Drawing for Improvements in Telegraphy
After years of experiments, Alexander Graham Bell devised the first apparatus to transmit human speech via machine. Bell patented his “Improvements in Telegraphy" (aka the telephone) on March 7, 1876, making it “…possible to connect every man’s house, office or factory with a central station, so as to give him direct communication with his neighbors.” His work culminated in one of the most profitable and contested of all 19th-century patents.
From the series: Patent Case Files, compiled 1836 - 1993. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, 1836 - 1978.
Patent Drawing for H. Hollerith’s Apparatus for Compiling Statistics, 01/08/1889
One of the earliest successful “mechanical computers,” Herman Hollerith's invention used punched cards to sort, tabulate and compile statistics, including the 1890 Census. His firm would go on to become part of International Business Machines (IBM).
Patent Drawing for E. Berliner’s Gramophone, 11/08/1887
While this drawing shows one of Emile Berliner’s early cylinder-style Gramophones (a format first patented by Thomas Edison), he would go on to develop the well known disc format record that would eventually replace cylinder recordings.
Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney’s cotton gin, for which he applied for a patent on October 28, 1793, and received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America, but also led to an increased dependence on the plantation system and slavery.
Need a knock ‘em dead prop for your haunted house? Try Eisenbrant’s spring loaded “Life-Preserving Coffin!”
"Life-Preserving Coffin, In Doubtful Cases of Actual Death"
Drawing for a Life-Preserving Coffin, 11/15/1843
The fear of being buried alive led Christian Henry Eisenbrandt to patent a “life-preserving coffin in doubtful cases of actual death.” In his application, he claimed that through a series of springs and levers, even the slightest motion of the head or hand would instantaneously open the coffin lid.
(Also fun at parties)
#FirstWorldProblems - Polishing safety deposit boxes
On September 8, 1903, Emil A. Strauss was granted a patent for his improvement on the safety deposit box. According to his application, until his invention, the entire safety deposit box had to be removed in order to polish it, which meant the owner had to be present. He states that his invention allows for “boxes with removable fronts, so that they may be polished … without disturbing the renters.”
Celebrating American Inventions: The Deep Dive
Inspired by #Submarines? We’ve got those too!
(USS Nautilus enters New York City Harbor)
If you missed it, be sure to check out today’s post - Sarah Mather’s patent for a submarine telescope - one of the earliest scientific instruments credited to a female inventor.
The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here. As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.
We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.
Today, scientists use high-tech submarines to dive deep into the ocean and research underwater life. Tourists can take a submarine dive and visit underwater coral reefs. The military uses submarines to stealthily target the enemy with little to no detection.
But did you know all of this began with a wooden submarine named “Turtle,” first used in military action during the Revolutionary War?
David Bushnell, along with his brother Ezra, created the world’s first military submarine in Connecticut and launched it for the first time in 1776. The submarine they created featured ideas still used today, including the use of water as ballast for the craft, and the screw propeller.
Describing the Turtle, George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1785, “I then thought, and still think, that it was an effort of genius,” according to the Navy Department Library.
According to the Navy, during the actual Revolutionary War battle, Turtle didn’t fare as well as Bushnell hoped. Despite successful test runs (one of which Benjamin Franklin attended, according to reports!), Turtle’s attack did not succeed. Despite this hurdle, Turtle provided an invaluable ‘first draft’ of what would later develop into today’s submarine.
To hear from veterans of more recent wars about their experiences on a submarine, check out the Library of Congress’ video project, “The Silent Service.” Meet some of the Navy’s current submarine force, in this video from Inside Today’s Military.
Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.
Sarah P. Mather’s Submarine Telescope, 07/05/1864
From the Patent and Trademark Office series: Utility Patent Drawings, 1837 - 1911
An improvement over a prior patent she submitted in the 1840s, Sarah Mather’s Submarine Telescope is one of the earliest scientific instruments credited to a female inventor.
And don’t forget to check out our #Patent tag for more American originals!
"Photograph of an Indian Man on a McCormick Reaper"
From the Glass Negatives and Photographs File of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Cyrus McCormick, inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine company (later International Harvester), filed his first patent for a mechanical reaper on June 21, 1834.