Abraham Lincoln's Patent Model

Like many people of his era, Lincoln believed deeply in the value of personal initiative, inventiveness, and scientific and technological change. Lincoln’s mechanical and scientific interests began with his training as a surveyor in New Salem and continued throughout his life.
In 1848 he decided try his own hand at developing an invention to lift boats grounded in shallow water. On May 22, 1849, Congressman Abraham Lincoln received a patent for his method of lifting boats over shoals. A trip to Niagara Falls inspired the design, when he witnessed a grounded boat being lifted over shallow waters. Lincoln produced the model with the help of Walter Davis, a Springfield mechanic. There is no evidence that he ever sought to put the idea into production.
Transfer from the U.S. Patent Office, 1922
Currently not on view
Object Name
patent model
date made
prior to 1849
date patented
Lincoln, Abraham
Lincoln, Abraham
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brown (overall color)
fabric (part material)
overall: 9 3/4 in x 26 1/4 in x 4 3/4 in; 24.765 cm x 66.675 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Patent Models
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
Additional Media

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