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John Tesh


The Curious World of Patent Models The Curious World of Patent Models:
Organized by the Rothschild Patent Model Collection
The Grout Museum of History and Science, 503 South Street, is proud to preset the exhibition, The Curious World of Patent Models, Organized by the Rothschild Patent Model Collection, scheduled to open May 6, 2014 and run through August 23, 2014.

America’s incredible success is primarily due to the dreams and inventions of its many citizens. Few people realize however, that from the time the U.S. Patent Office was formed by Thomas Jefferson in 1790 and throughout the industrial revolution, inventors were required to submit a working, scale model of their invention when applying for a patent.

A patent is a government-issued document that protects an invention or idea for up to twenty years. This gives the inventor the opportunity to produce and sell the invention - or license others to do so - and to make a profit. And while “patent model” may not be a familiar term today, to U.S. inventors between 1790 and the late 1800s, it was commonplace. In order to obtain a patent, an application had to be accompanied by a working model of the invention. These were called “patent models,” and were generally no larger than 12 inches square. The models were made for the patent examiners, who compared similar inventions side by side, to see if the patents were new and different. It was a unique system because no other patent system anywhere in the world required models - then or now. The Patent Act of 1870 rescinded the model requirement, although models continued to be submitted and accepted through the early 20th Century.

The Rothschild Patent Model Collection is the largest private collection of viewable United States patent models in the world, and includes the work of many women, foreign and famous inventors. Containing over 4,000 patent models and related documents the collection spans America’s Industrial Revolution. The 58 models in this exhibition were created between 1852 and 1902 and vary from household to mechanical and technical to simplistic. Only one model exists for each invention, complete with its hand-written original tag.

Museum visitors will recognize the names associated with many of the models: a still from the Beam family of Bardstown, Kentucky, Christian Steinway’s capodastro frame for pianofortes, Eli Whitney’s (the son) breech-loading firearm, John Sargent’s improvement for safe doors, and a “machine for casting confectionary” by Stephen Whitman. The exhibition will also include patent models representing inventions and improvements from farmers, schoolteachers, carpenters, bankers and a house wife-all of whom by their everyday experiences envisioned and developed new and life-improving ideas.

Today, there are more than 7 million patents, but applicants now submit only written specifications and diagrams of their inventions. Most of the early patent models have been destroyed or lost, purchased by collectors, or donated to museums, including the Smithsonian Institution.

Coinciding with this exhibit, the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, 322 Washington St., will be opening a permanent exhibit, Patent Hall of Fame. This exhibition will take a look at the history of patents issued to Waterloo residents since 1861. Inventions and the lives of Waterloo inventors will be highlighted. Learn about companies that led the Cedar Valley in innovation.

The exhibition at the Grout Museum of History and Science is part of a fourteen city national tour over a three-year period. The tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.

Museum Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for veterans and children 4-13, children 3 and under and Grout Museum District members are free. For more information please call 319-234-6357 or visit www.GMDistrict.org .

This exhibit is sponsored Schumacher Elevator Company and Stan & Linda Worthington.


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