Advanced Search

The Curious World of Patent Models: Organized by the Rothschild Patent Model Collection

Event Details

May 6, 2014 — September 23, 2014
Location: Grout Museum of History & Science
503 South Street
Waterloo, IA/50701
Contact Name: Annette Freeseman
Email: annette.freeseman@gmdistrict.org
Phone: 319-234-6357

Event Description

Much of America’s success is due to the dreams and inventions of its many citizens.  Few people realize however, that from the time the U.S. Patent Office was formed by Thomas Jefferson in 1790 and throughout the industrial revolution, inventors were required to submit a working, scale model of their invention when applying for a patent.
A patent is a government-issued document that protects an invention or idea for up to twenty years.  This gives the inventor the opportunity to produce and sell the invention and make a profit.  When inventors sent their “patent model” and application to the patent office, examiners would compare their model, with similar inventions, side by side to see if the ideas were new and different.  After the Patent Act of 1870 models were no longer required, although inventers continued to submit them through the early 20th Century.
The exhibit, organized by the Rothschild Patent Model Collection, consists of 58 models created between 1852 and 1902.  These examples vary from household to mechanical and technical to simplistic. Visitors may recognize names associated with several models:  such as Christian Steinway’s capodastro frame for pianofortes or Eli Whitney’s (the son) breech-loading firearm.  The exhibition will also include other models representing inventions and improvements from farmers, schoolteachers, carpenters, bankers and a house wife – all of whom through everyday experiences envisioned and developed life-improving ideas.