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Who's Inventing?
A. J. Bell's 1874 patent model

People from all walks of life held patents in nineteenth-century America. Because anyone could create an original invention and receive patent protection for it, the patent process was celebrated as a unique part of America’s democracy.


A. G. and A. T. Sterling's 1874 life-boat patent model
Fishermen Alpheus G. and Abram T. Sterling
Lieut. John Guest's patent model of a sounding guard, 1856
Navy lieutenant John Guest
John Gates's 1878 steering apparatus patent model
Steamboat engineer John Gates

Shipbuilders and suppliers

Ad for the Swartz Iron Works, Buffalo, N.Y.
Steam-engine builder George Swartz
Enoch Hidden's port hole patent model, 1853
Brass founder Enoch Hidden


Patent model for James Rees's steering apparatus
Patent model for James Rees's steering apparatus
Welsh-born James Rees
Isaac Dripps's screw propeller model, 1840
Irish-born Isaac Dripps
Tremberger and Stein's life boat patent model
Bavarian immigrants George Tremberger and Michael Joseph Stein

Once and future statesmen

Abraham Lincoln's patent model for buoying vessels over shoals, 1849
Future president Abraham Lincoln
Hervey Calkin's life raft patent model, 1871
Former U.S. congressman Hervey Calkin


Cornelius Schilling's patent model, 1871
Locksmith Cornelius Schilling
Patent model for Harvey Fowler's canal-boat propulsion device
Retired government clerk Harvey Fowler
Francis Lee's life and treasure buoy patent model
Architect Francis Lee
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