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Patent model for Joseph Francis's life boat, 1858

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Patent model for Joseph Francis's life boat, 1858
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 83-14600


This object appears in the following sections:

Marine Patent Models — Complete Catalog: 1851-1869

Marine Patent Models — Life boats and rafts

Life boat patent model
Catalog #: 308,546, Accession #: 89,797
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

In 1845, Joseph Francis patented the use of stamped corrugated metal to make boats. Through a collaboration with the Novelty Iron Works in New York, he began to manufacture lifeboats, military cutters, and coastal rescue craft, along with other marine safety gear. His sturdy products proved popular, and he sold many to commercial steamship operators, life-saving stations, and the Navy. By 1853, strong sales warranted the construction of a dedicated factory at Green Point, New York, where each hydraulic press could turn out parts for 40 boats a day. Francis continually experimented with new designs for his stamping process, and this patent model reflects changes to the shape of his boats' corrugations that he developed in the late 1850s.

Physical Description
The model is made of corrugated copper or brass, painted black with gold decoration.
Date Made:
New York
New York City, Green Point
Transfer from the U.S. Patent Office

Joseph Francis (1801-91) is best known today for designing an enclosed rescue craft called a life-car, which was extensively used in coastal life-saving stations in the second half of the nineteenth century. The first life-car he made was used to spectacular effect in the rescue of all but one of the passengers and crew of the immigrant vessel Ayrshire, which ran aground on the New Jersey shore in a storm in January 1850. The Smithsonian preserves that life-car in addition to numerous models and ephemera documenting Francis's work.


Joseph Francis, Metallic Boat, U.S. patent no. 19,693, Mar. 23, 1858.

Joseph Francis, Making Boats and Other Vessels of Sheet-Iron, U.S. patent no. 3,974, Mar. 26, 1845.

"Francis' Life-Boat Manufactory," Scientific American, vol. 8, no. 24 (Feb. 26, 1853).

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