Between the years 1790 and 1880 the U.S. Patent Office required both documentation and a three-dimensional working model to demonstrate each new invention submitted for a patent. The models helped to explain proposed innovations and compare them against similar inventions.
Today patent models provide a glimpse into the 19th century. They reflect the interests and the needs of the period, along with the division of labor between men and women. Many inventions were not successful while others were said to have changed the course of contemporary civilization.
From 1908 to 1926 some 10,000 patent models were transferred from the U.S. Patent Office to the U.S. National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. The models are now here at the National Museum of American History. This display featured a small selection of models from the collection.
About the artifact walls
Artifact walls, consisting of 275 linear feet of glass-fronted cases lining the first and second floor center core, highlight the depth and breadth of the collections and convey that the Museum collects, studies and exhibits objects from our nation's rich and diverse history. The display is part of the special cases within the museum’s Artifact Walls that highlight anniversaries, new acquisitions to the collections and research findings.