Patent Model, Life Boat


Although Joseph Francis is the best-known inventor of lifesaving boats in the 19th century, other people from diverse walks of life developed their own ideas for improving safety at sea. Among these were two fishermen from Peaks Island near Portland, Maine, Alpheus G. and Abram T. Sterling, who patented their design for lifeboat improvements in 1874.

In the Sterlings’ design, the hold below the boat’s watertight deck was fitted with a rubber “air reservoir,” which conformed to the shape of the boat. A series of “apertures,” or openings, in the hull allowed water into the space around the air-filled chamber. This water-ballast helped the boat resist capsizing while air sealed inside rubber fenders and in a second interior chamber preserved the vessel’s buoyancy. The rubber air-filled reservoir was also meant to prevent the boat’s sinking if it hit an obstruction.

Date Made: 1874Patent Date: 1874-12-121874-04-21

Patentee: Sterling, Alpheus G.Sterling, Abram T.Inventor: Sterling, Alpheus G.Sterling, Abram T.

Home Of Patentees: United States: Maine, Portland

Related Event: The Development of the Industrial United States


See more items in: Work and Industry: Maritime, Transportation, On the Water exhibit

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication:

Related Publication: On the Water online exhibition

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: TR.325947Accession Number: 249602Catalog Number: 325947Patent Number: 149,891

Object Name: lifeboat, modelpatent model, lifeboatObject Type: Patent Model

Physical Description: wood (overall material)rubber (fitting material)copper alloy (fitting material)Measurements: overall: 4 in x 20 in x 7 in; 10.16 cm x 50.8 cm x 17.78 cm


Record Id: nmah_1316596

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