Patent Model, Life Boat

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In 1845, Joseph Francis patented the use of stamped corrugated metal to make boats. Through collaboration with the Novelty Iron Works in New York, he began to manufacture lifeboats, military cutters, and coastal rescue craft, along with other marine safety gear. His sturdy products proved popular, and he sold many to commercial steamship operators, life-saving stations, and the United States Navy. By 1853, strong sales warranted the construction of a dedicated factory at Green Point, New York, where each hydraulic press could turn out parts for 40 boats a day. Francis continually experimented with new designs for his stamping process, and this patent model reflects changes to the shape of his boats’ corrugations that he developed in the late 1850s.
Joseph Francis (1801-93) is best known today for designing an enclosed rescue craft called a life-car, which was extensively used in coastal life-saving stations in the second half of the 19th century. The first life-car he made was used to spectacular effect in the rescue of all but one of the passengers and crew of the immigrant vessel Ayrshire, which ran aground on the New Jersey shore in a storm in January 1850. The Smithsonian preserves that life-car in addition to numerous models and ephemera documenting Joseph Francis’s work.
Date made
patent date
Francis, Joseph
Novelty Iron Works
Francis, Joseph
associated place
United States: New York, New York
life boat used for rescue
Atlantic Ocean
Physical Description
copper or brass (overall material)
paint (overall material)
black (overall color)
overall: 2 ft; x .6096 m
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
related event
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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