19th Century Patents: Tinkerers’ Inspirations

I arrived early for a meeting at the Crane Museum a little while back, and dug out a couple of large portfolios labeled: Patents – 1847 to 1884. They’re filled with dozens of patents by Zenas M. Crane, Robert B. Crane and Seymour Crane, three of Zenas Crane’s sons who took over the paper business in Dalton after his death. There are patents applied for, patents licensed, patents granted and patents in court, mostly having a direct connection with how paper was made in the second half of the 19th century.

But there are several patent entries that make one wonder. Here are a couple.

The first is No.51.782, presumably the patent number, for an invention claimed by George W. Bowlsby of Monroe, Mich., December 26, 1865, for a means of cancelling a stamp:

“The invention consists of applying the adhesive substance to only a portion of the undersurface of the stamp so that when the stamp is attached to the letter or other mailable matter, it will leave the remaining portion, which is not made adhesive, projecting, that is, not adhering to the letter. The projection is to be torn off by the postmaster before the letter is mailed.”


I don’t think this one made it very far, much to the relief of stamp collectors, one would presume.

Here’s one that should sound familiar.

No.150.832, for an invention claimed by Seymour Crane on May 12, 1874. Here’s a photo of the object Seymour invented.


And some of the language associated with it:

“The object of this invention is to produce a neat, serviceable, and inexpensive vessel, adapted to household purposes, for preserving from the effects of heat certain articles as, for instance, butter or ice water, or for retaining the heat in other articles such, for instance, as coffee, tea and other warm beverages.”

Naw, it’ll never catch on…..


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