Keim's Guide to the Patent Office Museum

containing a descriptive list of the Washington relics, and other objects of historical interest on exhibition, and of the contents of each case of models, together with a brief account of the most notable inventions.


November, 1874
Washington, D.C.
DeB Randolph Keim



The Museum of Models open every day except Sundays and holidays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., occupies the entire upper floor of the massive marble structure known as the Patent Office. The main entrance is reached from the south door of the building.

The Collection of Models of American and foreign inventions patented under the laws of the United States, and here arranged for exhibition, is without a rival in the world, and speaks more for the intellectual energy and originality of our citizens, than volumes of written history. The Patent Office was founded in 1790, and up to December 15, 1836, upwards of 10,000 patents had been issued. At the latter date of the museum, which occupied a structure originally designed for a hotel, met with an irreparable loss in the destruction of nearly the entire collection of models by fire. The number of models now reaches 150,000, and the increase, about 250 models a week, is so rapid that the large space devoted to the display of the collection has become insufficient. No less than 30,000 rejected and unclaimed models have been distributed amongst institutions of science, or sold to make room.

In 1836 the Patent Office was reorganized, materially as it stands at present. The magnificent building was commenced in 1837, and completed in 1864.

For a full account of the vast edifice, its structure, architecture and history, see KEIM'S ILLUSTRATED HAND-BOOK OF WASHINGTON AND ITS ENVIRONS, a valuable souvenir and the standard work of reference, descriptive and historical, of the Capital of the United States of America.

CLASSIFICATION OF INVENTIONS -- For convenience of reference all inventions are grouped under 145 general classes, in each of which are embraced numerous relevant subdivisions. The aggregate number of subjects of inventions included in the latter is upwards of 7,776.

HINTS TO VISITORS -- It would be unnecessarily wearisome to the visitor were the compiler to attempt a description of each model. It will be amply sufficient to note those which have become historic in their interest, and to make some reference to the growth and progress of certain important industries in connection with improved mechanical appliances. The Guide, in its general arrangement, observes the numerical order of the cases in each Hall. Visitors especially interested may obtain permission from one of the persons in charge of the hall, to examine any class of models. Each case has its own number on a silver plate secured to the moulding, and is also provided with an index card generally suspended inside and both facing the centre of the hall. The index card gives the class, the subject of invention, and the number of shelf. The latter always count from the top. It may be stated that the crowding of cases sometimes necessitates a transfer of a sub-division of a class. This Guide is revised at brief intervals so as to meet these changes.

ABBREVIATIONS -- N. north, S. south, E. east, W. west, C. case, small numerals, number of shelf; g. gallery.




The south or entrance hall of the model museum of the Patent Office is 266 ft. long, 63 ft. wide and 30 ft. high. The prospect is broken by 36 Doric columns in quadruple rows, with their entablature. 20 ft. high, and corresponding pilasters, which support a series of groined arches of 10 ft. spring, artistically adjusted to secure both solidarity and effect. In the centre is a raised arch 40 ft. high, of beautiful construction, and pierced by an aperture of 13 ft. in diameter. This part of the ceiling is admirably adapted to harmonize the range of arches on either side with the main design. The entire complicated structure of the room is of solid masonry. The general style of decoration is Pompeiian, with appropriate adaptation. The iron stairway opposite the entrance, leads to a document storage room over the South portico.


The four plaster busts opposite the main entrance represent Napoleon Bonaparte, by F. Ball, Boston, 1856, on C.26; Daniel Webster, By John C. King, Boston, 1850, rear C.26; John Erricson, inventor, by H.K. Kneeland, New York on C.25; Abraham Lincoln, by T.D. Jones, New York, 1861, rear C.25. On the left stands the plaster model of a life-size statue of General George Washington, by Ferdinand Pettrich, a pupil of Thorwalldsen, designed for a monument to be erected in Washington Square, Philadelphia, and contributed by the sculptor in 1846, to the National Institute at Washington.

The General is represented in the act of resigning his commission as commander of the Continental forces to the President of Congress, in the State House at Annapolis Md., Dec. 23d, 1783,

Model of the Washington National Monument, commenced at Washington, D.C., in 1848, and raised to a height of 174 feet by 1854, when further work was suspended for want of funds.

The altitude then contemplated was 600 feet. It is now proposed to modify the design, making it a simple obelisk, 400 feet high, with terraces and fountains at the base, according to plans prepared 1874, by Lieut. W.L. Marshall, U.S. Engineers, and submitted to the Select Committee of Congress on the completion of the monument as a centennial tribute to the memory of Washington. No action was taken by Congress. The society has inaugurated, with prospects of success, a system of donations by societies and associations, contingent in the matter of payment upon the raising of the amount necessary to the completion of the monument. The cost according to the new plan will be $310,685.

In the recess to the left is a case of axes, machetes, etc., placed on exhibition by the Douglas Axe Manufacturing Company, Boston, Mass.

On the right of the entrance is a "porcelain plate," 9 feet 4 inches high, 4 feet wide, by 3/4 in. thick, manufactured and deposited by the Lenox Glass Company, Lenox, Mass.

In the case near by is the Printing Press of Benjamin Franklin, extremely primitive in mechanical arrangement and very rudely constructed. A specimen of work done on it is suspended in the case. The press came into the possession of John B. Murray, New York city, in 1841, by whom, in 1842, it was deposited in the Museum of the National Institute, then occupying this hall of the Patent Office.

In 1723, Benjamin Franklin, a penniless youth of 17 years, arrived in Philadelphia, and early attracted the notice of Sir William Kieth, the proprietary governor of Pennsylvania. Kieth, an erratic character, at once proposed to set him up in the business of printer. The latter, with reluctance, sailed for London, to purchase type. Upon his arrival there he failed to find the promised aid. He obtained employment as a printer and so worked 1725-6, returning to Philadelphia in the latter year. In 1768, he went to London as agent of the Colony of Massachusetts. While there he visited the printing-house of Watts, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and going up to this particular press, said to the men who were working it, "Come, my friends, we will drink together, it is now 40 years since I worked like you at this press as a journeyman printer."

In front of C.27, is a Town Clock made by William Voss, of Washington, and arranged for 4 dials, and to strike the quarters and hours. Near by is a model of an Iron Battery Tower for the defence of harbors, patented by T.R. Timby, Worcester, Mass, 1862.


Case 23. Contains the Commission of General Washington, dated at Philadelphia, Penna., June 19, 1775, signed by John Hancock, President of Congress, investing him with the command of the forces of the United Colonies then about to assert their liberties by the sword, and which he resigned at Annapolis, Md., December 23, 1783, after the triumph of the American cause; the original copy of the Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America, in Congress assembled, July 4, 1776; Washington Relics, embracing a table, bureau, washstand, 2 knife cases, a small chest of drawers and hall lantern, a treasure chest, used in the military service, canvas sleeping tent, and Marquee, home spun, ten poles and pins complete, used in his later campaigns, windows and bed curtains, worked by Martha Washington, and blankets; 2 chairs of the furniture used when President of the United States, bellows, various cooking tins, and camp chest, containing tin plates, iron knives and forks, gridiron, stew pans, sugar, tea and coffee boxes, tea and coffee pots, spirit and vinegar bottles, used while in command of the Continental forces, and bequeathed to Congress by M.S. Winder. All the relics associated with Washington's military life indicate his frugality. In the same case are two rifles presented by the Emperor of Morocco to Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, one enriched with carnelian and silver, and the other with gold, and both with flint-locks of very elaborate pattern.

A model for an improved method of lifting vessels over shoals, made and patented in 1849, by Abraham Lincoln, afterwards sixteen President of the United States; a pair of gloves, made by William Baker, of New York city, for Abraham Lincoln, and received after his assassination. A flint-lock rifle made in 1815.

The silver tea service has no historic interest.

Case 24. Washington Relics from Arlington, 1862. glass chandeliers, set of French china, 175 pieces, presented to Martha Washington by General Lafayette, 1781, plate and saucer, part of a set of china presented to General Washington about 1794, by the officers of the Cincinnati. The border contains the names of the fifteen States of the Union at the time; mirror, arms of Washington, curtain fixtures, teaboard, imported from France by Washington in a plate chest, about 1784. Count Rueal, in his memoir, alludes to this teaboard when speaking of taking tea at the President's residence in Philadelphia; buff cassimere vest and silk breeches, with buff under pair. Part of sleeping tent, mahogany table.

The staff of Benjamin Franklin, bequeathed to General Washington, and presented to Congress in 1844 by Samuel T. Washington, of Kenawha county, Va.

Franklin says in his will, "My fine crabtree walking-stick, with a gold head, curiously wrought in the form of a cap of liberty, give it to my friend and the friend of mankind, General Washington. If it were a sceptre, he has merited it, and would become it."

A painted copper plate, representing cherubs with garlands of flowers, taken from General Washington's state coach when President of the U.S. The coach body was cream color, the quarter panels being ornamented with the four seasons, painted by Capriani.

General Washington's war sword and belt made by J. Bailey, Fishkill, N.Y.

It is a simple hanger, with bone hilt and leather scabbard. This sword was worn in active service through the entire war, and last at the surrender of Cornwallis. It is represented in Peale's painting. Washington bequeathed to each of his five nephews, naming them, a sword. The father of Samuel T. Washington of Kenawha county, Va., the donor of this valuable relic to Congress in 1844, though last named in the will, and therefore the last to choose, claimed the first choice, which was acceded to by the others, on account of having been in the service, and selected this sword in preference even to the esteemed gift of Frederick the Great. It may be said of Bailey, the maker of the sword, that he was a gunsmith at Fishkill Landing, and had much prominence among American Revolutionary officers for the quality of his weapons.

Two French vases, presented to Washington, by Mr. Vaughn; traveling secretary or writing case, primitive in design and used during Washington's presence with the Continental armies.

Surveyor's compass and case made and presented to Washington by David Rittenhouse, the philosopher and scientific machinist, of Philadelphia. A bound volume containing letters relating to the compass, and an interesting collection of engravings of Washington, at different ages, stands near by.

Coat, blue cloth and buff; cassimiere vest and breeches worn by Washington, at Annapolis, Md., Dec. 23, 1783, when he resigned to Congress his commission as Commander of the armies of the Revolution, and as represented in Trumbull's painting in the rotunda of the Capitol.

The personal appearance of Washington in full civil attire, is described as a tall figure, about 6 feet 1 inch, clad in black velvet, hair powdered and gathered in a silk bag, yellow gloves, cocked hat with cockade, and edges adorned with black feather, knee and shoe buckles, and dress-sword with steel hilt, and white leather scabbard.

Colored lithograph of the pedigree of Washington, exhibiting the family-arms: motto, Virtus sola nobilitas, "The only nobility is virtue." The compiler of the pedigree gives the arms of Washington quarterly of xi.

A coat worn by Gen. Jose Antonio Paez, the companion-in-arms of Bolivar, 1813-23, and President of Venezuela, 1829; the war saddle of Baron John De Kalb, the brave Alsatian, who entered the Continental service with Lafayette, in 1777. Two bayonets, one found under a beech root near a spring, about 18 miles west of Cumberland, Md., and on the line of march pursued by the British General Braddock, in 1755, from Fort Cumberland, to attack the French Fort DuQuesne, now Pittsburgh, Penna., supposed to have been lost in a skirmish with the Indians, and the other ploughed up in 1857, near the same spot. A case of flint-lock pistols, said to be made of meteoric iron. A gold-headed cane, formerly carried by Joseph Powell, of Greenville, Tenn., a friend of the Union. On the band are the words "Immortal No." and on the head, "If Slavery or the Union be the issue, I go the Union."

In 1850, at a meeting of citizens of Greenville, Tennessee, to appoint delegates to the Nashville Convention, a resolution endorsing the sentiments "We are prepared to sustain to the last extremity any movements calculated to protect the rights of the Slave holding States," was opposed by Mr. Powell. His course created great excitement, and for a time his life was threatened. Mr. Powell was Consul of the United States at the Faulkland Islands, South Atlantic Ocean, 1868.

The first United States flag raised after the arrival of the National forces under General B.F. Butler, over the City Hall, New Orleans, La., June 7, 1862, 12 noon, by a committee of thirty-four members of the Union Association. The names of the committee are inscribed on the flag. It was presented in 1869 to the Treasury Department by the Volunteer Flag Committee of New Orleans, La. It is said to have been the first Union flag hoisted by citizens of the seceding States after the outbreak of hostilities.

An old patent to Thomas Passmore of Penna., for an invention of a machine called the Conqueror for cooking and boiling water, dated at Philadelphia, December 23d, 1796, and signed by George Washington, President, and Thomas Pickering, Secretary of State, and certified by Charles Lee, Attorney General.

Pistol made by Salola, an uneducated full-blood Cherokee, of Quallatown, N.C.

A cimeter presented to Commodore J.D. Elliot, U.S.N., during his command in the Mediterranean, about 1835.

A sword, originally with diamond studded hilt and gold scabbard, presented by the Spanish Viceroy of Peru to Commodore James Biddle, U.S.N., while cruising on the Pacific coast about 1830.

In 1849 this sword and other valuable articles were stolen from the Patent Office, but were soon after recovered. The gold on the scabbard of the sword, however, had been melted down, one of the bottles of ottar of rose broken, and a number of diamonds and pearls were missing. On May 10, 1849, the Patent Office made a special deposit in the Treasury of the United States of a box containing the recovered articles, except the sword, viz: 1 bottle ottar of rose, 1 bottle each of pearls and diamonds, 1 gold plate, 1 gold ornament and silk tassel, 1 box of diamonds and plate and 2 lumps of gold from the Biddle sword. The box is now in the cash room vault, Treasury Department, U.S. In 1868 the sword was again stolen, but was recovered five days after.

A copper button found near the Natural Bridge, Va., inscribed "Long live the President" G.W. Miniature of Col. W.A. Washington, obt 1810.

The military coat worn by Gen. Andrew Jackson when he gained his signal victory over the British, January 8th, 1815, near New Orleans, La., originally presented in 1845, to the N.I. in the name of many citizens of Tennessee. The coat is of blue cloth with brass buttons. The rifle, breech loading, made at Tiffin, Ohio, of Gen. Sam. Houston, President of the Texas Republic, 1836-44, U.S. Senator 1846-59, Governor of Texas 1859-61. Thirteen sabres presented by Ali Pacha, Bey of Egypt, to Capt. M.C. Perry and other officers of the U.S. Ship Concord, when in the harbor of Alexandria, 1832. Alabaster grip and gold mounting and crimson silk cords.


Case 1, gallery.

1. Movement cure appliances, embracing many curious and ingenious contrivances. Artificial arms, some capable of a very close imitation of the principles of the human arm, fireman's mask;

2. Artificial gums, plates and teeth, dental instruments, nasal douches, tubes, etc. The first set of enamel teeth made in the United States, about 1820, was made by Charles Wilson Peale, father of the celebrated artist, Rembrandt Peale.

3. Cupping and other instruments, nursing bottles, etc.

4. Coffins, a very large assortment and of every material and design.

[Remainder of booklet not copied. KWD]

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