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Alvord's endless-chain propeller patent model

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Alvord's endless-chain propeller patent model
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Richard Strauss, Negative #: 2006-9739


This object appears in the following sections:

Marine Patent Models — Complete Catalog: 1876-1880

Marine Patent Models — Moving Forward

Endless chain propeller
Catalog #: 325,943, Accession #: 249,602
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

Luther Alvord developed his endless-chain propeller to improve vessel propulsion. He also claimed it would work as a dredge for removing sand and mud from shipping channels. This is the model of the device that he deposited with the Patent Office in 1875.

Physical Description

Alvord's model contains metal blades and driving rollers suspended in a wood frame. It measures 12" L x 3 1/2" H x 5 1/4" W.

Date Made:
South Hadley Falls
Transfer from the U.S. Patent Office

"This invention consists, generally," Alvord wrote, "of a series of blades connected to form an endless apron or railway, which, moving over rollers at both of its ends [and] attached to the bottom of the boat, acts directly upon the water to produce the desired propulsion." Although he did not claim to have invented "the principle of an endless chain of buckets or floats," he asserted that his V-shaped interlocking blades were an original design that would be strong and resistant to strain as well as suitable for canal-boat propulsion, as "the water escaping behind a boat employing this device...will not make a wash" that could damage a canal's banks.

Alvord lived in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts.


Luther Alvord, Endless-Chain Propeller, U.S. patent no. 174,178, Feb. 29, 1876.

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