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Patent Model, Method of Building Wood Boats

Patent Model, Method of Building Wood Boats

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The inventor Joseph Francis (1801-93) was best known for developing corrugated-iron lifesaving boats. This 1841 patent model reveals his ideas about a new method for constructing boats made of wood.
Trade and communication in 1840s America relied heavily on waterborne transportation, and boat building was an important related industry. With this invention, Joseph Francis sought to reduce the cost of constructing boats by simplifying the process. He proposed setting up a reusable frame over which very narrow planks would be bent to form the hull. The planks would be fastened together by bolts or nails driven through their edges, and no complicated joinery was to be done where the curves of the hull converged at bow and stern. “Ordinary workmen and machinery” could build this simple boat, he wrote. It would save on material, as none of the planks would overlap, and it would not require caulking, “as the narrow planking is drawn so closely together by the... nails....” Finally, Francis claimed that the boat’s metal fasteners, buried between the planks, would not be likely to corrode and loosen the structure. Francis may have used this technique in his own boat works, but it was otherwise ignored by the nation’s many skilled boat builders.
Object Name
life boat, model
patent model, lifeboat
Object Type
Patent Model
date made
patent date
Francis, Joseph
Francis, Joseph
associated place
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (fittings material)
paper (card material)
overall: 5 3/4 in x 39 1/2 in x 6 in; 14.605 cm x 100.33 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
patent number
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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