History of the United States Patent Office
The Patent Office Pony
A History of the Early Patent Office
Epilogue -- Fast Forward to the Start of the Third Century
FAST FORWARD TO THE START OF THE THIRD CENTURY
The importance of the Model Room continued to decline. Richard C. Gill, chief of the Model Room for many years, was the son of John Gill, the inventor of a revolving gun, mentioned in Chapter 15. In 1901, Richard Gill wrote that the importance of the models was fast declining, as shown by the decline in the interest in them. Prior to the fire of 1877, it took 15 model attendants to allow inspection of the models, but by 1901 the work was done by three attendants. Strangers visiting the office might ask to see the model of a famous invention, but they were also likely to ask for "my father's" or "my grandfather's" model. [footnote 1] Soon afterwards, the models were moved to rented spaces in the Union Building, where they could still be visited with some difficulty, but seldom were. The Model Rooms were reconfigured as offices. By 1908, the models were packed into boxes and stored elsewhere, and the rented spaces in the Union Building were given up. Finally, in 1925, the important models were given to various museums. A very few models were kept by the Patent Office for exhibit there. The rest were sold at public auction, the first third of them selling for $1,575. Most of the models went to a purchaser who used them for a short period in a Patent Model Museum in New York City. They were soon in storage in barns in Garrison, New York. Only in recent years has some interest been taken in these models. [footnote 2]
On January 10, 1912, Commissioner Edward B. Moore testified before the House Committee on Patents that until very recently the Patent Office had required working models to prove operability of perpetual motion machines and man-carrying heavier-than-air flying machines. When the Wright brothers demonstrated in 1903 that they could fly, the model requirement for flying machines was dropped but not for perpetual motion machines. [footnote 3]
Until 1897, anyone could practice before the Patent Office who had not been disbarred and forbidden to do so by the Patent Office. It was not unusual for patent solicitors to begin practice at the age of 16 to 18. The only requirement was to find a trusting client. For years, the Patent Office had wanted to control who practiced before the office. Commissioner Butterworth issued an order on August 6, 1897, requiring registration of patent practitioners. The first registrations occurred on August 3, 1897, three days before the notice was actually issued. The first registrations were under a grandfather clause. One could be qualified for registration by having prosecuted a patent application before the Patent Office within the past five years.
Registration number 1 was assigned to Gales Pritchard Moore (1873-1939) of Washington, D.C. Registration number 2 was assigned to Charles W. [Pg 201] Gardner of Newaygo, Michigan. The roster of registered patent attorneys as of January 1, 1899, included registration numbers up to about 2,550.
Gales is an old Washington name. Joseph Gales Sr., and Joseph Gales Jr., were successively the publishers of the old National Intelligencer newspaper, published from about 1800 to the 1850s in Washington. Joseph Gales Jr., was once the mayor of Washington. Captain William W. Moore, a militia captain, had been a printing foreman at Mr. Gales' newspaper and was later the secretary and treasurer of the metropolitan railroad -- the streetcar company. He named his son Joseph Gales Moore after his employer. Joseph Gales Moore was a cashier at the Metropolitan Bank of Washington; he married Kate Carroll Pritchard, and their son was Gales Pritchard Moore, born 1873.
Gales P. Moore received an LL.B. from the George Washington University in 1894, an LL.M. in 1895, and an MPL in 1896. He was first employed as a clerk in the office of Charles L. Sturtevant, a Washington patent lawyer. In 1899, he began practice in Washington as a sole patent practitioner, and in 1901 moved to St. Louis to work for Baker and Cornwall, patent attorneys. In 1904, he moved to Bristol, Connecticut, to become patent counsel for the New Departure Manufacturing Company, manufacturer of bicycle coaster brakes. In 1922, New Departure was acquired by General Motors, and Mr. Moore became Chief Patent Counsel of the Eastern Division of General Motors, remaining until his death in Bristol in 1939. He was always proud to be the registered patent attorney with registration number 1. [footnote 4]
A Department of Commerce and Labor was established by the Act of February 14, 1903, and split into a Department of Commerce and a Department of Labor in 1913. The 1903 act had authorized the President to place any scientific office from other departments including the Department of Interior into the Department of Commerce and Labor. By a 1925 Executive Order, the President transferred the Patent Office from Interior to the Department of Commerce as of April 1, 1925. The offices of the Department of the Interior, other than the Patent Office, had moved out of the Patent Office Building to a new departmental building in 1917. For a brief period of time, the Patent Office was the sole occupant of the Patent Office Building.
From its origin until 1922, the Patent Office paid its own way and generated a surplus. There were a few individual years in the red, but overall, the Patent Office had a surplus. This ended about 1922, followed by at least 70 years of operation with a deficit.
In 1932, after 92 years in the Patent Office Building, the Patent Office moved into the newly completed Herbert Hoover Building, the home of the Department of Commerce, between Constitution Avenue and E Street near Pennsylvania Avenue on two sides and 14th and 15th Streets on the other two [Pg 202] sides. When the building was begun, it was overlooked that, as late as the Civil War, the area had been the site of Tiber Creek, flowing through Washington on its way to the Potomac. It was encased in an aqueduct and buried for years, but when construction began on the new building, it burst forth into the newly created excavation. A deep-sea diver was called in from Philadelphia to again encase Tiber Creek before work could be continued. To this day, the Tiber Creek aqueduct carries hidden and mostly forgotten Tiber Creek through the basements of the Herbert Hoover Building.
[Page 202 illustration: Patent Office End of Herbert Hoover Building]
The entire Commerce Building, rising seven floors and covering eight acres of land, provides over a million square feet of floor area. The north end of this building, overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, was specially designed for the Patent Office. In the stone over its north end of its west side was carved Abraham Lincoln's remark: "The Patent System Added the Fuel of Interest to the Fire of Genius." Electricity was fully provided, to be used for lighting, fans, elevators, vacuum cleaners, cook stoves in the cafeteria, every purpose for which electricity could be used in what was then the largest and most modern government building ever built. [footnote 5] While the electrically operated elevators required the Commerce Department to hire numerous elevator operators, electricity also eliminated the previously required clock-winders who went through offices daily, winding and setting clocks.
Chester Floyd Carlson (1906-1968) was a patent attorney who needed a simple way to copy patent drawings and papers, so he invented xerography in 1938 and impoverished himself while developing it. Eventually his invention was adopted by Haloid Corporation, which developed into Xerox Corporation. Carlson's invention resulted in the final displacement of the public typists who had replaced the Patent Office copyists of the previous century. [footnote 6]
[Page 203 illustration: Patent Office in Richmond Tobacco Warehouse]
Ten years after the Patent Office was moved into the Commerce Building, it was moved out of the building and out of the city. On December 27, 1941, twenty days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Conway P. Coe, Commissioner since 1933, called together the employees of the Patent Office and announced that because of the sudden need for space in Washington to coordinate the prosecution of World War II, most of the divisions of the Patent Office were to be moved to Richmond, Virginia, to occupy the old Export Leaf Tobacco Company warehouse at 900 North Lombardy Street. [footnote 7]
This was met with vehement protest. The administration may not have realized that the location of the Patent Office concerned not only a group of presumably docile government employees, but also a multitude of patent attorneys who arranged their lives in accordance with the location of the Patent Office. Employees who were to be transferred complained that the available housing in Richmond was of eighteenth-century vintage. The tobacco warehouse was cleaned, remodeled and painted. The first air-conditioning ever available in the Patent Office was available there, having formerly been used to condition the tobacco stored there. It was very loud, but it only ran four minutes each hour. When the outside of the building was painted white, local residents complained that the repainted building made Richmond an exceedingly conspicuous target. Officials pointed out that the State Capitol was equally prominent and would give equally as much help to the enemy in locating Richmond. [footnote 8]
By 1944, the employees of the Patent Office were, for the most part, settled into Richmond. In 1943, employees had started their own orchestra, and by the spring of 1944 the Patent Office Concert Orchestra was presenting concerts in public halls in Richmond. All members of the orchestra were either employees of the Patent Office or their wives. [footnote 9] Employees consistently exceeded their goals for Community Fund contributions to the Richmond charity by a third or a half. In October of 1944, rumors began to circulate about the return to Washington. But return was not to be immediate. In January 1945, it was announced that the interference division and the docket division would be returned to Washington within a month. By July, when plans were being considered for eventual return, 250 of the 900 Patent Office employees had been hired in Richmond and were not likely to go to Washington. In October, Commissioner Casper W. Ooms announced that some of the divisions might return by the end of the year. The last three Patent Office employees left Richmond, Virginia, in October 1946. [footnote 10]
During the Richmond years, a truck made daily deliveries between Washington and Richmond. Some Patent Office employees made a daily trip by train or car pool between the cities. Efficiency dropped 25 percent during the exile. There were still 453 Patent Office employees working in Richmond when the issue was forced, in September 1946, by moving them temporarily into Temporary Building No. 7 at the north end of Washington National Airport at Gravelly Point, formerly used by the Army Air Corps. [footnote 11] Eventually all units were returned to the Commerce Building.
[Page 204 illustration: Patent Office in Crystal Plaza 3 and 4, Arlington]
The Patent Office in the Commerce Building was overcrowded and uncomfortable. It was mostly not air-conditioned and could be very hot in summer. The Commerce Building by the 1960s was seriously in need of massive renovation. A search was made for a convenient place for the Patent Office. Many distant communities wanted the office in their cities, but it was decided to keep it in the Washington area. Charles E. Smith Company was developing Crystal City, along the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, just [Pg 205] inland from National Airport. This was the chosen location. It was three miles from the White House and from the Commerce Building. For attorneys from out of town, it was closer to the new hub of transportation, National Airport, than either the Commerce Building or the old Patent Office were to the old hub of transportation, Union Station. It was the first long-term Patent Office home in rented quarters.
Initially, the Patent Office was to occupy two eleven-floor buildings called Crystal Plaza 3 and 4, together with a lower building connecting these two called Crystal Plaza 3-4. A third building, Crystal Plaza 2, was soon added to the Patent Office. The first Patent Office unit to move was the Electrical Examining Operation, which began moving in April 1967. The Public Search Room began its move in December 1967. The total move was completed in about two years. [footnote 12] Since then, it has spread to many other nearby buildings.
The American inventor is an extraordinary creature. He invents in any field he is interested in, which includes every field that anyone else is interested in, and many that he shares with no one else -- yet. Any time you think you understand him and can predict what he might do, you may find to your surprise that you really do not understand her at all.
The Franklin Institute is still active, and its Journal is still published regularly, although no longer directly by the Franklin Institute. Scientific American is now published as a preeminent popular scientific journal, independent from its former patent connections. When the Patent Office decided that law firms should no longer be allowed to advertise, the law firm of Munn & Co. disassociated itself from its former journal and continued the practice of patent law until shortly after the death of Orson D. Munn, the grandson of the founder, in 1958. It no longer exists. The National Museum continues, now part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Department of Agriculture continues, having long since outstripped in size its parent, the Patent Office. When the Patent Office began the patenting of certain plants, the Agriculture Department once again became loosely associated with the Patent Office as to those patents. In mid-1994, the law firm of Mason, Fenwick and Lawrence, in its fourteenth decade, merged with Popham, Haik, Schnobrich & Kaufman, Ltd. The last Fenwick recently retired from the firm, still leaving one Fenwick descendent in the firm.
The old Patent Office building, from which the Patent Office moved in 1932, has been converted into two art galleries. The south end, occupied by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, is particularly interesting for its third-floor exhibits and for the old iron galleries surrounding its library.
Annie Ellsworth's direct descendant in the all-female line, Miss Jennie Jackson of Medford, Oregon, married Brian Morse, Samuel Morse's only [Pg 206] direct descendant in the all-male line in Brian's generation. They met in the eighth grade and were immediately smitten, but did not know of the connection between their ancestors until her grandmother told them about it after they had announced their engagement as juniors in college. Annie Ellsworth's crush is still at work 150 years later.
The Patent Office, under its new name, the Patent and Trademark Office, continues doing business from its new location across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, having now issued well in excess of five million patents. When the Patent Office burned in 1836, 10,000 patents -- all of the patents that had been issued in 46 years -- were burned. The Patent and Trademark Office of today issues 10,000 patents on average in less than 46 days.
Oil paintings of William Thornton and of Robert Fulton hang side by side in the office of the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, although at the peak of their feud the gentlemen themselves would not have stood so close to each other.
The Patent Office pony was successively assisted by the horse-drawn streetcar, the locomotive, the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile, and the fax machine, each soon after its first appearance in the Patent Office as an application for patent. But in spirit at least, the Patent Office pony is still ridden in Arlington every workday.
Oh, and John Smith, our Everyman the Inventor, born in 1776, 1777, 1778, and every succeeding year, was born again this year. Even if we stifle him, we will not be able to prevent his flights of imagination, but if we convince him that his dreams are impossible, they will be. If we encourage him, he will send us to the stars, conquer contagious diseases one by one, invent machines which will be proud of their inventors, provide limitless safe sources of energy, harness physical laws which are yet to be discovered, and create things that we cannot now dream of and later will not be able to conceive of doing without.
[Page 206 illustration: Your Guide]
Here ends the guided tour. Your guide, who once studied drafting but never studied real art, apologizes for subjecting you to his amateur artistic efforts throughout the book. In mitigation, it could be said that no other source was available for the pictures thus produced. Where drawings by skilled artists were available, they were used in the book.
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