United States Patent Fashions – American Society of Arms Collectors

by Thomas J. McHugh

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It was in 1925, simply 30 years in the past, that Congress determined to get rid of its “little white elephants.” These have been the working fashions of all the things possible which hopeful inventors had submitted to the Patent Workplace and which, for numerous years, the Authorities had stored in storage in an outdated livery steady at a value of $200,000. Some time again, I had the nice fortune to amass a small assortment of a number of the firearms fashions on this group and fascination with them ultimately prompted me to delve into their background. In the midst of my analysis, the topic of the Patent System proved to be an fascinating tangent and as a preface to my findings on the fashions, let’s check out what has been termed “one of the strongest bulwarks of democratic government today” – the American Patent System.

As early as 1623, England enacted patent laws and, naturally sufficient, related legal guidelines discovered their manner into the administration of the American Colonies. The primary patent on this continent was issued by the Massachusetts Normal Courtroom to Samuel Winslow in 1641 for a novel technique of creating salt. Later the framers of the Structure thought of the issue of giving safety to inventors and thereby effectual encouragement to the exertion of ability and genius in producing new and helpful innovations. Fran their deliberations got here the supply within the Structure which enabled Congress to enact the primary patent legislation on April 10, 1790, from which the trendy Patent System has advanced.

The aim of a patent, as envisaged by our lawmakers, was to grant a reward for the invention or discovery of one thing to be added to the sum complete of human information. Within the bigger sense, a patent is of better profit to society than to the person inventor; as soon as a patent has been granted and recorded, the world generally turns into knowledgeable of the invention or enchancment. Probably a number of the historical civilizations, equivalent to these of Egypt, Assyria and China, produced many helpful innovations, able to greater growth and wider adaptation however they have been misplaced to these folks and stay unknown to us as a result of there was no patent system for perpetuating the discoveries of every succeeding technology.

It’s a well-known incontrovertible fact that the Accomplice States authorities established a patent workplace early in its profession. Not so well-known, and maybe a shock to many Texans, is the truth that the Structure of the Republic of Texas gave its Congress energy to grant patents and copyrights. The official act was signed into legislation by President Lamar on January 28, 1839. Inside six months of its passage, six patents have been granted – precisely twice as many as have been issued by our personal United States Patent Workplace within the 12 months 1790, the primary 12 months of its existence. Some months after Texas joined the Union, an effort was made to validate the Texas patents however no motion seems to have been taken.

The trendy American Patent System is right now a mannequin for different nations. It’s the greatest, most workable technique but devised for safeguarding innovations, fostering industrial and mechanical progress and in the end giving to the world the advantages of the person inventor’s genius. The basics of the system are easy: any one that has invented any new and helpful course of, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any enchancment thereof, could receive a patent. An utility have to be filed with the Commissioner of Patents, accompanied by a drawing and obligatory papers describing the invention, additionally a payment to cowl the price of examination which consists of looking out prior patents and publications to find out whether or not the applying presents one thing patentable. The patent provides the inventor the precise to exclude all others from making, utilizing or promoting his invention for 17 years. In distinction with some overseas governments, america doesn’t tax patents.

The Patent Workplace is without doubt one of the most uncommon branches of our Authorities. It has an inspecting workers of over 700, which is educated in all branches of science and examines each utility to find out whether or not a patent could also be granted – a job involving probably the most intensive analysis. Many an thought is patentable however nonetheless ludicrous. Even so, the patent examiners don’t have any proper to show down an invention simply because they privately assume it’s humorous. A basic patent was issued some a long time in the past to a person who invented a approach to stop canine from committing a nuisance towards buildings. His thought was to affect a strip of metallic across the constructing’s base; when a canine stopped to alleviate himself, an electrical present would move up the stream, shock the canine and dissuade him from repeating his act. There was no query of the novelty of that patent! Evidently, this isn’t consultant of the huge variety of innovations for which patents are granted – innovations which have made our nation the best industrial energy on earth.

An necessary milestone within the story of the American Patent System is the Act of July 4, 1836, which set forth ideas upon which current day patent legal guidelines, in broader define, are primarily based. Amongst different provisions, it referred to as for a system of numbering patents consecutively; 9957 patents had been issued beforehand however they weren’t numbered. Only a few of the patents granted throughout this early interval can usually be recalled right now however arms collectors are aware of two of them – Colt’s authentic patent of February 25, 1836, and the Darling pepperbox patent issued April 13, 1836. Neither was numbered initially.

One other requirement of this Act was that, along with specs and drawings, fashions needed to accompany all functions. Whereas the Act of 1790 referred to as for drawings and specs, it didn’t make the supplying of fashions obligatory. An extra provision was for the association and classification of fashions in galleries the place they have been to be exhibited to the general public. For an incredible a few years, this exhibit was one of many largest vacationer points of interest in Washington.

It is likely to be fascinating to notice right here that when the British burned Washington in 1814, the Superintendent of Patents pleaded with the British Commander to not “burn what would be useful to all mankind” and thus saved the Patent Workplace from destruction. Fires, nevertheless, ultimately did take their toll. The good hearth of December 15, 1836, utterly destroyed the Patent Workplace. The loss was staggering because it included all information of patent specs, drawings and an estimated 7000 fashions. Congress appropriated $100,000. in an effort to switch the information however it was solely partially profitable. Sadder however wiser, the Workplace set about guarding towards attainable future disasters of this sort and a system of duplicate information was put in. In 1840, the Patent Workplace moved into new quarters and the constructing, to which wings have been added in 1852, 1856, and 1867, grew to become the house of the Workplace for the following 92 years.

On September 24, 1877, hearth once more broke out in part of the Patent Workplace and the part destroyed included 50% of the mannequin rooms containing 163 show circumstances. As well as, there have been a number of thousand fashions belonging to pending patents. It was first believed that every one fashions within the north and west wings have been misplaced however after the particles had been eliminated and the ashes fastidiously sifted, a extra optimistic view was taken. The ultimate estimate was that near 10,000 could possibly be restored and saved, and Congress appropriated $45,000. for this work. There are a number of fashions within the Henry M. Stewart Assortment whose tags point out they have been restored by the Patent Workplace following this hearth.

By 1870, within the opinion of some governmental officers, patent fashions have been approaching the tip of their helpful existence as a requirement for submitting. Because of better technical progress, drawings and specs alone have been believed to be enough most often and an Act handed by Congress on July Eight dominated that fashions have been to be furnished solely when required by the Commissioner. This alteration was obtained with combined emotions. Inventors welcomed it as a result of mannequin makers have been extremely expert mechanics and their providers have been expensive. The patent authorities, then again, thought of the fashions indispensable and, clinging to the outdated process, merely “required” that fashions accompany many of the functions. After 1880, nevertheless, with storage changing into increasingly of an issue, the spirit of the Act of 1870 was adopted and dealing fashions have been sought solely in a really small proportion of circumstances. But it surely was not till round 1900 that they have been allotted with fully. Congress additional ordered, in January of 1871, the discontinuance of the outdated Patent Workplace Reviews and directed the Commissioner to have copies of all patents on file printed and made out there to the general public at a nominal cost. These so-called “soft copies” of patents can nonetheless be obtained from the Patent Workplace and are a useful supply of knowledge for the arms scholar.

Though unexpected on the time, it’s an fascinating corollary that this new availability of printed patent specs led subsequently to the storage of the patent fashions. The standard apply was to print 100 additional copies of every new patent and place them in inventory towards future demand. By 1890, the yearly output of patents had risen to 26,000 – about twice what it was in 1870. Fairly understandably, the variety of workers additionally elevated throughout this era – absolutely 50%, and the dearth of area for each storage and personnel grew to become crucial certainly. The Patent Workplace constructing was one of many largest in Washington however sadly a great portion of the area was given over to a number of different Authorities companies. Their removing would have solved the Commissioner’s dilemma however an apathetic Congress turned a deaf ear to any such suggestion. With the waning significance of the fashions, very seemingly Congress had the spacious mannequin galleries in thoughts and felt the Patent Workplace had ample room if solely they’d put it to use sensibly. The Comissioner’s stand on the matter is greatest proven by the next citation from his Annual Report for the 12 months 1890:

“The models contained in the Model Halls are not only of great interest to the public, who daily visit them in great numbers, they are almost of inestimable advantage to the examiners by enabling them to conduct investigations expeditiously. A considerable percentage of the applications for patents received from day to day are found to be met and anticipated by the contents of the model cases. I regard it as nothing less than a public calamity that the Office was compelled several years ago to suspend the reception of models for want of space in which to store and exhibit them. I venture to express the hope that the time will come when models will again be required with all applications and an effort will also be put forth to obtain specimens of the more important inventions which have been patented during the intervening period.”

However Congress was a lot too engrossed on the time with actually critical issues of nationwide scope (the brewing Panic of 1893) to concern itself with the difficulties of the Patent Workplace.

With out Congressional help, it grew to become clear that aid must come on the expense of the fashions. Consequently, in July 1893, they have been faraway from their galleries and arrange within the privately owned Union Constructing on close by G Avenue. Nonetheless accessible to the examiners, this association lasted for not less than 10 years. However the sands had about run out for the patent fashions – simply when the choice was made to put them in storage is just not recorded. We do be taught from the Commissioner’s Annual Report for the 12 months 1908 that the fashions have been then saved in packing containers within the basement within the Patent Workplace constructing. That they remained there for a prolonged interval is unbelievable because the permeating dampness of the decrease reaches of the 70 12 months outdated constructing pretty invited destruction. Whereas appropriate storage services have been being sought on the skin, the Smithsonian authorities chosen a reported 500 of probably the most historic fashions for everlasting exhibition. The remainder of the massive assortment, at least 2700 packing containers containing some 150,000 items, was carted off ultimately. The vacation spot — an outdated livery steady which had been renovated to offer enough storage.

“Out of sight, out of mind” – this was the established order of the fashions for greater than a decade. Then, in 1925, Congress appropriated $10,000. and delegated a committee of three to ferret them out and impact disposition by one means or one other. The Smithsonian was given a second alternative to pick these whose historic worth had grown extra necessary within the intervening years. Subsequent, the fashions have been supplied to the person inventors and their households. This provision enabled Colt, Smith and Wesson, Remington, Winchester and different producers nonetheless in enterprise to amass their very own fashions and explains why the extra well-known patents are hardly ever present in non-public mannequin collections right now.

The good bulk, nevertheless, was lastly disposed of at public sale. The customer was a civic-minded English gentleman named Sir Henry Wellcome, whose intention it was to current the huge assortment to the American folks as a museum. Sadly, plans to lift cash for an acceptable constructing to deal with them have been curtailed by the despair of the 30’s and, at his demise, Sir Henry’s widow offered the complete lot to a New York syndicate which vainly tried to draw monetary curiosity within the authentic venture. In an effort to defray storage bills, a gross sales room was arrange in Rockefeller Middle in 1940, working as Patent Fashions, Inc. And it’s at this level that we encounter the primary particular reference to the firearms fashions. A lot of critical arms college students have been alert to this opening of a contemporary, new area in gathering and among the many consumers have been William Ball, Main James E. Hicks, our fellow member Henry M. Stewart and the late Philip J. Medicus. Fashions tagged with the names of well-known arms inventors have been eagerly sought and have been most likely the primary to be offered, however the obscure inventor whose brainchild was a bizarre revolving mechanism or a sophisticated journal rifle was not ignored both. Gross sales of the firearms fashions are believed to have been fairly good – certainly, if curiosity in all fields had been commensurate, the enterprise may need been a hit. However the mousetraps, buggy-whip sockets, burglar alarms and apple parers attracted few consumers and Patent Fashions, Inc., closed its doorways after a number of months.

The remaining fashions have been bought by O. Rundle Gilbert, who performed a sale of two,000 tons at his public sale rooms in April of 1943. Firearms gadgets on this occasion, nevertheless, have been conspicuous by their absence. The proprietor tried to keep up energetic curiosity within the fashions by stating within the foreword of his gross sales catalog that fashions not included within the sale could possibly be bought privately and alluring inquiries, however replies weren’t encouraging and the fashions remained of their crates, for probably the most half unopened, in a warehouse in Garrison, New York.

In June, 1950, the New York Instances carried a full-page commercial, “Gimbels loves inventors and inventions – Gimbels is nuts over patents.” The advert went on to say that 5,000 authentic United States Patent Workplace fashions could be positioned on sale at costs ranging fran $1.00 to $1,000. It was their largest stunt since they’d dealt with the William Randolph Hearst Artwork Assortment in 1941. Simply what number of firearms fashions have been supplied by Gimbels can’t be decided however two have been talked about particularly by a well-liked information journal – the Gattling gun mannequin and that of a plowshare with a built-in cannon “for shooting Indians.” By the way, the patent drawing of this latter piece of intriguing ordnance is reproduced in Lewis Winant’s glorious work “Firearms Curiosa.” Simply how profitable this sale was is anyone’s guess – actually the patent fashions proved to be a splendid gimmick for getting clients into the shop, which little doubt is what Gimbels was primarily taken with anyway. It’s uncertain that they ever had 5,000 fashions available throughout the complete sale. When it was throughout, the remaining ones went again to O. Rundle Gilbert’s warehouse in Garrison, for the sale had been dealt with on a consignment foundation.

Subsequently, hearth once more destroyed numerous the fashions when the Garrison warehouse burned and suffered intensive harm. Gilbert salvaged as many as he might and moved them to his dwelling in New England, the place they’re right now. On the threat of being sentimental, one would possibly say it appears fairly becoming that they’ve come to relaxation within the part of the Nation which is so wealthy in memorabilia of our nice nationwide beginnings.

How uncommon are the patent fashions? This examine would hardly be full if it failed to look at this issue, which is of prime significance to the collector. Whereas it’s inconceivable to cite a precise determine on the firearms fashions, a good estimate could be made. We all know that maybe 2,800,000 patents have been issued so far. Of those, 7,000 or barely much less have been for firearms. The opposite identified amount is, in fact, the 150,000 fashions offered in 1925. Through the use of the proportion 7,000 : 2,800,000 :: X : 150,000 and fixing for X, we arrive at a tough determine of 400, the variety of firearms fashions included within the 150,000 which got here out of storage. We should bear in mind, nevertheless, that the Smithsonian claimed a few of these and others went to the inventors or their households. So the variety of firearms fashions truly offered may be very small – most likely no more than 300 on the exterior.

As was demonstrated on the Cincinnati assembly of the Society, patent fashions are often not full firearms because the inventor was solely required to show the workability of these options he desired to guard by Letters Patent. Consequently, some fashions are merely parts of weapons whereas others have the looks of a whole arm, though a number of the extra apparent elements could also be represented in dummy type. Each sorts are included amongst these chosen for illustration and outline on the next pages. Worthy of word, too, is the truth that patent drawings all the time copy the fashions very carefully as to contours and common proportions of the assorted elements. That is essentially true as a result of the patent drawing is produced from the precise mannequin by patent draughtsmen who specialize on this work.


The author is grateful to the next collectors whose strategies and pertinent data have been invaluable in finishing this examine: Robert Abels, Herman P. Dean, Philip J. Medicus, Henry M. Stewart, Lewis Winant. Thanks are additionally resulting from G. Constitution Harrison, Jr., who photographed specimens from the author’s assortment.

Benjamin C. Gough, Patent #214,123 dated April 8, 1879

This patent most likely excited extra curiosity on the Cincinnati Assembly than it did when the inventor vainly sought capital to promote it. Consequently, the unique specs have been reproduced right here and no try can be made to explain the motion. By uncommon luck, the unique specimen cartridge which accompanied the mannequin was discovered jammed within the journal tube. This distinctive copper-cased cartridge (see Plate 1) is equivalent with the one proven within the patent drawing (Fig. 3) besides that it doesn’t have the rounded base. Word the hook and eye association allowing cartridges to be linked collectively. A lot hypothesis centered about the truth that the inventor failed to elucidate how he removed the fired circumstances. There appears to be just one attainable reply—down the bore, carefully adopted by the bullet of the succeeding discharge. The patent drawing reveals a fireplace case in entrance of the breech-block along with a spiralling groove of correct width and relationship to the fin to allow this.

Explaining the priming of those cartridges is way more troublesome. Word that the fired case in Fig. 1 is flat-bottomed and shorter as in contrast t o the rounded-base cartridges in Fig. 3. Additionally word the similarity of the specimen cartridge in Plate 1 to the fired case. Apparently the bulbous base contained the priming compound however the possibilities of its being drawn integral with the remainder of the copper case are distant. Any deformation in setting off the priming would critically intrude with subsequent passage by means of the bore. Inclosing the priming in a agency however flamable materials and cementing it to the flat base is likely to be a attainable resolution. The issue is intriguing and the author would welcome any strategies our members care to supply.

The mannequin itself is most uncommon in that the most important elements—barrel, whole body and sideplate (eliminated)—are product of pewter. The German silver plate simply beneath the hammer nostril within the photograph is engraved “GOUGH – INVENTOR.”

Plate 1

Morris & Brown, Patent #26,919 dated January 24, 1860

This patent would possibly effectively current the question, “When is a revolver not a revolver?” Though it’s so categorized, the cylinder—which accommodates six rimfire cartridges—doesn’t rotate. Operation of the trigger-guard lever cocks the hid harmer and indexes the firing pin, which is pushed ahead by the hammer blow. However the astonishing function of the patent lies in the truth that the barrel and cylinder are on the identical axis! The extension in entrance of the cylinder comprises six converging channels resulting in the barrel correct. Thus a bullet follows a slight zigzag course to get into the barrel. Unscrewing the strain plate behind the cylinder permits
its removing for loading and ejection of the fired cartridges.

One of many claims made by the patentees positively includes the principal of boring the cylinder by means of from finish to finish and the author can not assist questioning why the examiners permitted it to face. Will probably be remembered that the unique utility of Smith & Wesson involving this similar function was denied and so they have been pressured to buy the Rollin White patent.

Just one specimen, believed to have been from the Hugh Smiley Assortment, is understood. It was offered by Walpole Galleries in 1921 and is illustrated on web page 49 of their gross sales catalog #206 (Ball’s Guidelines #57). This piece differs from the patent mannequin however is marked with the patent date and “Conical Repeater.”

This mannequin is definitely a whole firearm and is able to being fired.

G. W. B. Gedney, Patent #35,999 dated July 29, 1862

This fascinating patent comprises a number of uncommon options—probably the most notable of which is an try at self-priming. The priming journal proven in Plate Three is inserted into the hole cylinder pin carrying the “stick of priming material” rearward. A service actuated by the autumn of the hammer sheared off a slice of primer and raised it to some extent the place it was caught by the hammer nostril and introduced towards the cone. Gedney’s thought was to make use of a single “floating” cone which served all costs by means of contact holes within the base of the chambers. The ingenious U-shaped spring designated as ‘b’ in Fig. Four of the patent drawing served at least 4 functions—

  1. to thrust cylinder ahead towards the rear finish of the barrel
  2. to guard costs within the adjoining chambers from unintentional discharge
  3. to scrape off any residue which could deposit on rear of cylinder
  4. the sharply curved ends entered radial grooves (marked ‘c’ in Fig. 5 of patent drawing) in rear face of the cylinder to regulate its revolution.

The trigger-guard loading lever proven within the drawing was not allowed within the patent declare due to the sooner Allen patent of January 13, 1857.

No proof of manufacture is understood. Gedney is remembered for his self-priming hammer which was used to restricted extent in changing the Mannequin 1836 flintlock martial pistol. See Plate 5 of the Gluckman “Bible”, “United States Martial Pistols and Revolvers.”

The mannequin illustrated under is product of mahogany and reveals effective workmanship.

Plate 3

Daniel B. Wesson, Patent #222,167 dated December 2, 1879

This patent was issued in Wesson’s title alone since Horace Smith withdrew from the agency in 1870. Though the patent had no identified affect on manufacturing fashions, it reveals that efforts have been nonetheless being made to beat the fuel leakage downside widespread to all revolving cylinder arms.

Wesson’s thought was to make use of a rimless C. F. cartridge with an annular groove at its base in a cylinder which was about 25% shorter than the cartridge. The cylinder is loaded in order that the cartridges are flush with its ahead face and protruding on the rear.

The hole between barrel and cylinder is bridged by the cartridge case itself. Every cartridge introduced into firing place is pushed into the barrel and withdrawn after discharge by the fore and aft motion of breech-piece ‘G’. The mechanism is principally that of a single motion revolver besides that operation is via the thumb lever ‘K’ on the precise facet of the body (see Fig. IV).

The mannequin is full with a dummy cartridge. In Plate 4, the cartridge has been engaged by the breech-piece ‘G’ and is in place to be pushed ahead into the barrel.

This mannequin differs from the others on this examine in that its type is straightforward and direct, with no trimmings added. The exact workmanship signifies that it was made within the Smith & Wesson plant.

Plate 4

Brettell & Frisbie, Patent #16,575 dated February 10, 1857

The patentees described this invention as a “new and useful improvement in Self Cocking Firearms.” Very seemingly the patent was meant for utility to the Ells patent percussion revolver which operated double-action solely. Word the shut similarity between the mannequin and the Ells .31 cal. revolver in Plate 5. Stress on the set off introduced the bar hammer to full cock the place it remained whereas deliberate intention was taken. Additional set off strain dropped the hammer and discharged the piece. Thus the arm could possibly be operated both single or double motion on the will of the shooter.

There was some conjecture in regards to the patentees being employed on the Ells manufacturing facility. Allegheny (or Allegheny Metropolis) at the moment was solely a brief distance from Pittsburgh—it’s now inside metropolis limits—the place the Ells revolvers have been made. The appliance of this mechanism to the Ells or any related revolver is just not identified to the author.

This mannequin is finely made and is in excellent working order. It has a brass body, walnut grips and dummy barrel and cylinder of mahogany. The bar hammer is stamped “F. S. BRETTELL” on the precise facet—“J. B. FRISBIE” on the left and “ALLEGHENNY (sic) PA.” throughout the highest.

Plate 5

Charles A. King, Patent #94,003 dated August 24, 1869

That is the fundamental patent protecting the simultaneous ejection of cartridges so acquainted to collectors. Bought by Smith & Wesson in 1869, it enabled them to introduce their well-known line of top-break cartridge revolvers starting with the .44 cal. American Mannequin.

The inventor employed the rack and pinion principal, as is clearly proven within the patent drawings. Ejection is achieved by swinging the barrel ahead and when the projection ‘I’ strikes the tip of the pawl ‘N’, the pinion is freed. The extractor snaps again to its regular place and the piece is prepared for reloading.

The mannequin illustrated in Plate 6 is massively product of brass and even with its quick 3-3/4″ barrel weighs 2-1/2 kilos.

Plate 6

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