Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1858 United States Patent Office January 31, 1859 Sir: I have the honor to submit the following tables as illustrating the operations and conditions of this office for the year closing the 31st December, 1858:
                    No. 1

Number of applications for patents during the year 1858     5,364
Number of patents granted, including designs, re-issues, 
   and additional improvements                              3,710
Number of caveats filed                                       943
Number of applications for extensions of patents               24
Number of patents extended                                     20
Number of patents expired on 31st December, 1858              563
    Of the patents granted, there were -- 
To the citizens of the United States                        3,668
To subjects of Great Britain                                   20
To subjects of the French empire                               14
To subjects of other foreign governments                        8
             Total                                          3,710

The patents issued to citizens of the United States were
distributed among the several States, Territories, etc., as
follows: New York 1,075 Pennsylvania 447 Massachusetts 438 Ohio 302 Connecticut 211 Illinois 155 New Jersey 126 Maryland 82 Indiana 82 Virginia 61 Maine 58 Michigan 54 District of Columbia 52 New Hampshire 51 Rhode Island 48 Missouri 46 Vermont 42 Louisiana 34 Iowa 33 Mississippi 31 Kentucky 30 Alabama 24 California 23 North Carolina 22 Georgia 21 Tennessee 19 South Carolina 12 Texas 10 Delaware 8 Florida 4 Washington Territory 4 Arkansas 3 Minnesota 2 Kansas Territory 1 United States navy 2 United States army 1 _____ Total 3,668
Of the 3,710 patents thus issued, 561 were for inventions relating to agricultural implements and processes, of which 152 were for improvements in reaping and mowing machines; 42 were for improvements in cotton gins and presses, and in packing cotton; 164 for improvements in the steam engine; 1198 for improvements in railroads, railroad cars, etc.; and 116 for improvements in the sewing machine. Since the issue of the first patent for the latter to J.J. Greenough, in 1842, two hundred and eighty five patents have been granted for improvements upon it. This machine, so wonderfully alike for the delicacy and accuracy as for the simplicity of its operations, may now be regarded as rapidly approaching perfection, and is destined to bless all lands with its truly beneficent ministrations. In a form so cheap as to be within the reach of the humblest household, it now enables a single female to perform, within the accustomed hours of labor, with slight fatigue, an amount of sewing which would be a painful task for twenty five operatives stitching with hand and needle. The belief is confidently entertained that at no distant day it will become almost as universal as were the distaff and spinning wheel of the olden time; but, unlike these memorials of ceaseless toil, it will enter the homes of impoverished and suffering humanity, to lighten the burdens and brighten the lives of those whose elevation and happiness have been the unceasing care, as they are now the crowning glory, of the Christian civilization of the world.

                       No. 2

Statement of moneys received at the Patent Office during 
the year 1858

Received on applications for patents, reissues, 
  additional improvements, extensions, caveats, 
  disclaimers, and appeals                            $188,087.00
Received for copies, and for recording assignments      15,629.16
        Total                                          203,716.16

                        No. 3

Statement of expenditures from the patent fund during 
the year 1858

For salaries                                           $82,073.41
    temporary clerks                                    42,355.03
    contingent expenses                                 37,803.90
    payment to judges in appeal cases                      200.00
    refunding money paid into the treasury by mistake      374.75
    refunding money on withdrawals                      30,386.65

                        No. 4

Statement of the condition of the patent fund

Amount to the credit of the patent fund, 
  1st January, 1858                                    $39,719.46
Amount paid in during the year                         203,716.16
    Total                                              243,435.62
Deduct amount of expenditures during the year          193,193.74
    Leaving in the treasury, 1st January 1859           50,241.88

                          No. 5

Table exhibiting the business of the office for seventeen years,
ending December 31, 1858

Years Applications Caveats Patents     Cash          Cash
         Filed      Filed  Issued     Received      Expended

1842       761        391      517     36,505.68     31,241.48
1843       819        315      531     35,315.81     30,766.96
1844     1,045        380      502     42,509.26     36,244.73
1845     1,246        452      502     51,076.14     39,395.65
1846     1,272        448      619     50,264.16     46,158.71
1847     1,531        553      572     63,111.19     41,878.35
1848     1,628        607      660     67,576.69     58,905.84
1849     1,955        595    1,070     80,752.78     77,716.44
1850     2,193        602      995     86,927.05     80,100.95
1851     2,258        760      869     95,738.61     86,916.93
1852     2,639        996    1,020    112,656.34     95,916.91
1853     2,673        901      958    121,527.45    132,869.83
1854     3,324        868    1,902    163,789.84    167,146.32
1855     4,435        906    2,024    216,459.35    179,540.33
1856     4,960      1,024    2,502    192,588.02    199,931.02
1857     4,771      1,010    2,910    196,132.01    211,582.09
1858     5,364        943    3,710    203,716.16    193,193.74

It will be observed that the depression under which the business of the office was laboring at the date of the last annual report has passed away, and that the rebound from the disastrous effects of the revulsion of 1857, then so confidently predicted, has already been fully realized. The applications of 1858 amount to 5,364 against 4,771 in 1857 and 4,960 in 1856, while the receipts show an excess over the expenditures of $10,522.42 against a deficit of $15,450.08 in 1857. From the most reliable sources of information to which access could be had, the subjoined table has been compiled, with a view of exhibiting the comparative progress of inventions for a single year in the several countries therein enumerated.

Country             Patents granted      Population
                     in 12 months

France                      5,820        35,781,628
United States               3,710        23,191,918
Great Britain (sealed)      1,890        27,511,447
Belgium                     1,406         4,426,202
Austria                       703        36,514,466
Sardinia                      171         4,363,972
Saxony                        107         1,828,732
Sweden                         64         3,482,541
Victoria (Australia)           53           410,766
Prussia                        49        16,923,721
Bavaria                        41         4,519,546
Netherlands                    39         3,203,232
Russia                         26        69,660,146
Hanover                        20           349,958
It is a fact, as significant as it is deplorable, that of the 10,359 inventions shown to have been made abroad during the last twelve months, but forty-two have been patented in the United States. The exorbitant fees exacted of the foreigner, and the severity of the offensive discrimination established to his prejudice, afford a sufficient explanation of the result. Were we to judge alone from the ninth section of the act of 1836, it might well be concluded that the government of this country regarded an invention made beyond the seas as something intrinsically dangerous, if not noxious, the introduction of which it is morally just and politically wise to burden with taxation, just as you would thus burden the importation of some foreign poisonous drug. There is a loftier view of this question, and one deemed more in harmony with the progressive spirit of the age -- a view which hails the fruits of the inventive genius, in whatever clime matured, as the common property of the world, and gives them cordial welcome as the common blessings of the race to whose amelioration they are devoted. Since the month of November, 1857, a board temporarily organized and consisting of three examiners, specially detailed for this duty, have been occupied in the examination of appeals from the decisions of the primary examiners to the Commissioner. During the past year they investigated and disposed of 535 cases, in most of which they have submitted elaborately prepared reports. The results of their action have been eminently satisfactory, and have commanded, it is believed, the entire confidence of the country. The withdrawal of these officers from their respective classes has practically reduced the examining corps to nine instead of twelve, the number at which it was fixed in 1856. The applications of that year amounted to 4,960, those of 1858 amounted to 5,364, so that with a reduced force there is a heavy increase of the labor to be performed. This is unfortunate and to be deplored in reference alike to the public and the inventor. The former has a deep interest in that thorough and faithful examination of applications contemplated by the patent laws, in order that rights which belong to all may not be unjustly monopolized by one; the latter has the same interest, lest a patent, hastily and incautiously granted, should prove, in his hands, but a lure to draw him into harassing and impoverishing litigation. The legalization of this board, and the restoration of examiners to the three classes now virtually deprived of them, would furnish at once the relief required. Since the establishment of this temporary board of appeals, the classes from which its members were respectively withdrawn have been in charge of those who have the rank and pay of assistant examiners only. In the new position, however, assigned to them they have had imposed upon them the responsibilities of examiners in chief, and it is due to them to say that they have discharged their duties with zeal and fidelity. In my judgment, it is but just that they should be compensated according to the character of the services they have rendered. Assistant examiners similarly circumstanced were provided for by Congress in 1856, and I commend the claims of those now referred to to your favorable consideration. There are now on file in this office upwards of twenty thousand models belonging to rejected cases. For a series of years they have, for want of sufficient room, been kept in a condition little favorable to their preservation or usefulness. They present a chaotic and partially dilapidated mass of mechanical devices of no value as compared with the space they will occupy, and the expense their repair, arrangement, and preservation will involve. The fact that they are illustrious of inventions which have been determined to be not patentable, generally for want of novelty, is proof conclusive that they are, in effect, but duplicate of illustrations previously existing, and a large portion of which are already preserved by the office in patented cases. There would seem, therefore, to be no adequate motive for permitting them longer to encumber the building. The west wing of the Patent Office, to which, if retained, they must be transferred, is approaching completion; and the present moment, before the heavy expense incident to their restoration and custody is incurred, is deemed appropriate for deciding the final disposition which shall be made of them. The defects in the existing patent laws have again and again been pointed out in the annual reports of this office, and are believed to be thoroughly understood and appreciated by the country. The subject has been so often and so earnestly pressed upon the consideration of Congress, that I cannot regard it as my duty, if, indeed, it would be my privilege, to renew the discussion at this moment. I cannot, however, forbear expressing again, with emphasis, my conviction as to the necessity of a change in that feature of the existing law which withholds from parties to controversies pending in this office the process of subpoena for compelling the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers. Every judicial tribunal in the land, from the highest to the lowest, no matter how paltry the amount in contest, is armed with this authority, without which, indeed, the administration of public justice would prove but little better than a mockery. With the issues of fact to be tried here are often bound up the entire fortunes of inventors, and the interests they involve are to be estimated by thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Under the pressure of legislation,the parties to these issues are driven into this office, and compelled to have them investigated and decided here, while at the same time they are denied the only instrumentality by which their rights can be vindicated and maintained. They are thus forced to beg their testimony as an alms, or buy it as they would their provisions upon the shambles of the market. They are completely at the mercy of those witnesses who sell the truth, and are, of course, often subjected to the most onerous, and not unfrequently to the most infamous exactions. It is a gross and monstrous injustice, which admits of no defense, of no palliation, and which cannot fail to shock the moral sense of all who, in the heady current of political life, can be induced to pause long enough to contemplate its revolting features. It may well be doubted whether an evil of such deformity, and unredeemed as it is by any pretense of right or reason, would, if exposed as this has been, under any other form of government upon the earth, have been permitted to endure for a single day. In view of the frequency with which the proposed changes in the patent laws have been urged upon the notice of Congress, it has been with extreme diffidence that I have ventured even a passing allusion to the subject. A just estimate of the magnitude of the issues of which this office has charge, and a conviction of the vastly increased efficiency which these charges would secure to its administration, must be my apology. A class of men who have given to their native land and to the world the cotton gin, the stream engine, the electric telegraph, the reaper, the planing and sewing machines -- inventions whose beneficent influence tell with measureless power upon ever pulsation of our domestic, social, and commercial life -- may well be pardoned for believing that their wants should not be treated with entire indifference by that body which represents alike the intellect and heart, as it does the material interests of the great country of which they are citizens.
J. Holt
Hon. James L. Orr Speaker of the House of Representatives

Go to top page of Patent Office history material