Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Not many museums collect houses. The National Museum of American History has four, as well as two outbuildings, 11 rooms, an elevator, many building components, and some architectural elements from the White House. Drafting manuals are supplemented by many prints of buildings and other architectural subjects. The breadth of the museum's collections adds some surprising objects to these holdings, such as fans, purses, handkerchiefs, T-shirts, and other objects bearing images of buildings.
The engineering artifacts document the history of civil and mechanical engineering in the United States. So far, the Museum has declined to collect dams, skyscrapers, and bridges, but these and other important engineering achievements are preserved through blueprints, drawings, models, photographs, sketches, paintings, technical reports, and field notes.
"Engineering, Building, and Architecture - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Joseph Francis of New York (1801–93) made a name for himself in the 1840s and 1850s manufacturing light and sturdy corrugated-iron lifeboats and other nautical gear. This 1841 patent model shows his design for a wood or metal boat fitted with airtight copper tanks. These tanks were to be charged with gas or air to provide buoyancy and, in an emergency, would work in conjunction with several holes through the bottom of the boat. When the boat started taking on water in rough seas, the holes would be opened. That action, combined with the buoyancy of the tanks, would permit drainage.
- The well-known inventors of mid-19th-century America—Elias Howe, Cyrus McCormick, and Samuel F. B. Morse—were celebrated as national benefactors. Aspiring inventors regarded applying for a patent not just as a key step on the road to potential wealth, but as a patriotic duty—a contribution to the country’s betterment and future. Solidly within this style, Joseph Francis confidently called his buoyant boat the “great American life boat.” He declared with pride that “the model and application of the buoyant power which I now claim . . . is the best and safest for life boats and all other boats and vessels . . . it is different from and an improvement on all former invention by me and any other person . . . .”
- In fact, the 1841 patent represented by this model is but a minor alteration to his first patent, an 1839 design for a double-bottomed boat fitted with buoyant air cylinders. His second attempt simply added additional tanks to the boat’s ends and flattened the bottom of the hull to enable it “to sit upright when left by a retiring surge upon a rock bar or beach, where other modeled boats would be upset.”
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- patent date
- Francis, Joseph
- Francis, Joseph
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center