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These patent drawings show famous and some weird inventions of the 19th Century …

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As soon as we saw the collection of photos entitled “patent drawings”, we thought ” Awesome, these must be drawings of some cool inventions that we use nowadays.” And some of them really are, like the  patent drawing of an elevator or the artificial hand, but alongside are some gloriously weird and cute inventions such as  a hat that prevent’s drowning, or the rocking chair with a fan (which actually is a pretty good idea).

The first Patent Act of the U.S. Congress was passed on April 10th, 1790, titled “An Act to promote the progress of useful Arts” Drawings of inventions have been required from applicants for U.S. patents since the first U.S. patent statute was enacted.


Below, you can see some patent drawings that we still use and some patent drawings, that… well… we don’t


A Hat To Prevent Drowning

A Hat To Prevent Drowing. Taken on October 14, 1840
Taken on October 14, 1840

Aquatic Toy

Patent drawing by A.W. Hart. 06 december, 1870
Patent drawing by A.W. Hart. Taken On  December 6 1870

Artificial Arm

Patent by John Condell, Taken on July 11, 1865
Patent by John Condell, Taken on July 11th, 1865.

 Edison’s Kinetoscope

T.A. Edison's "Kinetoscope" Patent drawing
T.A. Edison’s “Kinetoscope” Patent drawing



Taken on November 11, 1837
Taken on November 11, 1837

Patents were systematically granted in Venice as of 1450, where they issued a decree by which new and inventive devices had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers. The period of protection was 10 years. These were mostly in the field of glass making. As Venetians emigrated, they sought similar patent protection in their new homes. This led to the diffusion of patent systems to other countries.




Creeping Baby Doll

Creeping Baby Doll Patent Drawing by R.J. Clay March 14, 1871
Patent Drawing by R.J. Clay. Taken on March 14, 1871.

Drawing of Diving Dress

Drawing of Diving Dress, 12 24 1810, U.S National Archives
Taken On 12 24 1810


Drawing of Fan Moved by Mechanism

Drawing of Fan Moved by Mechanism, 11 27 1830
Taken On11 27 1830.



Improvement in Hoop Skirts

 Improvement in Hoop Skirts by T.B. De Forest

Patent Drawing by T.B. De Forest.
Elisha Otis’s Elevator Patent Drawing,
Taken on January 15, 1861.

Battery Gun

Battery Gun patent drawing by R.J. Gatling Taken on May 9, 1865
Patent drawing by R.J. Gatling Taken on May 9, 1865.

Flying machine

 Flying machine patent drawing by W.F. Quinby 10/5/1869

Patent drawing by W.F. Quinby 10/5/1869

Drawing of Rocking Chair and Fan

Taken on August 7, 1847.


Drawing of Submarine Telescope,

Utility Patent Number 43,465 Patent # 43465 Submarine Telescope Sarah P. Mather Record Group 241 Records of the Patent and Trademark Office ReDiscovery # 16648 16648_2008_001
Taken on July 5, 1864

The English patent system evolved from its early medieval origins into the first modern patent system that recognised intellectual property in order to stimulate invention; this was the crucial legal foundation upon which the Industrial Revolution could emerge and flourish. By the 16th century, the English Crown would habitually abuse the granting of letters patent for monopolies.

The modern French patent system was created during the Revolution in 1791. Patents were granted without examination since inventor’s right was considered as a natural one. Patent costs were very high (from 500 to 1,500 francs). Importation patents protected new devices coming from foreign countries. The patent law was revised in 1844 – patent costs were lowered and importation patents were abolished.

All photos:  U.S National Archives

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News