rockets.
About this time a person named Redheffer made pretensions to a discovery of the perpetual motion. He was traversing the United States with a machine exhibiting his discovery. Certain weights moved the wheels, and when they had run down, certain other weights restored the first. The experiment seemed perfect, for the machine continued to move without cessation; and Redheffer was trumpeted to the world as the man who had solved the great problem. Perkins gave the machine an examination, and his knowledge of the powers of mechanism enabled him to perceive at once that the visible appliances were inadequate to the results. He saw that a hidden power existed somewhere, and his skillful calculations detected the corner of the machine from which it proceeded. "Pass a saw through that post," said he, "and your perpetual motion will stop." The impostor refused to put his machine to such a test, and for a sufficient reason. It was afterwards discovered that a cord passed through this post into the cellar, where an individual was stationed to restore the weights at every revolution.
The studies, labors, and ingenuity of Perkins were employed on so great a variety of subjects, that the task of specifying and describing them must be left to one fully acquainted with the history of the mechanic arts in the United States. He discovered a method of softening and hardening steel at pleasure, by which the process of engraving on that metal was facilitated in a most essential degree. He instituted a series of experiments by which he demonstrated the compressibility of water, a problem which for centuries had baffled the ingenuity of natural philosophers. In connection with this discovery, Perkins also invented the bathometer, an instrument for measuring the depth of the sea by the pressure of the water; and the plenometer, to measure a ship's rate of sailing.
Perkins continued to reside in his birth place till 1816, when he removed from Newburyport to Boston, and subsequently to Philadelphia. His attention was now occupied by steam machinery, which was beginning to acquire importance in the United States. His researches led to the invention of a new method of generating steam, by suddenly letting a small quantity of water into a heated vessel.
After a short residence in Philadelphia, he removed to London, where his experiments with high pressure steam, and other exhibitions which he gave of his inventive powers, at once brought him into general notice. His uncommon mechanical genius was highly appreciated; and his steam-gun was for some time the wonder of the British metropolis. This gun he invented in the United States, and took out a patent for it in 1810. It attracted the notice of the British government in 1823, and Perkins made experiments with it before the Duke of Wellington and a numerous party of officers. At a distance of thirty-five yards he shattered iron targets to pieces, and sent his balls through eleven planks, one inch thick each, and placed an inch apart from one another. This gun was a very ingenious piece of workmanship, and could discharge about one thousand balls per minute.
Perkins continued in London during the remainder of his life. He never became rich. He lacked one quality to secure success in the world -- financial thrift. Everybody but himself profited by his inventions. He was, in fact, too much in love with the excitement of the chase to look very strongly at the pecuniary value of the game.
He died in London, July 30th, 1849. The name he leaves behind him is that of the American inventor. It is one which he deserves, and which is his true glory. He was entirely self-educated in science, and the great powers of his mind expanded by their innate force. For half a century from the hour of his birth he lived in the town of Newburyport. Here he grew up, acquired his knowledge, applied his genius to action, perfected his inventive powers, and gained all his early reputation. At the present day, when books are in the hands of every man, woman, and child, and the rudiments of scientific knowledge are presented to us in thousands of students' manuals, cyclopaedias, periodicals, public lectures, etc., we can form no adequate notion of the obstacles which lay in the way of a young man beginning his scientific pursuits at the time when Perkins was a youth. Imagine the state of popular science in 1787, and some faint notion may be obtained of the difficulties which the young artist was compelled to encounter in the preliminary steps of every undertaking. The exact sciences were but slightly regarded, even by those who made pretensions to complete learning in those days; and a great proficient in the mechanic arts could only hope to be considered in the light of a clever carpenter or blacksmith. Men did not dream of such fame as that of Watt and Arkwright. It is much to the honor of his townspeople that Perkins was from his earliest days, held in the highest esteem by them. They fully appreciated his genius, and were proud to honor him. In the latter years of his life, when far removed from the land of his birth, his thoughts and feelings always turned homeward, and he never ceased to express the hope of returning to lay his bones in his native soil. His wish has not been gratified, but his memory will remain for ever connected with the spot."
Papers and Abstracts relating to Early American Inventions
From the Archives of the States
With the hope of collecting interesting matter relating to early American inventions from sources but little explored, and thereby adding to the value of this section of the annual reports, copies of the annexed circular (marked A) were addressed to the Governors of the several States and Territories of the Union; and of the one (marked B) to the United States Senators and Representatives.
U. S. Patent Office, November 8th, 1849
Sir, -- Endeavoring to trace up the history of American inventions as a duty appertaining to this Bureau, and supposing that interesting facts may lie hidden in the archives of the various States, particularly in the records of patents, of which some are known to have granted under Colonial rule, and others by more or less of the States, previous to their conceding the right to the General Government; I respectfully request to be furnished with copies of any such documents as may be on file in the State Department of your State -- the expense of which will be cheerfully borne by this Office.
It is well known that the application of machinery to many branches of art was begun, and has been brought to its present high degree of perfection, almost solely by the ingenuity and labors of our countrymen. I need hardly instance the working of lumber, improvements in ploughs, the cut nail, and car making mechanism; yet definite information respecting these and other inventions, while in their infancy, is entirely wanting.
It is necessary that this Office should possess information on these points, the law clearly requiring, though not in express terms, that descriptions of all known inventions should be within reach, that patents may not be granted for things previously secured. Irrespective of the light they will reflect on the origin of inventions to which they relate, and early struggles of inventors, an increasing interest will be attached to them as matters of enlightened curiosity.
Information respecting the forms of patents, length of time for which they were granted, fees paid, etc., will be highly acceptable; as also any thing relating to the early progress of the arts in your State.
In case no official documents of the kind are on file, may I beg the favor of your referring the subject to any literary or scientific society, or to private individuals, who may be in possession of the information sought.
With sentiments of high regard
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
Thomas Ewbank, Commissioner
To his Excellency -------, Governor of -------
(Note. -- It is not known that patents were issued for inventions in Louisiana by the French, or in Florida, Texas and New Mexico by the Spaniards; but if any were granted, copies of them would be of unusual interest.)
U. S. Patent Office, November 12th, 1849
Sir, -- A copy of the accompanying circular has been addressed to each of the Governors of the States and Territories of the Union, and I respectfully solicit your co-operation in furthering the objects sought to be accomplished. Whatever assistance or advice your more important engagements may permit you to give will be highly appreciated.
There are, it is believed, among your constituents, descendants of old inventors and patentees, who, having documents of the kind referred to in their possession, would be glad to have them filed in this office, and noticed in its reports, as an act of justice to the ingenuity and memories of their ancestors.
I have the honor to be,
With sentiments of high regard,
Your obedient servant,
The subjoined highly interesting replies afford abundant proof that much valuable information now lying hid in the archives of the various States may in this manner be collected -- furnishing a new stock of materials of great usefulness for future reports of this Bureau.
Office of Secretary of State
Hartford, Conn., Nov. 12, 1849
Sir, -- I am directed by his excellency Governor Trumbull to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 8th instant, and in reply thereto to transmit such information relative to its subject matter of inquiry as the files and records of this Department may afford.
No separate record of patents or exclusive rights, as such, was made under our colonial government, although such rights were not unfrequently granted by the legislature for a limited term of years, by the passage of special acts or resolutions. The petitions upon which these acts were based are in most cases preserved on file, but rarely contain more than a general averment of discovery or improvement, and in no case are accompanied by specifications likely to prove serviceable to your department. Such petitions were usually referred to a committee, who, after an examination into the facts, reported in general terms favorably or adversely to the prayer of the petitioners. Between the years 1708 and 1789, many acts were in this way passed, granting exclusive rights for terms of from three to fifteen years, as the comparative importance of the discovery claimed, or the branch of manufactures proposed to be introduced, merited in the opinion of the committee.
I subjoin the action of the Legislature on a single petition, and one of the earliest on file, whence you may determine how far such record may be of service, and whether it be advisable to prepare and furnish to your department full copies or abstracts of all similar applications and grants.
In May, 1728, Samuel Higley, of Simsbury, and Joseph Dewey, of Hebron, petitioned for the exclusive right "of practising the business or trade of steel making" for twenty years, alleging that the first named petitioner had "with great pains and cost, found out and obtained a curious art by which to convert, change or transmute common iron into good steel, sufficient for any use, and was the very first that ever performed such an operation in America." This petition was accompanied by a certificate of several smiths who had furnished the petitioner with pieces of iron, which a few days afterwards were returned by him "converted into good steel; which was the first steel that ever was made in this country, that ever we saw or heard of, since which he hath made further experiments, taking from us iron and returning it in good steel." The Legislature thereupon granted an exclusive right for ten years, -- "provided the petitioners improved the art to any good and reasonable perfection," within two years from the date of the act.
It is not unlikely that in the collections of the Connt. Historical Society may be found more full specifications of many early discoveries made by citizens of our State, than are preserved in this department, and at the next meeting of our Association, your communication will be laid before them, that an examination may be made with reference thereto.
J. H. Trumbull, Clerk
For Roger H. Mills, Sec'y of State
Hon. Thomas Ewbank, Comm'r of Patents
(To this communication the following reply was forwarded.)
U. S. Patent Office, 16 Nov., 1849
Sir: -- I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your interesting letter of Nov. 12th, and to thank you for the prompt attention paid to the circular from this Bureau, to which your letter refers. The information communicated by you is of an important character, and I have thought it advisable to request that you will have full copies made of all applications and grants similar to that you subjoin, which may be on file in the records of your department. They cannot fail to be highly interesting and useful.
Assuring you that I shall be most happy to reciprocate your kindness in this matter,
I remain very respectfully your obedient servant,
Hon. Roger H. Mills, Sec'y of State of Conn.
Secretary's Office, Albany, 26th Nov. 1849
Dear Sir: -- Your circulars dated 8th and 12th inst. requesting copies of any records in this department of early patents for inventions issued by this State, have been duly received.
It will, I beg you to be assured, afford me the highest gratification to be aiding in any way to the success of your inquiries, and whatever we possess here of a nature to interest you, will be most readily forwarded.
In the second volume of the documentary history of this State, now in press, and which is printed by order of the Legislature, will appear a series of papers and illustrations relating to the opposing claims of James Rumsey and John Fitch, to the credit of having first applied steam as a motive power to boats, etc.
These papers consist in part of James Rumsey's pamphlet and Mr. Fitch's reply, also in pamphlet form. Though these pamphlets are already in print, we republish them, as they form a part of the evidence laid before the N.Y. Legislature in 1788-9 on these and other such claims, and more especially as they are connected with a number of other papers, such as certificates, reports, letters and petitions which have never been published heretofore, as far as I am informed.
I send you in advance, copies of all these documents, and to enable you the more readily to distinguish the printed from the manuscript evidence laid before the Legislature, I annex hereunto a list of the latter class of exhibits.
I am unable at present to say if there be any papers of the description you desire, among our colonial records. These are now in progress of arrangement, preparatory to being bound and catalogued, and if any be found I shall have copies forwarded. The petition of one Mash, and old inventor in 1692, to Gov. Fletcher for aid for an "engine" which you will find herewith, is sent rather as a curiosity for its style, than as possessing any other particular merit.
With great regard dear sir,
Yours most truly,
Christopher Morgan, Sec'y of State
Thomas Ewbank, Esq., Comm'r Patents, Washington, D.C.
From Manuscript Documents in the Secretary of State's Office, Albany
Copy of an application to the Governor of New York, in 1693, for aid to perfect an invention to increase the speed of vessels.
These are to accquaint the Gouernor yt I am about makeing A small vessell that shall saile faster than all others by Aboundance.
According as I have allreadye acquainted you with all -- Now In as mouch as This Exsolent art that I have found out will bee mightily for the Honour and profite of the King and Kingdome of England, and Likewise it will be a meaines to Aduance New York.
Therefore my Requist is, To the Gouernor That he would bee plased In the king's behalfe to leet me have as much saill cloth as will make me saills and a Little small riggaine, all which will not coste Aboue seuen pounds.
Now the Chifest reason why I make this Littell Vessell is to make ye Gouenor sencable That I can doe by my art as I have formarly said, And then if the Gouernor will be pleased to acquaint the king therwith, It may doe well.
I pray you Gouernor do not slight This my art, Least it prove to the kings disaduantaige; and Hender yor selfe of benifit that may bee got thereby; for ther hath been many arts Heretofore found out, That was slighted and thought as Imposable As this cane bee, before thay was discoured; as for instancs, at first, who could A beliued that ye wide otione should be crost by art of shiping as it is at this time, and likewise who could beliue That such Grat things should be done by art of Gunpowder as it is, and was not ye man of famus memory, C.C. which discoured This Americay slighted by England, but Imbraced by spaine and portaingall to ther great Honor and profite, and many others Grat discoueryes of Arts That might bee instanced that made Europe to flowrish Aboue other parts of ye world that haue not had the aduantage of such Ingenus men Amoungst them; I pray denie me not of saills, and if I doe not perform what I proposed, Then I will be bound to pay you double for yor damage and yor sails Againe.
June ye 6 day, 1693
If you please to lett me haue answer by this bearer
[Addressed] -- To the Gouernor of N. Yourk. These
[Endorsed} -- John Mash and his Engine , 7£
[A true copy of the original in the Secretary of State's Office, Albany, N.Y. E.B. O'Callaghan]
[Copy with spelling and construction regularized KWD
These are to acquaint the Governor that I am about making a small vessel that shall sail faster than all others by abundance.
According as I have already acquainted you with all -- Now in as much as this excellent art that I have found out will be mightily for the honor and profit of the King and Kingdom of England, and likewise it will be a means to advance New York.
Therefore my request is, to the Governor that he would be pleased in the king's behalf to let me have as much sail cloth as will make me sails and a little small rigging, all of which will not cost above seven pounds.
Now the chiefest reason why I make this little vessel is to make the Governor sensible that I can doe by my art as I have formerly said, and then if the Governor will be pleased to acquaint the king therewith, it may doe well.
I pray you Governor do not slight this my art, lest it prove to the king's disadvantage, and hinder yourself of benefit that may be got thereby; for there hath been many arts heretofore found out, that was slighted and thought as impossible as this can be, before they was discovered; as for instance, at first, who could have believed that the wide ocean should be crossed by art of shipping as it is at this time, and likewise who could believe that such great things should be done by art of gunpowder as is, and was not the man of famous memory, Christopher Columbus which discovered this America slighted by England, but embraced by Spain and Portugal to their great honor and profit, and many other great discoveries of arts that might be instanced that made Europe to flourish above all other parts of the world that have not had the advantage of such ingenious men amongst them; I pray deny me not of sails, and if I do not perform what I proposed, then I will be bound to pay you double for your damages and your sails again.
June the 6 day, 1693
If you please to let me have answer by this bearer
End of copy with spelling and construction regularized KWD]
[From N.Y. Council Minutes, Vol. 8, 11th Feb'y, 1700]
John Marsh having preferred a petition to this board, praying the Liberty to erect a Mill to go with the Tyde, of such a nature as hath not yett been used, and desired that for his encouragement he may have a patent for the doing thereof, and for the prohibiting all persons to do the same for a term of years; his Excellency and Councill, on consideration thereof, do promise him Incouragement in the premises, so farr as they can reasonably do the same, and his Excellency doth promise to use his Interest with the Assembly, in their next session, for the procuring an Act for the Incouragement thereof, provided he pay a reasonable quit-rent to his Majesty, and do perform the same in twelve months.
[Note -- The above Marsh was a Carpenter. He is the same that submitted an application to Fletcher, relative to some engine he had invented.]
The Rumseian Society, Philadelphia, to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, N.Y.
[N.Y. Assembly Papers, Miscellaneous Vol. 3]
September 23d, 1788
James Rumsey an ingenious gentleman, a native of Maryland, but lately from Virginia in December last, exhibited before a number of respectable characters in Maryland and Virginia, the effects of steam in propelling a boat of considerable burthen against the current of the river Potomac, and models of machines for the raising water to a great height, and in large quantities by the force of steam, in both which a boiler upon entirely new construction invented by himself, is used with the greatest apparent probability of far exceeding all others heretofore known, not only in point of force but in the smallness of the quantity of fuel necessary to generate the steam.
He came to this city some months ago with drafts and descriptions of his several inventions, and communicated them to a number of gentlemen here, who struck with the simplicity of his several contrivances, and the great advantages with which they might be applied to many useful purposes, agreed to afford him some assistance in carrying his schemes into execution. To this end the persons, a list of whose names is herewith sent, formed themselves into a company, by the name of the Rumseian Society, and appointed us a committee of correspondence to further the design in distant places.
As steam engines are now used in Europe not only for the purpose of raising water from mines of great depth, but for a variety of other mechanical purposes where a strong force is necessary and where water falls were formerly applied; we thought it advisable that James Rumsey should immediately go thither to secure to himself any advantages which might result from an invention so extensively useful in that country, and he accordingly sailed in the month of May, in a vessel bound for London; before he took his departure he signed a petition, which will be presented to the honorable the legislature of your state, stating his several inventions, and praying an act may be passed granting him the exclusive privilege of making and vending them for a reasonable term of years; and at the same time a power of attorney was executed and sent by him to Dr. James McMechin, Joseph Barnes and Charles Morrow, Esq., authorizing them or either of them to attend in person, and solicit for him the granting the prayer of his petition. Joseph Barnes we are informed is a very ingenious mechanic, who has been employed by James Rumsey in constructing his several machines, and is perfectly acquainted with all his inventions, and has abilities adequate to the construction of them in the absence of the inventor. He is also in possession of the models and drafts necessary to show the utility of them, and as soon as exclusive rights therein, for a reasonable term of years shall be obtained from the honorable the legislature of the State of New York, he will be ordered to attend, as well as to carry the said machines into effect as to instruct suitable persons to construct them in his absence.
As the promotion of useful discoveries in the arts and sciences, is an object worthy the attention of enlightened men, and accordingly has in all ages and countries met with patrons amongst those most distinguished for their knowledge, good sense and patriotism, we doubt not but that a scheme, that promises so much improvement, will meet with advocates and support in the general Assembly of New York, over which you so honorably to yourself and to them preside. And we therefore take the liberty to request your countenance to James Rumsey's petition, so far as the prayer thereof shall seem to you consistent with the public good, and if it should not be contrary to the rules of the House, we should take it a particular favor that this letter be read from the chair, in order to bespeak the favorable attention of the honorable members to this subject.
We are with the greatest respect, your assured friends and obedient humble servants.
The Hon. John Lansing, Esq.
Speaker of the House of Assembly
A List of the Rumseian Society
His Excellency Benj. Franklin, Esq.
Arthur St. Clair
Reed &38; Forde
Woodrop & Joseph Sims
William Redwood & Sons
M.F. for Robert Barclay of London
Endorsed -- A letter from Miers Fisher and others of the Rumseian Society at Philadelphia to the Speaker of the Assembly in New York.
In Assembly, December 18, 1788 -- Read and referred with the petition of James Rumsey, to Mr. Livingston, Mr. Havens and Mr. Van Cortlandt.
[New York Assembly papers]
Philadelphia, October 18th, 1788
We whose names are hereunto subscribed do certify that we have been in John Fitch's steamboats, of sixty feet in length, in the river Delaware, when the said boat was propelled through the water with a considerable degree of velocity, regularly and uniformly, without any manual labor, by the force of steam; and we are clearly of opinion that the rivers of America may be navigated by means of steamboats, and that the present boat would be very useful on the western waters.
This may certify that, on the twelfth instant, we, the subscribers, went in John Fitch's steamboat from this city to the city of Burlington, twenty miles, in the space of three hours and ten minutes, there being upwards of thirty passengers on board; and that said boat was propelled through the water entirely by the force of steam; and from our own observations we are of opinion that the discovery which Mr. Fitch has made may be of much service.
Philadelphia, October 18, 1788
On the 16th instant I was on board Mr. Fitch's steamboat, in the river Delaware, saw it perform, and I do certify that it was impelled by the force of steam at the rate of at least four miles an hour, against the strength of the tide; and am fully convinced the force applied to the boat would be sufficient to carry it against the most rapid waters between the mouth of French Creek, on the Allegheny, and the mouth of Muskingum, on the Ohio; and that on an average, it would carry it between three and four miles an hour on any of the western waters.
Capt. 1st U.S. reg't
Philadelphia, 18th Oct., 1788
This may certify that I, the subscriber, was one of the committee appointed in March, 1786, by the General Assembly of this State, on the petitions of John Fitch and Arthur Donaldson, respecting their several schemes for the improvement of navigation by means of steam engines, when Mr. Donaldson produced his plan to the committee for drawing water in, at, or near, the bottom, and forcing it out abaft as a means of propelling a vessel forward.
The committee, having fully heard the petitioners, and afterwards viewed Mr. Fitch's model of an invention for moving a boat by means of a steam engine, agreed to make a report to the house in his favor.
Philadelphia, August 7th, 1788
Mr. Fitch, in his explanation of this draft to me, before he presented it to the Philosophical Society, mentioned that his intention of conveying the waters from his forcing pump in a tube that passed through the fire, was that it might thereby be set a boiling before it entered in the receiver, lest the cold water, mixing with the boiling water in the receiver, should impede the generation of the steam.
Endorsed: Presented to the society, Sept. 27th, 1785
R. Patterson, Sec'y
I, William Cavenaugh, notary and tabellion public in and for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by lawful authority duly admitted and sworn, dwelling in the city of Philadelphia, in the said commonwealth, do hereby certify and attest unto all whom it doth or may concern, that the aforegoing writings, from No. 1 to 6, do contain just and true copies of original certificates to me, the said notary, produced by John Fitch, in the said certificates named; and that I have carefully compared the said copies with their respective originals, and do find them exactly to agree with each other. And I do hereby further certify that the several gentlemen who have signed and subscribed their names to the said certificates now are, or heretofore have been, in the posts, trusts, or employments hereinafter following their respective names, viz.:
John Ewing, Provost of the University and Vice President of the Philosophical Society
Robert Patterson, Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and one of the secretaries of the Philosophical Society
Andrew Ellicott, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy in the Episcopal Academy
John Smilee, present member of the honorable the Supreme Executive Council for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania
David Redick, Vice President of the S.E. Council aforesaid
James Hutchenson, one of the secretaries of the Philosophical Society
Timothy Matlack, late secretary to the S.E. Council aforesaid
Charles Petet, late member of Congress for the commonwealth aforesaid
Jonathan Bayard Smith, late protonotary of the court of common pleas for the city and county of Philadelphia
David Rittenhouse, treasurer for the commonwealth aforesaid
John Poor, teacher of the Young Ladies' Academy
John Ely, teacher of Arch Street School
Jonathan Heart, Captain of the first United States regiment
In testimony whereof, I, the said notary, have hereunto set my hand, affixed my seal of office of notary at Philadelphia aforesaid, the twelfth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight.
Notary Public, etc., 1788
To the honorable the Representatives for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
The petition of John Fitch, of the city of Philadelphia, humbly sheweth --
That he hath this morning seen with surprise in the public papers, that a petition has been presented to your honorable body by James Rumsey, praying you to grant him an exclusive right to the use of steamboats, the very right which, by special act of Assembly, passed the 28th of March, 1787, is vested in your petitioner, who is confident he need do no more than remind the honorable house that such a law exists, when he conceives it will be even unnecessary to pray that you will not grant that to another which has already been granted to him. Justice, honor, and dangerous precedent forbid the depriving an honest citizen of the fruits of his dear-earned labor, and to whom the faith of the government has been so solemnly pledged; the very attempt to draw the house into such a measure is, you petitioner conceives, offering them the greatest indignity. Your petitioner's property in the exclusive right to all steamboats in the State of Pennsylvania is as firmly established in him as the right of any man in the State to his house or his farm. He therefore trusts that the honor of the house to protect him from so cruelly an intended injury. And your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.
Philadelphia, September 6th, 1788
A true copy from the original, read September 6, 1788
Ass't Cl'k of the General Assembly
To the honorable the House of Representatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
The petition of Henry Voight, of the city of Philadelphia, humbly sheweth: --
That your petitioner has long turned his attention to improvements in mechanics, and he presumes was not an unuseful citizen during the war, as his various manufacturing machines will evince. Since the building of Mr. Fitch's steamboat, your petitioner has been much consulted, employed, and in part interested in its completion; that during the many experiments and consultations about the best mode of constructing an engine on board a boat, your petitioner foresaw the great inconvenience of the usual mode of boiling water; and among a number of other projects, your petitioner conceived that water might be boiled in a pipe, a drawing of which he made in the spring of 1786, and in June showed it to Timothy Matlack, esq., and Mr. John Nacarrow, both of them gentlemen of great mechanical knowledge, from whom he hath obtained certificates; but Mr. Fitch was advised not to go out of the old way. The attempt, therefore, first made on the steamboat was with the accustomed heavy boiler, which so loaded the boat that Mr. Fitch determined to take it out and introduce a boiler more suited to the purpose. Accordingly, preparations were made for a pipe boiler, which is now executed, and the boat working with it, exactly on the principles and form exhibited to Mr. Matlack and Mr. Nacarrow. Your petitioner, hearing that a Mr. Rumsey was to come to town, and that he pretended to the exclusive right to a pipe boiler, your petitioner made an entry of his said boiler with the protonotary of the court of common pleas of the city of Philadelphia, being told the copy-right of books were there entered, and he conjectured such entry in a public office might secure to him in Pennsylvania the exclusive right to the same, as death, in such case, would not deprive the public of the discovery.
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays your honorable House will be pleased to grant to him and his heirs the exclusive right to the emoluments of the same for the term of fourteen years, or such term as the honorable House may think it deserves -- and your petitioner, as in duty bound, etc.
Philadelphia, September 6th, 1788
A true copy from the original.
Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly
The committee to whom was referred the petition of James Rumsey, John Fitch, and Henry Voight beg leave to report --
That having examined the said petitions, and with great attention heard the parties in support of their respective claims, are unanimously of opinion that the law which grants to John Fitch an exclusive right to all boats propelled by fire and steam, hath not only secured unto him, his heirs, etc., the exclusive right to the method he had then invented, for the purpose of applying the powers of fire or steam in order to propel boats, but also whatsoever improvements he may make himself, or obtain from others, during the time limited by said law. And however improper so extensive a law may be in its principles, yet considering that upon a faith of the said law, several citizens have spent much labor and money, for which they are not yet reimbursed -- and notwithstanding the Legislature may have a right to repeal laws which convey grants that are highly injurious to the general welfare, yet the resuming such legislative grants ought never to be done, unless upon the most pressing necessity.
Your committee therefore beg leave to offer the following resolutions, viz.:
Resolved, That the prayer of the petition of James Rumsey be granted, excepting so far as it respects the propelling of boats by the force of fire or steam.
Resolved, That the prayer of the petition of Henry Voight cannot be granted.
The above is a true copy of the original report remaining on the files of the General Assembly.
J. Shallus, Assistant Clerk
Philadelphia, 13th December, 1788
Honored Sir, -- As it is so very inconvenient for me to attend your Assembly this session, to answer the repeated vexatious claims of James Rumsey, I have taken the liberty to enclose to you, a petition to your honorable House, several certificates, a pamphlet, a report of the committee of Pennsylvania, etc., all which I pray you to lay before your honorable House.
There is one part of the pamphlet which may require a little explaining, as they hinge much, and their whole dependence of the pipe boiler rests on it; where speaking of Mr. Voight, and the pipe boiler, page 14, I say that I am indebted to him for the improvement, yet it cannot be denied but I laid a drawing of a pipe boiler before the Philosophical Society many months before he pretends to have [done so;] therefore I hope your House will not [conceive his words] to convey more than the very expression itself, [and that they] may not be construed instead of an improvement that they shall convey the idea that I am indebted to him for the invention.
I am hardly let in a belief that your honorable House will take up his petition, but refer it over to Congress; yet should they do it, I pray that I may be notified of it.
I also pray you, sir, as soon as this shall come to hand to let me have information by post, otherwise, for fear of miscarriage, in a reasonable time I shall have to be at the expense and trouble of forwarding another package to you, which will ever lay me under the obligation of subscribing myself.
Your most devoted, much obliged, and very humble servant
To the honorable the Speaker of the Assembly of New York
Endorsed -- John Fitch; papers and certificates relative to his steamboat -- 1789
[Addressed] -- Honorable Speaker of the General Assembly of the State of New York, at Albany.
This may certify that I have been made acquainted with Mr. John Fitch's plan of propelling vessels through the water by the force of steam; and if it should answer in practice as well as in theory, I am of opinion that it promises success, and deserves the notice of the Legislature.
New York, February 22d, 1787
State of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly
Friday, September 8th, 1786, A.M.
The report, read September 6th, on the petition of John Fitch, was read the second time as follows, viz:
The committee on the petition of John Fitch report, that they have received his model of an invention for moving a boat by means of a steam engine, of which they entertain a favorable opinion.
That the said Fitch represents the committee, that he has begun a boat for navigating on the river Delaware; but which, from the narrowness of his funds, he shall not be able to complete without some public assistance.
The committee, conceiving the design, if executed, will be of considerable public utility, recommend the following resolution:
Resolved, That a committee be appointed to bring in a bill to authorize the supreme executive council to direct payment of John Fitch's drafts to any amount not exceeding the whole sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, on proof made to them that the money so drawn has been applied to the purpose of completing his steamboat, they taking his security for repayment thereof in twelve months.
And on the question, will the House adopt the same report? it was carried in the negative.
Extract from the minutes.
J. Shallus, Assistant Clerk
Your committee on the petition of John Fitch report,
That they have viewed his boat, which he proposes to propel against the stream by the agency of steam, and although the apparatus necessary to the same is not yet so complete as to afford demonstration, yet your committee entertain no doubt of a full and effectual completion thereof.
In order, therefore, to encourage a further improvement in so useful an art, propose the following resolution:
Resolved, That the petitioner have leave to bring in a bill agreeably to the prayer of his petition.
That above is a true copy of the original remaining on the files of the General Assembly, and whereupon the resolution of the House of the 16th of November last was founded, Philadelphia, February 20th, 1787.
Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly
The Committee to whom was referred the petition of John Fitch, of Bucks county, in Pennsylvania,
Report -- That having examined the certificates and other papers presented to your Committee by the said John Fitch, they are of opinion that in order to encourage a further improvement in so useful an art; a bill be brought in for the purpose of granting to the said John Fitch an exclusive right of navigating boats by the force of steam or fire, for a certain time, agreeable to the prayer of his petition.
To the honorable the Legislature of the state of New York, in Senate and Assembly convened.
The petition of John Fitch, of Bucks county, in the state of Pennsylvania, humbly sheweth --
That your petitioner has lately invented a method of propelling vessels through the water by the force of steam, which he flatters himself is reduced to a moral certainty, and will be a very great improvement on navigation, and that he has a boat nearly completed, to navigate on the river Delaware by the agency thereof.
That the states of New Jersey and Delaware have patronized his scheme, so far as to give him an exclusive right for said boats for the term of fourteen years, and the state of Pennsylvania have passed a law for public consideration similar thereto -- That your petitioner has invented a method of rowing boats by oars worked by cranks, which was never heretofore used, which applies not only the force of steam, but the strength of a horse, or any other power, to be equally as good advantage as men with oars, whereby inland navigation must be benefited nearly as much as the labor of horses is cheaper than the labor of men. Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honorable body will take into their consideration and improvements, and grant your petitioner such encouragement as in their wisdom shall seem proper. And your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.
New York, February 21st, 1787
[Endorsed,] -- No 147. A petition of John Fitch, praying an exclusive privilege for a limited time of constructing vessels to be propelled through the water by the force of steam.
In Assembly, February 24th, 1787, read and referred to Mr. Sickles, Mr. Jones and Mr. Hamilton.
February 27th, 1787 -- Mr. Sickles reported -- see the report annexed -- a bill was brought in pursuant to the prayer of the petition.
To the honorable the representatives of the state of New York, in General Assembly met:
Gentlemen: -- Whereas your petitioner has formed a plan for facilitating the navigation of rapid rivers; he therefore doth propose to construct a certain species of boat, of the burthen of ten tons, which shall said or be propelled by the combined influences of certain mechanical powers thereto applied, the distance of between twenty-five to forty miles per day, against the current of a rapid river, notwithstanding the velocity of the water should move at the rate of five miles per hour and upwards; with the burthen of ten tons on board to be wrought at no greater expense than that of three hands; and as a premium for so useful an invention, your petitioner prays for an act to pass this honorable house of Assembly, granting to your petitioner, his heirs and assigns, the sole and exclusive right of constructing, navigating and employing boats constructed after his new invented model, upon each and every creek, river, bay, inlet and harbor within the limits and jurisdiction of this commonwealth, for and during the term of ten years, fully to be completed and ended to be computed from the first day of January, 1785, provided always, that the legislature of this commonwealth may at any time abolish the exclusive right herein prayed for, by paying to your petitioner, his heirs or assigns, the sum of ten thousand pounds in gold and silver, and your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall pray.
[Endorsed,] -- James Rumsey's petition to the state of New York.
General Washington's Opinion of Mr. Rumsey's Invention
I have seen the model of Mr. Rumsey's boats, constructed to work against stream, examined the powers upon which it acts; been eye witness to an actual experiment in running water of some rapidity; and give it as my opinion (although I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of working boats by mechanism and small manual assistance, against rapid currents; that the discovery is of vast importance, may be of the greatest usefulness in our inland navigation; and if it succeeds, of which I have no doubt, that the value of it is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the works, which, when seen and explained to, may be executed by the most common mechanic.
Given under my hand at the town of Bath, county of Berkeley, in the state of Virginia, this 7th of September, 1784.
A true copy compared with the original.
New York, December 3, 1784 -- I do certify that I have seen the original, of which the within is a copy, and believe the whole to have been written by General Washington, with whose handwriting I am perfectly acquainted.
Formerly Aid de Camp to his Excellency, Gen. Washington
[Endorsed,] -- A copy of Gen. Washington's voucher.
Philadelphia, Dec. 9th, 1788
Sir: -- I think it proper to inform you that I am about to set off for Albany, where I propose to be on the 15th inst. in order to present a petition to the Legislature of the State of New York in behalf of Mr. James Rumsey, praying a grant of the exclusive privilege of constructing and using within that State his model of propelling vessels by the force of steam, and the boilers by him invented for generating steam, in order that you may be heard if you think proper to attend.
Attorney for James Rumsey
Mr. John Fitch
On the tenth day of December, Anno Domini, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, before me Clement Biddle, Esquire, Notary and Tabellion public for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, duly commissioned and qualified, and one of the Justices of the court of common pleas for the city and county of Philadelphia, dwelling in the city personally, came George Kemp, who being duly sworn on the holy evangelists of Almighty God, did depose and say, that on the day of the date hereof, at the request of Joseph Barnes, attorney for James Rumsey, he went to the dwelling or lodging of Mr. John Fitch, and in presence of Joseph Barnes, attorney for James Rumsey as aforesaid, delivered to the said John Fitch a true copy of the paper writing contained on the other side hereof, and further saith not.
Sworn as above before me quod attestor
Clement Biddle, Notary Public and J.C.C.P., 1788
Richmond, November 17th, 1784
Virginia, -- To all whom it may concern
I do hereby certify that a bill "giving unto James Rumsey, his heirs and assigns, the sole and exclusive right of constructing, navigating and employing boats after his new invented model, for the term of ten years, to be computed from the first day of January next," has passed the house of delegates of this State, with this proviso; "that the exclusive right therein granted, may at any time be abolished by the Legislature of this commonwealth, upon the payment unto the said Rumsey, his heirs or assigns, the sum of ten thousand pounds in gold or silver, and that the said bill is to be sent up to the Senate for their concurrence, as soon as they shall have formed a house.
John Tyler, S.H.D.
New York, ss: -- James McMechen, of Berkeley county, in Virginia, being duly sworn on the holy Evangelists, deposeth and saith, that the above is a true copy of a certificate in his possession, subscribed with the name of John Tyler, speaker of the house of delegates of Virginia, that the deponent knows the handwriting and subscribing of the said John Tyler, and does verily believe his name subscribed to the said certificate to be of the handwriting of the said John Tyler. That the said certificate was delivered to the deponent by the said James Rumsey therein named, at the city of Richmond, in Virginia, at which time and place several of the gentlemen of the house of delegates were present, and did see and read the said certificate -- and further the deponent saith not.
Sworn the third day of December, 1784, before me,
John McKesson, Notary Public
To the honorable the Legislature of the State of New York in Senate and Assembly convened:
The petition of James Rumsey, of Berkeley county, in the State of Virginia, by James Barnes, at present of the city of Philadelphia, his attorney for the special purpose duly constituted, most respectfully sheweth --
That your petitioner hath invented a mode of raising water in great quantities to any height from below or above the surface of the earth, by means of steam acting upon two pistons at the same time, whereby mines may be drained, cities or farming grounds be watered, and mills supplied with a constant stream, at an expense far less than any mode hitherto used or invented. A draft or specification of which invention, with an explanation of its use, is ready to be delivered to this honorable House, and to be filed on record in any public office which they may think most proper to preserve the same.
Your petitioner therefore prays that this honorable House will be pleased to give him leave to introduce a bill to be enacted into a law, granting and securing to your petitioner, his executors, administrators, and assigns, the exclusive right and privilege of making, constructing, and using machines for raising water, for all purposes whatsoever, by the action of steam applied to two pistons at the same time, in the manner and upon the principles by him invented and defined in the said draft, explanation and specification.
And your petitioner etc.
By Joseph Barnes, his attorney
[Endorsed] -- No. 52. 1788
A petition of James Rumsey, by Joseph Barnes, his attorney, praying an exclusive right of making, constructing, and using machines for raising water, (by means of steam,) for all purposes whatever.
In Assembly, December 23d, 1788 -- read and referred to Mr. G. Livingston, Mr. Havens, and Mr. Van Cortlandt.
The committee to whom were referred the petition of James Rumsey, setting forth that he hath invented a new method of propelling boats by steam, and hath made improvements in divers engines and machines, and praying for an exclusive right to the same for a limited time; and the petition of John Fitch, praying that the prayer of the petition of the said James Rumsey may not be granted; and the petition of John Stevens, setting forth that he hath invented a method of propelling boats by steam, that does not interfere with the petitions of either the said James Rumsey or John Fitch; report --
That they have examined the petitions of the said James Rumsey and John Fitch, with the papers and affidavits accompanying the same, and are of opinion that the said James Rumsey hath by actual experiment ascertained the practicability of propelling boats by the agency of steam, in a mode and on principles different from those heretofore used by the said John Fitch; but that the act securing to John Fitch the exclusive right of propelling boats by the force of fire or steam; for a limited time, is conceived in such general terms that it would be improper to vacate any part of the said grant, without giving both parties a hearing. But the committee are further of opinion, that nothing in the said act, securing to John Fitch the exclusive right of propelling boats by fire or steam, can be construed from securing to James Rumsey, for a limited time, the exclusive right of generating steam by his new invented method of a pipe boiler. And, further, that they have examined the petition of John Stevens, and the draughts accompanying the same, and are of opinion that the method proposed by him for propelling boats by steam does not materially differ in its principles from the mode proposed by James Rumsey; and that he stands in the same situation with respect to John Fitch as the said James Rumsey. And, further, that the committee have prepared the draught of a bill securing to James Rumsey the exclusive right to his inventions for a limited time, which they have directed their chairman to report to the House.
To the honorable the legislative council and General Assembly of the State of New York:
The petition of John Fitch, of the city of Philadelphia, humbly sheweth,
That your petitioner received notice, on the 10th of this instant, from James Barnes, attorney for James Rumsey, that he was about to petition your honorable House for an exclusive right to a steamboat and a pipe boiler.
Your petitioner humbly begs leave to represent, that by a law passed in the year 1787, your honorable legislature vested in your petitioner the exclusive right, for a term of years, of propelling vessels through the water by the agency of steam, which exclusive right hath also been granted him in the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, to whose several legislatures James Rumsey had made application, with a view of destroying the right of your petitioner, under the pretense of using a different mode in application of steam to the propelling of boats, and also under a pretense of an invention of boiling water in a pipe, for the purpose of creating steam, which idea of boiling in a pipe was by your petitioner laid before the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, some months before the time assumed by the said Rumsey as the period of his first invention, and that the mode of propelling by forcing water out abaft, which he claims as his invention, was published by M. Bernoulli, in the year 1738, consequently, was open to common use, and thereby included in the law to your petitioner.
Your petitioner hath successfully opposed the said Rumsey in his applications to the said Assemblies, and hath hitherto preserved his rights inviolate. The reports of the committee of seven leading members of the honorable Assembly of Pennsylvania, after a debate of five days, supported on the side of Mr. Rumsey by an eminent attorney at law, your petitioner begs leave to annex herewith. Since which he has made two fruitless attempts to destroy my just and legal rights in the States of Delaware and New Jersey.
In Virginia your petitioner hath also obtained an exclusive right, being the State in which said Rumsey resided, without the least opposition from him or any of his friends, notwithstanding from my first petitioning that Assembly, to obtaining the law, was more than one year and eleven months; your petitioner hath not hitherto been informed whether he has made application in that State or not, but doubts not, from the justness and stability of that honorable body, that they will not take his just rights from him without hearing the defense of your petitioner.
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays, that in case a petition should be presented by the said attorney, which may interfere with your petitioner's rights, either in the steamboat or the pipe boiler, so long in use in your petitioner's boat on the river Delaware, and a machine necessary for the completion of that design for which your law was given, he humbly prays to be heard in the defense of his rights. Your petitioner is perfectly willing to rest the justice of his claim either before your honorable House, or before the new Congress, if your honorable House should judge it most expedient to refer the same to them.
Your petitioner begs leave to observe, that such repeated vexatious applications seem calculated to divert your petitioner from pursuing the business of the boat, or to promote a clashing of laws amongst the different States, or to destroy his resources in defending his just rights, and prevent him from completing the great undertaking he has now on hands.
Your petitioner humbly begs leave to represent, that he hath expended a great portion of his time and a great sum of money in perfecting said boat, in full confidence of enjoying an uninterrupted possession of the several grants to him made.
Under the said confidence a number of gentlemen have advanced money, to a very considerable amount, hoping to benefit themselves as well as their country thereby. Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that the grant made to him, may not be permitted to be violated or invaded by a subsequent pretender, and considering the very great and expensive journey, and my inabilities to perform it, not only on account of the great expense but the infirmities of body occasioned by rheumatic pains, and the great confidence reposed in your honorable legislature of keeping inviolate the solemnities of their laws. However convenient it might be for me to attend, I am of opinion that it would be altogether unnecessary.
But should your honorable house think proper to take up the business, I humbly pray that I may be seasonably notified by your honorable house for the defense of my just and legal rights, and that they may not be taken from me without the opportunity of being heard in my own defense.
Your petitioner humbly begs leave to refer your honorable house to the annexed papers and pamphlets, accompanying this.
And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.
To the honorable Legislature of the State of New York in Senate and Assembly convened.
The Petition of James Rumsey, of Berkeley County, in the State of Virginia, most respectfully sheweth, --
That your petitioner has been several years employed, with unremitted attention, and at great expense, in inventing, and bringing to perfection, sundry machines and engines; namely, one for propelling boats on the water, by the power of steam, which has been already accomplished in experiments, on a boat of about six tons burthen; another machine, constructed on similar principles, for raising water at a small expense, to be applied to the working of mills of different kinds, as well as to various useful purposes in agriculture; a new invented boiler for generating steam; and also other machines, by means of which, grist and sawmills may be so improved in their construction, by a very cheap, and simple machine, as to require the application of much less water, than is necessary in the common mode.
Your petitioner humbly conceives, that the advantages of great importance to the agriculture and mercantile interests of the United States, may be derived from the use and employment, therein, of the before mentioned engines and machines; but he begs leave to represent to the honorable legislature, that without some encouragement and support from the government, he will not be enabled to prosecute his discoveries, and to carry his aforesaid inventions and improvements into execution; whereby the public would be deprived of the benefits that might result from them; and your petitioner greatly injured, by the sacrifices he has made of his time and property.
Your petitioner deems it necessary, in this stage of his application to your honorable body, to enter into a detail of the nature and principles of the improvements, to which he present petition relates; he therefore takes the liberty of referring to the printed papers, herewith presented, for further information on the subject, and he flatters himself, that, on mature consideration, your honorable body will be fully satisfied, both of the practicability of his plans, and of their importance, as an object of great public utility. Under this impression, he respectfully solicits the patronage of the legislature of this State.
Your petitioner therefore prays, that the honorable legislature, as the guardians and trustees of the public prosperity, will be pleased to enact a law, granting as a reward for his before mentioned inventions and improvements, an exclusive right to him, his executors, administrators and assigns, of constructing, navigating and employing, for a certain term of years, within this State, the several boats, engines, and machines, by him invented and improved.
And your petitioner humbly submits to the judgment of this house, whether in consideration of the great expense he has already incurred in the prosecution of his objects, and the great charges which must necessarily attend the completion of his plans, the exclusive right prayed for, should not be vested for such a term, as might afford him an honorable compensation, proportioned to his services.
[Endorsed,] James Rumsey's petition 1788
In Assembly, December 18th, 1788 -- Read and referred with the pamphlet and papers attending the same, to Mr. G. Livingston, Mr. Havens and Mr. Van Cortlandt
Extract from the printed minutes of the Assembly of the State of Virginia.
Saturday, November 15th, 1788 -- "A petition of James Rumsey, by George Morrow his attorney in fact, was presented to the house and read, setting forth, that he is the original discoverer and inventor of sundry machines and engines, for propelling boats on the water by the power of steam; for which an exclusive privilege was granted by an act of the last Assembly, to a certain John Fitch, that he is well prepared to prove his prior claim to the said discovery, as also to manifest the advantages thereof, and praying that the act in favor of the said John Fitch, may be repealed.
"Ordered that the said petition be referred to Mr. Trage, Mr. Henry, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Carlins, Mr. Bland, Mr. White, Mr. David Stuart, Mr. Carrington and Mr. King, that they do examine the matter thereof and report the same, with their opinion thereupon to the House."
Thursday, the 20th of November, 1788 -- "The speaker laid before the house a letter and petition of John Fitch, praying that he may still enjoy the exclusive privilege of conducting steamboats within this state, which was granted to him, by an act of the last sessions of Assembly; and, that all attempts to interfere with this right, may be disregarded; which was read and ordered to be referred to the committee, to whom the petition of James Rumsey was referred."
Friday the 21st of November, 1788 -- "Mr. David Stuart reported from the committee, to whom the petitions of James Rumsey and John Fitch were committed, that the committee had according to order, had the same under their consideration, and had agreed upon a report, and came to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk's table, when the same were again twice read, and agreed to by the house as followeth:"
"Whereas, James Rumsey hath complained to the general Assembly, that the exclusive privilege granted to John Fitch, by the act entitled 'An Act granting to John Fitch the exclusive privilege of constructing and navigating boats impelled by fire or steam, for a limited time,' hath been obtained to the injury of him the said James Rumsey, upon a misrepresentation, that the said John Fitch was the original author of the invention therein mentioned;
"And whereas, it appears to the satisfaction of your committee, from the testimony produced to them, that the said Rumsey's representation is just, and that he is the original author of the invention mentioned in the said act.
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That the act passed at the last session of the general Assembly, entitled, 'An Act granting to John Fitch the exclusive privilege of constructing and navigating boats impelled by fire or steam, for a limited time' ought to be repealed.
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That the petition of the said John Fitch, in opposition thereto be rejected.
"Ordered, that a bill or bills be brought in, pursuant to the last resolution, and that the said committee, do prepare and bring in the same."
A true extract from the minutes. Examined by
11th February, 1789 -- Albany
[Endorsed,] Extract from the minutes of the House of Assembly of Virginia, on the petition, etc., of James Rumsey
An Act for vesting in James Rumsey, Esquire, the exclusive right and privilege of making, using, and vending divers engines, machines and devices, by him invented, or improved, for a term of years therein mentioned.
Whereas, James Rumsey, of Berkeley county, in Virginia, hath represented to this house, that he hath invented, or improved divers engines, machines, and devices, hereinafter particularly mentioned, upon principles and constructions not before used, and by actual experiments, hath demonstrated the practicability and utility thereof, and hath the office of [blank space in document] plans of the said several inventions and improvements, with explanations thereof, in order particularly to designate and distinguish them from other engines, machines, and devices heretofore used for purposes somewhat similar. Which engines, machines and devices are called by the following names, and known by the following distinguishing characters, viz.:
Rumsey's Pipe Boiler, for the more ample and easy generating of steam by passing a small quantity of water through an incurvated tube, placed in a furnace, whereby the action of fire is communicated to the water and steam in all its passage from the entrance to the exit, and which kind of boiler can be easily adapted to every species of fire or steam engines.
Rumsey's Steamboat, a practical mode of propelling vessels by means of the reaction of a stream of water, forced by the agency of steam through a trunk or cylinder, parallel to the keel, out at the stern.
Rumsey's Improvement upon Savery's Machine, or steam engine, whereby water may be raised in great quantities to any reasonable height, for the turning of mills, or for agricultural or other purposes.
Rumsey's Improvement upon Doctor Barker's Mill, a mode by which millstones and other machinery, requiring a circular or retrograde motion, may be turned by or worked with a smaller quantity of water than by any plan yet exhibited to the public, and entirely free from the difficulties which prevented Doctor Barker's invention from coming into use.
Rumsey's Cylindric Saw Mill, or a mode by which mill saws and all other machinery, requiring an alternately opposite motion, whether perpendicular or horizontal, may be worked without the loss of the weight or force of any part of the water used.
And Whereas, it is highly proper, that ingenious men who by their labors and study contrive and invent improvements in arts and sciences, should be rewarded by the community, in proportion to the advantages resulting from the usefulness of their inventions; and as the most proper mode of ascertaining the utility of any new invention or improvement, must be experience, and as the exclusive right and privilege of making, using and vending to others, such newly invented engines, machines and inventions, is not only the most cheap and frugal, but the most certain way of rewarding inventors according to their several merits.
It is therefore hereby enacted, by the [blank space in document] and by the authority of the same, that from and after the passing of this act, the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators and assigns, shall have the sole and exclusive right, liberty and privilege within the State, of making, using and vending to others, the said boiler for generating steam, so as aforesaid described, and called Rumsey's pipe boiler; the said steamboat to be propelled through the water by means of the reaction of a stream of water forced by steam through a trunk or cylinder from the stern of the boat, against the surrounding water, so as aforesaid described, and called Rumsey's steamboat; the said improvement of Savery's engine, for raising water for the turning of mills, or for agricultural or other purposes, so as aforesaid described, and called Rumsey's improvement upon Savery's machine, or steam engine; the said mode for turning mill stones, and other machinery requiring a circular or retrograde motion, called Rumsey's improvement upon Doctor Barker's mill, and the said mode of working saw-mills, and other machines requiring an alternately opposite motion, perpendicular or horizontal, called Rumsey's saw-mill; all which engines, machines and devices, are more particularly defined and described in the said plans and explanations so as aforesaid filed of record in the office of [blank space in document] and to which definitions and descriptions for farther certainty, this act particularly refers.
And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no person or persons whomsoever, shall make, use or vend to others to be used, any or either of the inventions or improvements so as aforesaid described or defined in this act, or in the plans or explanations filed of record in the said office, and hereby referred unto; or any engine, machine, or device whatsoever formed or contrived upon the same principles therewith, although the form thereof may be varied, under the penalty of forfeiting to the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators or assigns, the sum of [blank space in document] lawful money of this State; and moreover forfeiting to him and them, all and every such engine, machine and device, so as aforesaid to be contrived, made, used and vended within this State; the said penalty to be recovered by action of debt, founded upon this act, wherein no essoine, protection or wager of law, nor more than one imparlance, shall be allowed, and in the execution to be issued upon any judgment obtained in pursuance of this act, a clause shall be inserted, commanding the sheriff or other proper officer to deliver the said engine, device or machine, to the plaintiff if it can be conveniently removed; but if not, that then and in such a case, the said sheriff, or other proper officer shall cause the same to be prostrated, destroyed and rendered useless, any law to the contrary notwithstanding.
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the sole and exclusive right and privilege for making, using and vending the engines, machines and devices aforesaid, by this act granted to the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators and assigns, shall continue for the term of years from the time of passing this act, and no longer: And that all actions to him or them accrued, or accruing within the said term, shall remain in full force, during and after the expiration of this act.
[Endorsed,] -- Act for vesting in James Rumsey, etc., etc.
To the honorable the Legislature of the State of New York, in Senate and Assembly convened.
The petition of John Stevens, Jun'r, of Hoboken, in the State of New Jersey.
That your petitioner has bestowed a great deal of time and thought towards perfecting a machine for propelling a vessel through the water by means of steam. That he has at length brought his invention to that degree of perfection. That as he conceives little or no further improvement can be made on it. That to the best of his knowledge and belief, his scheme is altogether new, or at least does not interfere with the inventions of either of the gentlemen who have applied to your honorable body for an exclusive right of navigating by means of steam.
That your petitioner has made an exact draught of the different parts of his machines, which with an explanation thereof, he is ready to exhibit, provided that after the exhibition thereof, no one be suffered to lay claim to any invention therein described, unless he shall have before exhibited a draught or model thereof to your honorable body; and your petitioner therefore prays that in case his machine should appear to be a new and useful invention, that the honorable the Legislature would be pleased to grant to him an exclusive privilege and right of using the same for the purpose of navigation throughout the State of New York, for such term of years as shall seem meet. And your petitioner shall ever pray.
John Stevens, Jun'r
Presented 9th January, 1789
* The law passed by the Legislature of N.Y. in Mr. Fitch's favor, is entitled "An Act for granting and securing to John Fitch the sole right and advantage of making and employing for a limited time, the steamboat by him lately invented." It is dated 19th March, 1787, and will be found in Greenleaf's Ed. of the laws of the State of New York, 1792, Vol I c. LVII. Further information on the subject of early steam navigation can be had by reference to a history of the steamboat case, Trenton, 1815; Colden's life of Fulton, New York, 1817; Duer's letter to Cad: D. Colden, Albany, 1817; Colden's answer to Mr. Duer, Albany, 1818, etc.
Annapolis, Md., Nov. 26, 1849
Since the receipt of your communication of the 8th inst., addressed to his excellency the Governor of this state, I have examined with much care the indexes, of all of the records of the proceedings of the Governor and Council, and of the Houses of Burgesses from 1642, as also the alphabetted archives of the Legislatures from 1776, to comply with your request.
I have been able to discover nothing with reference to the subject matter of that communication, other than the copies herewith sent.
I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
John Nick Watkins
Secretary of State
Comm'r of Patents, Washington, D.C.
The Petition of James Rumsey of Berkeley County, in the State of Virginia,
Most respectfully sheweth, that your petitioner has been several years employed with unremitted attention, and at a great expense in inventing and bringing to perfection sundry machines and engines; namely, one for propelling boats on the water, by the power of steam, which has been already accomplished in experiments on a boat of about six tons burthen; another machine, constructed on similar principles, for raising water, at a small expense, to be applied to the working of mills of different kinds, as well as to various useful purposes in agriculture; two new invented boilers for generating steam, and also other machines, by means of which, grist and sawmills may be so improved in their construction by a very cheap and simple machine, as to require the application of much less water than is necessary in the common mode.
Your petitioner humbly conceives that advantages of great importance to the agriculture and mercantile interest of the United States, may be derived from the use and employment therein, of the before mentioned engines and machines; but he begs leave to represent to the honorable legislature, that without some encouragement and support from government he will not be enabled to prosecute his discoveries, and to carry his aforesaid inventions and improvements into execution, whereby the public would be deprived of the benefits that might result from them; and your petitioner greatly injured by the sacrifices he has made of his time and property.
Your petitioner deems it unnecessary in this stage of his application to your honorable body, to enter into a detail of the nature and principles of the improvements to which his present petition relates. He therefore takes the liberty of referring to the printed papers herewith presented for further information on the subject, and he flatters himself that on mature consideration your honorable body will be fully satisfied, both of the practicability of his plans and of their importance, as an object of great public utility. Under this impression he respectfully solicits the patronage of the legislature of this state.
Your petitioner therefore prays that the honorable legislature as the guardians and trustees of the public prosperity, will be pleased to enact a law granting as a reward for his before mentioned inventions and improvements, an exclusive right to him, his executors, administrators and assigns, of constructing, navigating and employing for a certain term of years, within this state, the several boats, engines and machines, by him invented and improved.
And your petitioner humbly submits to the judgment of this house, whether in consideration of the great expense he has already incurred in the prosecution of his objects, and the further charges, which must necessarily attend the completion of his plans, the exclusive right prayed for, should not be vested for such a term as might afford him an honorable compensation proportioned to his services.
On the back of the foregoing petition is endorsed, to wit:
"Read 11th Nov. 1783, and referred to the next session of Assembly."
An Act to invest James Rumsey with an exclusive privilege and benefit of making and selling new invented boats, on a model by him invented.
Whereas, James Rumsey by his petition to this General Assembly, hath set forth that he hath invented a plan for navigating boats against the current of rapid rivers, at a very small expense, whereby great advantages will redound to the citizens of this state, and has prayed that an act may pass, vesting in him, a sole and exclusive right, privilege and benefit, in constructing, navigating and employing boats constructed after this new invented model, upon the creeks, rivers and bays within this state, be granted to him, his executors, administrators and assigns, for a limited time; and it appearing reasonable that the said James Rumsey should have the benefit and advantage of his invention:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That the exclusive right, privilege and benefit of making, constructing, selling within this state, the said new invented boats, or improvements upon the said plan, shall be and is hereby vested in the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators and assigns, for and during the space of ten years from the end of this session of Assembly.
And be it enacted, That if any person, during the said term of ten years as aforesaid, shall make, construct, vend, sell within this State any such invented boats or vessels, without a license in writing first had and obtained from the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators, or assigns, for that purpose, or shall purchase or use such invented boat or vessel as aforesaid within the term aforesaid, made by any persons other than the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators or assigns, or by some person licensed by him or them for that purpose, every person so making, constructing, vending, selling, or using such invented boat or vessel shall forfeit or pay to the said James Rumsey, his executors, administrators, or assigns, the sum of five hundred pounds, current money, to be recovered in any court of record in an action of debt founded upon this act.
This act of Assembly was passed 22d January, 1785.
To the honorable the Representatives of the freemen of the State of Maryland in General Assembly meet:
The petition of Oliver Evans, of the county of Newcastle and State of Delaware, respectfully sheweth: That, during the late war, your petitioner, at a very considerable expense and labor, in various experiments for the purpose of framing a machine (perhaps entirely new) to make wool and cotton card teeth, was at length able to bring his very desirable invention to such perfection as to finish a machine which would feed itself, and completely make one thousand card teeth in one minute; as well as a machine for pricking the holes in the leather with great exactness and dispatch, for the purpose of fixing the card teeth in; and that other persons are now likely to receive equal emolument with himself, by making said machines from his pattern, selling them, and causing them to be used. Your petitioner further showeth that he is altogether convinced that he can erect, for the use of merchant mills, a machine to break the fly-eaten grains in the wheat, to break the lumps of dirt, shall the white caps, and bruise the garlic, so as to render all these things more easily and completely separated by means of the screw and fan; a machine to convey the meal, as fast as ground, from the stones to fall on the upper loft; a machine to attend the bolting hopper with regularity: all or either of which he conceives will very much lessen the labor, and consequently the expense of the milling business. But he, taking into view the expense and labor attending the inventing, contriving, and erecting the above mentioned machines, supposes it would much exceed any private emolument likely to be derived to himself, unless he had some exclusive right to make, vend, and cause to be used said mill machine, as well as the machine for making card teeth, that hath the singular property of feeding itself, for the term of twenty-five years, or such time as your honors may think proper. And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Upon the said petition was thus endorsed, to wit:
By the Senate, February 16, 1786. Read and referred to the consideration of the House of Delegates.
By order, J. Dorsey, Clerk
An Act to grant to Oliver Evans for a term of years the sole and exclusive right of making and selling within this State the machines herein described.
Whereas, Oliver Evans, of the county of Newcastle, in the State of Delaware, miller, hath represented to this General Assembly that he hath invented, discovered, and introduced into exercise two machines for the use of merchant mills, one of which, denominated by the said Oliver Evans an elevator, is calculated, by its own motion, to hoist the wheat or grain from the lower floor, and the meal or flour from the stones of any mill to the upper floor or loft of such mill; the other denominated an hopper-boy, so constituted as to spread the meal over the floor of a mill to cool, gather it up again to the bolting hopper, and attend the same regularly, without the assistance of manual labor; also, one other machine denominated a steam carriage, so constructed as to move by the power of steam and the pressure of the atmosphere, for the purpose of conveying burdens without the aid of animal force. And as the said inventions of the said Oliver Evans will greatly tend to simplify and render cheap the manufacture of flour, which is one of the principal staples of this State, as also render the use of land carriages more convenient and less expensive -- in order to make adequate compensation to the said Oliver Evans for his ingenuity, trouble, and expense in the said discoveries.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That, from and after the passing of this act, the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, shall have the sole and exclusive right of making and selling within this State the said machines above described, agreeably to his new method of constructing and making the same, for and during the full space and term of fourteen years from thence next ensuring, and fully to be completed and ended.
And be it enacted, That if any person or persons shall make, sell or use, or cause to be made, sold or used, within this State any hopper-boy or elevator, upon the plan of the said Oliver Evans, or any steam carriage of the said Oliver Evans are, or in form, similitude, or likeness thereof, during the said term of fourteen years, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his certain attorney, heirs or assigns, first had and obtained in writing, he, she, or they so offending shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs or assigns, for every such machine so made, sold or used, or caused to be made, sold or used, respectively the sum of one hundred pounds, current money of Maryland, to be recovered with costs of suit, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any competent court of record in any county of this State, in which the offense shall be committed, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law, nor more than one imparlance shall be allowed; provided, always, that if on any action brought for the recovery of the said penalty, it shall be proved that the said Oliver was not the original inventor of the machines for the making, using and selling of which such action shall be brought -- that the jury shall find their verdict for the defendant, and such defendant shall recover his costs. provided that nothing in this act contained shall prevent any future general assembly of this State from abolishing this exclusive right granted to the said Oliver Evans by this act, upon their paying to him, his executors, administrators or assigns, the sum of five thousand pounds current money.
And be it enacted, That if any person or persons who shall be
convicted of having made, sold or used, within this State, either of the aforesaid machines, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his heirs or assigns, in writing, shall afterwards, without such consent, make, sell or use such machine or machines again, he, she or they so offending, shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, in like money to be recovered in like manner as aforesaid, and so toties quoties.
The aforegoing act of assembly was passed 21st May, 1787.
To the honorable the General Assembly of the State of Maryland:
The petition of Robert Lemmon, of Baltimore county, most respectfully sheweth --
That your petitioner, deeply impressed with an idea of the necessity and utility of introducing more effectually the manufactures of wool and cotton into this State, and also of prosecuting the same at the smallest expense which the nature of them will admit, hath with much attention constructed two machines, the one for carding cotton or wool, and the other for spinning the same. That the carding machine with one hand shall turn off more carded cotton or wool in good rolls in one day than thirty hands can do in the usual way, and the spinning machine shall with one hand spin more than twelve in the usual way, in any given time.
That your petitioner has models of the machines ready for the inspection of your honors, and has no doubt they will give satisfaction upon examination.
Your petitioner has in contemplation, (and is confident he could execute it,) a system of machinery to be worked by water, by which one thousand threads might be spun at the same time, with very few attendant hands, which he conceives, if perfected, would be capitally useful to the State, and submits it to your honors as an object worthy the attention of the legislature.
Your petitioner prays your honors may pass a law granting him, his heirs and assigns, an exclusive right to the making and vending the aforesaid carding and spinning machines, within this State, for the term of twenty years, etc.
(Signed,) Robert Lemmon
[Endorsed] -- "Read 16th December, 1786."
An act granting Robert Lemmon the exclusive right of making and vending Carding and Spinning Machines
Whereas, Robert Lemmon, of Baltimore county, by his petition to the General Assembly, hath set forth that he hath constructed two machines, the one for carding, the other for spinning cotton or wool, and praying an exclusive right to making and vending the same; and, whereas, this General Assembly wish to encourage useful inventions, as well as promote the manufacture of cotton and wool within this State --
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That the exclusive right, benefit and privilege of making, constructing and selling within this State, the said machine for carding and spinning cotton and wool, shall be and is hereby vested in the said Robert Lemmon, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, for and during the space of fourteen years from the end of this present session of Assembly.
And be it enacted, That if any person or persons, during the said term of fourteen years aforesaid, shall make, construct or sell within this State any such machine for carding cotton and wool, or for spinning them, or either of them, without a license in writing, first had and obtained from the said Robert Lemmon, his executors, administrators or assigns, or shall purchase such machine or machines, as aforesaid, within the term aforesaid, made by any other person than the said Robert Lemmon, his executors, administrators or assigns, or by some person licensed by him or them for that purpose, such person so making, constructing or vending such machine or machines, or buying the same, or either of them, shall forfeit and pay to the said Robert Lemmon, his executors, administrators or assigns, the sum of fifty pounds, current money, to be recovered in any court of record, in an action of debt, founded upon this act; provided always, that if on any action brought for the recovery of the said penalty, it shall be proved that the said Robert Lemmon was not the original inventor of the machine for the making, selling or purchasing of which such action shall be brought, that the jury shall find their verdict for the defendant, and such defendant shall recover his costs.
This act of Assembly was passed 20th January, 1787.
Office of the Secretary of State
Concord, N.H., Dec. 1, 1849
Sir: -- Your circular letter of Nov. 8th, requesting copies of any documents on file in this office, relating to patents granted under colonial rule, or by the State previous to conceding that right to the general government, has been received in this office.
To comply with the request, I have been under the necessity of examining all the acts by the province under colonial rule; and also the journals of the council and assembly, (most of which have no indexes.) The result of this examination has satisfied me that no patent was ever granted to any one, for any invention, by the provincial government of New Hampshire.
I enclose copies of acts, passed by the legislature of this State, granting patents to certain individuals. I have not been able except in one instance, although I have made a careful and thorough examination of the files in this office, to find descriptions of the inventions.
The copies forwarded are those of all the patents ever granted by the government of this State.
I have the honor to be sir, your obedient servant,
Thomas P. Treadwell, Sec'y of State
To Hon. Thomas Ewbank,
Commissioner of Patents
State of New Hampshire
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives, convened at Portsmouth, in said State, the first Wednesday of February, 1786.
The petition of Benjamin Dearborn of Portsmouth aforesaid, printer, humbly sheweth, That as your petitioner has spent much time and money in a variety of inventions, which may be of public utility, he is desirous of enjoying some exclusive benefit from some of them.
Having been the sole inventor of a new constructed printing press, which has many conveniences and advantages, that the common kind has not; having also been the sole inventor of a new constructed balance or scales, which for cheapness and convenience exceeds anything of the kind heretofore use; and having written a collection of rules in arithmetic, in a concise intelligible manner, for the use of schools, called The Pupil's Guide; your petitioner presuming that the collected wisdom of the state will not disown inventions formed on the principles of usefulness and economy, but will give countenance and encouragement to the inventor, prays that an exclusive right of making, and selling said press and scales, and of printing and vending said Guide, with any additions and improvements he may make on either of them, may be secured to him and his heirs or assigns for the term of twenty-one years.
As the before mentioned inventions could not be designed and executed without much laborious study, your petitioner presumes that the reasonableness of this request, will be manifest to your honors. Wherefore he humbly prays for an exclusive right to the privilege aforesaid, and that he may have leave to bring in a bill accordingly.
And your petitioner as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now on file in this office.
Given under my hand and seal of the state, this 24th day of November, A.D. 1849.
Thomas Treadwell, Sec'y of State
State of New Hampshire
In the year of our Lord, one thousand, seven hundred and eighty six.
[L.S.] An Act investing Benjamin Dearborn with the exclusive right of making and selling certain articles therein specified.
Whereas, Benjamin Dearborn of Portsmouth, in the county of Rockingham, and state aforesaid, printer, hath petitioned the General Court representing that he had spent much time and money in a variety of inventions, which might be of public utility. That he was desirous of enjoying some exclusive benefit from some of them; having been the sole inventor of a new constructed printing press, which has many conveniences that the common kind has not, and having written a collection of rules in arithmetic in a concise, intelligible manner for the use of schools, entitled, the Pupil's Guide, he prayed that the exclusive right of making and selling any such printing press, and of printing and vending said Pupil's Guide within this state, might be secured to him, his heirs and assigns for a certain time, with any improvements and additions he might make to any of them. The prayer of which petition after due inquiry had, appearing reasonable, therefore.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened, That the said Benjamin Dearborn his heirs and assigns, be and hereby are entitled to the sole and exclusive right of making and selling any such printing presses, and of printing and vending of said Pupil's Guide, with any improvements or additions he may make to the same or any of them, for the term of fourteen years from the passing of this act. And if any person or persons but the same Benjamin Dearborn, his heirs or assigns, shall within the term aforesaid, make, sell or print any such printing press, or Pupil's Guide, without his or their permit therefor, such person or persons shall forfeit or pay to the said Benjamin Dearborn his heirs and assigns, double the value of the press, or Pupil's Guide, so made, sold or printed, for every such offense, to be recovered in any court of law proper to try the same.
State of New Hampshire
In the House of Representatives, July 14, 1786
The foregoing bill having been read a third time, voted that it pass to be enacted. Sent up for concurrence.
John Langdon, Speaker
In Senate, June 14, 1786. This bill having been read a third time, voted that the same be enacted.
John Sullivan, President
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, That the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of the state, this 24th day of November, A.D. 1849.
State of New Hampshire
In the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven.
[L.S.] An Act to vest in Benjamin Dearborn the exclusive right of making and vending certain engines and scales for fourteen years.
Whereas, Benjamin Dearborn of Portsmouth, in the county of Rockingham, and State of New Hampshire, printer, hath petitioned the General Court setting forth, That he hath at much expense of time and money, invented and constructed a hand engine for throwing water, and that he hath also made constructed a balance or scales on a new plan, wherefore he prayed that a patent right be granted to him, his heirs and assigns, for the exclusive right of making and vending said engines and scales, with any improvements he might make thereon. The prayer of said petition after a full hearing appeared reasonable; and it being for the interest of the state to encourage the inventing and constructing of new, more convenient and less expensive instruments for the different purposes of life:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened, That the said Benjamin Dearborn, his heirs and assigns, be and hereby are vested with the exclusive right of making and vending scales, upon the construction by him, made and shewn to the court; and of making and vending his new constructed hand engine for throwing water, and other engines upon the same principles, with one or more barrels, and with or without condensed air or suction, with any improvements which he may make upon said scales or engines, for the term of fourteen years, from and after the passing of this act. That the scales shall not exceed in price the sum of eight pounds, nor the hand engine with one barrel, the sum of six pounds in gold or silver, or equivalent in other articles.
And the more effectually to secure to the said Dearborn the right thus vested, no scales of the like construction, nor engine of any size, with one or both barrels upon the same principles with that shewn to the court, shall be used in this state for the term aforesaid, without a seal or stamp affixed or imprinted by the said Dearborn, his heirs or assigns on the same under the penalty and forfeiture of ten pounds.
And if any person or persons shall counterfeit the said seal or stamp, or affix or imprint a counterfeit on said scales or engines, he or they shall forfeit and pay the sum of twenty pounds, and all and every other person but the said Benjamin Dearborn, his heirs and assigns, is hereby prohibited from making or vending within this State, for the term aforesaid, any part or parts of scales upon similar construction, and of engines upon the same principles with those before mentioned, under the same penalty or forfeiture; and whereas by an act of this State, passed in June, 1786, the exclusive right of making and vending new constructed printing presses was granted to the said Dearborn, his heirs and assigns, for the term of twenty-one years; the more effectually to carry the intent of said act into execution, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the said new constructed printing presses which shall be made after the passing of this act, within the time specified in the act passed as aforesaid, shall have a seal or stamp affixed or imprinted by the said Dearborn, his heirs or assigns, on the same; and if any person shall make use of said new constructed printing presses without seal or stamp as aforesaid, or shall counterfeit said seal or stamp within said term, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of ten pounds. The said forfeitures and penalties to be recovered by action of debt, in any court proper to try the same, by the said Dearborn, his heirs or assigns, to his or their use respectively.
And be it further enacted, That the said Dearborn, within one month from the passing of this act, shall lodge in the secretary's office a model of each of the machines aforesaid, or a draught of each of them, with a full description of them, and the principles upon which they are constructed.
State of New HampshireIn the House of Representatives, January 12, 1787
The foregoing bill having been read a third time, voted that it pass to be enacted; sent up for concurrence.
John Sparhawk, Speaker, P.T.
In Senate, January 12th. This bill having been read a third time, voted that the same be enacted.
John Sullivan, President
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of this State, the 30th day of November, 1849.
Thomas Treadwell, Sec'y of State
State of New Hampshire
In the year of our Lord one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-eight
An Act to grant to Oliver Evans for a term of years, the exclusive right of making and selling within this State, the machines herein described.
[L.S.] Whereas, Oliver Evans, of New Castle county, in the State of Delaware, miller, hath represented to this court that he hath invented, discovered and introduced into exercise, two machines for the use of flour mills, one of which denominated by the said Oliver Evans an elevator, is calculated by its own motion to hoist the wheat or grain from the lower floor, and the meal or flour from the stones of any mill, to the upper loft of such mill. The other, denominated an hopper-boy, so constructed as to spread the meal over the floor of a mill to cool, gather it up again to the bolting hopper, and attend the same regularly without the assistance of manual labor.
Also one other machine denominated by said Oliver Evans a steam carriage, so constructed as to be propelled or moved by the power of steam, and the pressure of the atmosphere, for the purpose of conveying burthens without the aid of animal force.
And as the said inventions of the said Oliver Evans will greatly tend to simplify and render cheap the manufacture of flour, as well as greatly lessen the expense of land carriage, in order to make compensation to the said Oliver Evans for his ingenuity, trouble and expense in the said discoveries: --
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court convened, That from and after the passing of this act, the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, shall have the sole and exclusive right of making and selling within this State, all the three machines above described, agreeable to his new method of constructing and making the same, for and during the full space and term of fourteen years next ensuing, fully to be completed and ended.
And be it further enacted by the authority, aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall make, sell or use, or cause to be made, sold or used, within this State, any elevator, hopper-boy, or any steam carriage to be propelled by the power of steam or the pressure of the atmosphere, upon the plan of said Oliver Evans, and constructed as the said elevator, hopper-boy or steam carriage of the said Oliver Evans are, or in form, similitude or likeness thereof, during the said term of fourteen years, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his certain attorney, heirs or assigns, first had and obtained in writing, he, she, or they so offending, shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs or assigns, for every such machine so made, sold or used, or caused to be made, sold or used, respectively the sum of one hundred pounds, lawful money of New Hampshire, to be recovered with costs of suit by action of debt, bill, 'plaint, or information in any proper court to try the same:
Provided always, that nothing in this act contained, shall prevent any future General Court of this State from abolishing the exclusive right granted to the said Oliver Evans by this act, upon their paying to him, the said Oliver Evans, his executors, administrators or assigns, the sum of two thousand pounds in gold or silver money.
And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person who shall be convicted of having made, sold or used within this State, either of the aforesaid machines, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his heirs or assigns in writing, shall afterwards without such consent, make, sell or use such machine or machines again, he, she or they so offending shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, like lawful money, to be recovered in manner aforesaid.
Provided nevertheless, that the said Oliver Evans shall within three years from the passing this act, cause some person well instructed in the art of constructing said machines, to reside constantly within this State, from and after said three years, until the expiration of said fourteen years.
In the House of Representatives, January 28th, 1789. The foregoing having been read a third time, voted that it pass to be enacted. Sent up for concurrence.
Thomas Bartlett, Speaker
In Senate, January 30th, 1789. This bill was read a third time. Voted that the same be non-concurred.
J. Pearson, Sec'y
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State, this 30th day of November, 1849.
Thomas P. Treadwell, Sec'y of State
State of New Hampshire
In the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine
[L.S.] An act to grant to Oliver Evans for a term of years the exclusive right of making and selling within this State the machines herein described.
Whereas, Oliver Evans, of New Castle county, in the State of Delaware, miller, hath represented to this court that he hath invented, discovered, and, introduced into exercise two machines for the use of flour mills, one of which, denominated by said Oliver Evans an elevator, is calculated by its own motion to hoist the wheat or grain from the lower floor, and the meal or flour from the stones of any mills to the upper loft of such mill.
The other, denominated an hopper-boy, so constructed as to spread the meal over the floor of a mill to cool, gather it up again to the bolting hopper, and attend it regularly without the assistance of manual labor; and as the said inventions of the said Oliver Evans will greatly tend to simplify and render cheap the manufacture of flour, as well in order to make compensation to the said Oliver Evans for his ingenuity, trouble and expense in the said discoveries --
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened, That from and after the passing this act, the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, shall have the sole and exclusive right of making and selling within this State the machines above described, agreeable to his new method of constructing and making the same for and during the full space and term of seven years next ensuing, fully to be completed and ended.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall make, sell or use, or cause to be made, sold or used, within this State, any elevator or hopper-boy upon the plan of the said Oliver Evans, and constructed as the said elevator or hopper-boy of the said Oliver Evans are, or in form, similitude, or likeness thereof, during the said term of seven years, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his certain attorney, heirs or assigns, first had and obtained in writing, he, she or they so offending, shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs or assigns, for every such machine so made, sold or used, or cause to be made, sold or used, respectively the sum of one hundred pounds, lawful money of New Hampshire,to be recovered with costs of suit, in a proper court to try the same.
Provided always, that nothing in this act contained shall prevent any future General Court of this State from abolishing the exclusive right granted to the said Oliver Evans, upon their paying to him, the said Oliver Evans, his executors, administrators or assigns, the sum of two thousand pounds in gold or silver money.
And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person who shall be convicted of having made, sold or used within this State, either of the aforesaid machines, without the consent of the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, in writing, shall afterwards, without such consent, make, sell or use such machine or machines again, he, she or they so offending shall forfeit and pay to the said Oliver Evans, his heirs and assigns, the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, like lawful money to be recovered in manner aforesaid. Provided, nevertheless, that the said Oliver Evans shall, within one year from the passing of this act, cause some person well instructed in the art of constructing said machines to reside constantly within this State, from and after the said one year, until the expiration of said seven years.
In Senate, February 3d, 1789. The foregoing bill having been read a third time, voted that it pass to be enacted -- sent down for concurrence.
John Pickering, President
In the House of Representatives, February 6th, 1789. The foregoing bill having been read a third time, voted that it be enacted.
Thomas Bartlett, Speaker
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State, this 30th day of November, 1849.
Thomas P. Treadwell
Secretary of State
State of New Hampshire
Portsmouth, December 8th, 1791
The following is a description of an invention of John Young, in the art of building and altering chimneys, so as to render them morally certain of carrying smoke in tight rooms, which is humbly submitted to be lodged in the office of the Secretary of State by the author.
Let a tube be prepared of plated iron, tin, lead, or logs bored like a pump, or strips of boards will do --let the tube be three inches diameter at one end, or more, for a large smoke, and half that diameter at the other end -- place said tube, for convenience, under the floors of the house, in any story thereof -- let the largest end of said tube be placed at the outside of the house, so as to receive the air from abroad -- let the other end be placed at the bottom of one of the jambs leading up through said jamb to the top thereof, a small distance within the mantel-piece, where the tube is to be let into the smoke of the chimney about six inches, pointing upwards -- or the tube may be brought up to the outside of any jamb, either in old or new chimneys, where it is convenient, and let through the jamb into the smoke of the chimney as aforesaid -- and when it is most convenient one large tube may be fixed into any part of a house, so as that the end at the outside be at least as low as the other end, with small tubes leading therefrom to each or any fire-place in a chimney.
State of New Hampshire, Rockingham ss.
At Portsmouth, on the 8th day of December, 1791, the said John Young personally made oath that he is the original author and inventor of the within discovery and invention by him subscribed -- and that he never knew or heard of any chimney or smoke of a chimney built or altered upon said plan before he had invented and improved thereupon.
Before, John Calfe, Just. Peace
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
[L.S.] I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State this 30th day of November, 1849.
Thomas P. Treadwell
Secretary of State
State of New HampshireIn the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one
An Act to vest in John Young, his heirs and assigns, the sole and exclusive privilege of building chimneys and altering those already built, agreeably to a discovery and invention of the said Young, according to the description of said discovery and invention lodged in the office of the Secretary of State.
Whereas, John Young, of a place called Concord, in the county of Grafton, in the State aforesaid, esqr., hath petitioned the General Court, representing that he has discovered and invented the art of building chimneys and altering those already built, in such manner as will render them morally certain of carrying smoke in tight rooms, by which means a vast saving of fuel may be made, and many other advantages received, in case the said invention should be published; wherefore he prayed the General Court would grant him, his heirs or assigns, the sole and exclusive privilege of building and altering chimneys within this State agreeably to said plan, for such term of time as might appear reasonable; upon which petition a committee from both branches of the legislature, after examining the description of said invention, and finding that the said Young is the author and inventor thereof, and that it will probably be of great utility to the public, reported that the said Young, his heirs and assigns, have the exclusive privilege for fourteen years. Therefore,
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives in General Court convened, That there be, and hereby is, granted to the said Young, as inventor of said art, his heirs and assigns, for the term of fourteen years from and after the passing of this act, the sole and exclusive privilege of building and altering chimneys agreeably to said descriptions of the said discovery and invention lodged in said office; and if any person shall, within this State, build or alter any chimney or chimneys, smoke or smokes of a chimney, upon or according to the said description of the said discovery and invention, or upon any plan which shall appear to have grown out of the said description and invention, the person or persons so offending shall forfeit and pay to the said Young, his heirs and assigns, for each offense, the sum of thirty shillings, to be sued for and recovered in any court within this State having jurisdiction of the cause, and a copy of the said description and this act shall be received in evidence in any proper action which may be commenced for a breach thereof.
And the said Young, his heirs and assigns, shall not demand of any person, for the art of building or altering any one smoke of a chimney, agreeably to said description, a sum exceeding three shillings; and upon the said sum being tendered by any person to the said Young, his heirs or assigns, he or they shall inform of the said art, and give liberty to build or alter so many chimneys as the money shall be tendered for at said rate.
And be it further enacted, That the said Young shall have at least one agent in each county within this State appointed, public notice of which shall be given within four months from the passing of this act; and in any case when it is convenient for any person or persons to apply to said Young, or some one of the agents to be appointed as aforesaid, for liberty to build or alter any chimney upon his aforesaid plan, before he or they proceed to build or alter any chimney as aforesaid, and who shall, within three months afterwards, pay or tender the sum from him or then due, to said Young or any one of his said agents, he or they shall not be considered guilty of any breach of this act.
And be it further enacted, That in case the said Young shall obtain a patent from the general government of the United States for the exclusive privilege of building and altering chimneys as aforesaid, and said patent shall extend to and operate in this State; on the receipt thereof by the said Young, his heirs or assigns, this act shall be void.
State of New Hampshire
In the House of Representatives, Dec. 8th, 1791. The foregoing bill, having been read a third time, passed to be enacted.
Sent up for concurrence.
William Plumer, Speaker
In Senate, December 12th, 1791 -- This bill having been read a third time, voted that the same be enacted.
Josiah Bartlett, President
State of New Hampshire
Office of Secretary of State
I do hereby certify, that the foregoing is a true copy of the original now in this office.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State, this 30th day of November, 1849.
Thomas P. Treadwell
Secretary of State
Secretary of State's Office
Montpelier, November 23, 1849
Hon. Thomas Ewbank, Commissioner of Patents
Sir: Senator Upham, a few days ago, handed to me your circular relative to the history of American inventions, with a request that I would reply to it.
I have examined the records of this office, but can find no allusion of any kind to inventions or patents. Our early files and records are quite imperfect, and Mr. Henry Stevens, of Varnet, Vermont, an antiquarian, has been employed by this State for a number of years, in collecting papers connected with our early history.
And I take the liberty of suggesting the propriety of your addressing your circular to him. Mr. Stevens is now in Washington, acting for a short time, as I understand, under a commissioner from the Secretary of the Treasury.
With high respect, I am, etc.
Ferramd F. Sherrill
Secretary of State of Vermont
New Orleans, November 28th, 1849
Sir: I am instructed by the Governor, in answer to your letter of the 8th instant, to inform you that there are in the archives of this State no records of patents granted under colonial rule. Your communication will, however, be referred to Mr. De Bow, who has charge of our bureau of statistics, and who will transmit to you all the information he will be able to collect in connection with the objects mentioned in your letter.
Respectfully your obedient servant,
Secretary of State
Thomas Ewbank, Esq.
U.S. Patent Office Commissioner
Letter from Governor Crittenden
Frankfort, December 2nd, 1849
Sir: Your printed circular of the 8th of the last month, has been received, and although I can communicate nothing on the subject of your enquiries, I trouble you with this reply, to avoid the appearance of neglect or disregard of the national and laudable objects which you have in view.
The admission of Kentucky into the Union was subsequent to the adoption of the federal constitution, and no patents for discoveries or inventions were ever granted by her, nor do our records or public offices contain any information on the subject.
Thomas Ewbank, Esq.
Norristown, December 14th, 1849
John Freedly, Esq.
Dear Sir: -- The letter from the Patent Office at Washington, addressed to the Governors of the different states, with its accompanying circular, as well as a letter from yourself, were duly received.
Upon looking over the documents and records to which I have access, I only find the following, viz:
"Philadelphia, July 18th, 1717
"To the Hon. William Keith, Esq., Lieut Governor of Pennsylvania, and the three lower counties.
"The petition of Thomas masters humbly sheweth, that at the humble representation of your petitioner's wife, Sybella Masters, his Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant him two several patents under the broad seal; one for the sole cleansing, curing and refining of Indian Corn growing in the plantations, fitter for shipping and transportation, in a manner not before found out or practices. The other for the sole working and weaving in a new method, palmeta, chip and straw for covering hats and bonnets, and other improvements of that ware, for the respective terms of fourteen years, in that part of the Kingdom of Great Britain, dominion of Wales, and town of Berwick upon Tweed, and the several plantations in America, as by the said letters patents (which he now lays before this honorable board) may more fully appear.
"Your petitioner prays leave to record the said patents in the province and territories, and such a favorable recommendation thereof from the board, as may the more effectually answer his Majesty's most gracious intentions to him, and promote and forward such useful inventions and manufactures to the public, which he has at a vast expense set on foot and projected.
"And your petitioner shall ever pray, etc.
"The board having taken into consideration the said petition, thought fit not only to allow the said Thomas Masters to record said patents, but also to publish them."
I copy this from the Colonial records.
Washington, December 5, 1849
Sir: -- I had the honor on yesterday to receive your letter of the 12th ult., and accompanying circular in relation to the desire of the Bureau over which you preside, to collect such interesting facts as may be hidden in the archives of Georgia.
All the facts that can be had will probably be communicated by the Governor of Georgia, who, you say, has been addressed also on the same subject, but with a view to elicit any that might no be in the Department of State, I will address some persons in my state, most likely to be acquainted with such matters. Residing in that part of Georgia which has been acquired of the Indians at a comparatively recent period in the history of our State, my immediate constituents are in all probability not in possession of anything worthy of being communicated to the Department.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
Hon. Thomas Ewbank
Commissioner of Patents
Tallahassee, January 4, 1850
Hon. Thomas Ewbank
Commissioner of Patents
Sir: -- Your circular of 8th November ult. to his Excellency the Governor, has been handed to me for reply.
I have to state in answer thereto, that no documents relating to patents, etc., are on file in this office.
Allow me to suggest, that, should you address Circulars to the Officers of the Public Archives, in St. Augustine and Pensacola, you may obtain some information upon the subject.
C. W. Downing
Secretary of State
Montgomery, Ala., January 8th, 1850
Sir: -- I am in receipt of your printed letter of the 8th November, in which you "request to be furnished with copies of any such documents as may be on file in the State Department" of Alabama, which may aid you in tracing up the history of American inventions. I regret that the Archives of the State furnish no information such as you desire.
I have the honor to be,
With great respect, your obedient servant,
H. W. Collier
Hon. Thomas Ewbank
Commissioner of Patents
Letter from Senator Felch
Washington, January 12th, 1850
Sir, -- I took the liberty of sending one of your circulars, relative to early records of inventions, and to the history of inventions anterior to the establishment of our present form of government, to Governor Woodbridge, of Michigan, in hopes that his intimate knowledge of the French inhabitants of the North West Territory might furnish some interesting facts on the subject. Although nothing of the kind has been elicited, I am induced to send you the letter of Mr. W. in reply to my communication. No man has had better opportunities for knowledge on the subject than Governor Woodbridge.
I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant
Hon. Mr. Ewbank, Com'r of Patents
Springwells, near Detroit
December 27th, 1849
Hon. A. Felch:
Dear Sir, -- I have received your note of the date of the 20th instant, with the Patent Office circular you did me the honor to send me. I am sorry I cannot contribute to the fund of information which the Commissioner is taking measures to collect. When I first came to Michigan, (during the war of 1812) the great body of its inhabitants consisted of the descendants of the old French colonists located here, with a sprinkling, more or less marked, of Indian blood. Of those of English parentage, either natives of the country, or long resident in it, and who, under Jay's Treaty, had elected to become American citizens, there were a very few families -- and a few more, enterprising Yankees, who had from time to time, and more recently, wormed their way into these far-off and wilderness regions. But, as I have observed, the great body of the people were of Canadian parentage, and the features which characterized them were quite remarkable. A more honest and inoffensive than they were, could not, I think, have been found upon the face of the globe; they were proverbially docile, friendly and hospitable. Possessing the social temper and national gaiety of the French every where, they also retained in a most marked degree the manners and graceful polish of their ancestors. Cut off from all direct intercourse with Europe, from the time of their first establishment here, their associations with their countrymen abroad were principally with and through the army, which comprised, you know, since before the reign of Louis XIV, the best educated and most polished of the people of France. This gave tone to their manners, habits and character, and which they did not forget, when, by the treaty of 1763, they became almost entirely isolated. They had no market abroad for the products of the land; they, therefore, were not an agricultural people, properly speaking. It never entered into the policy of the French Government (and this was the great error of that Government) to make them so; and except to the extent of their dealings in furs and peltries, they exhibited no proclivity for an active commerce. Their taste led them to rove in the boundless wilderness that surrounded them, and alternately to enjoy themselves upon the fruits of the chase at home. Their highest ambition was to preserve the remembrance and follow in the habits of La belle France as La belle France was in the 16th century. This was their beau ideal of social perfection! What would such a people have to do with new inventions or patented discoveries! The thought of improving in the mechanical arts, and especially upon the agricultural implements of their ancestors, never entered their minds. Happy, thrice happy, were those who could preserve the remembrance of those that were! You may well say, therefore, my dear sir, that you "have no knowledge of the existence of any patents in your part of the country granted under the French Government, or any record of early inventors" among them. .....
With much respect, your obedient servant,