Fog Signal Patent Model

Description
This patent model accompanied William B. Barker's patent for a fog signal that received patent number 216,820 on June 24, 1879. The patent contains a dial, marked off with the points of the compass, on which the operator designates his ship's heading. A pedal activated the fog horn that announced both the ships presence and heading. The horn sounded a repeating pattern of three or four blasts. The pattern "long, short, short," for example, would reveal that the vessel was headed on a bearing between north and northeast. "Short, short, short, long" meant a heading between west and southwest.
Collisions in fog led to the loss of many ships and many lives before the widespread adoption of shipboard radar in the 1950s. English sea captain Charles Kennedy commented in 1889, "Each time a collision occurs, the question immediately arises, Can nothing be done to avert these terrible disasters? This has caused many a thoughtful man to make it a subject for study." Kennedy saw William Barker's fog-signal code at an exhibit in Liverpool, England, in 1879. "Being then in command of the White Star steamer 'Germanic,' I was instructed by the company to inspect [Barker's code] and make my report accordingly. I did so thoroughly, and, being convinced of its utility, I strongly favored its adoption." Although Barker's code gained the approval of the British Admiralty and Board of Trade, it was not adopted by any nation as a life-saving measure. "Several codes have since been introduced by others," Kennedy continued, "but they were too complicated, and more liable to cause mishaps than to prevent them." Barker the inventor may be the same William Barker of Hoboken who appears in the 1880 United States Census. A machinist, he was born in Massachusetts in 1841 to English parents; he and his wife Mary had two sons. Although Captain Kennedy refers to him in 1889 as "Captain Barker," the man's seafaring experience is unknown.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1879
patent date
1879-06-24
patentee
Barker, William B.
inventor
Barker, William B.
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Hoboken
Physical Description
wood (box material)
leather (bellows material)
Measurements
overall: 12 in x 11 in x 10 in; 30.48 cm x 27.94 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
1999.0086.04
catalog number
1999.0086.04
accession number
1999.0086
patent number
216,820
subject
Patent Models
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
America on the Move
Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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