Bell Ship Hull, Patent Model

Bell Ship Hull, Patent Model

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This tin patent model accompanied A. John Bell’s patent application for an “improvement in the construction of ships”—awarded patent number 148,655 on March 17, 1874. The model demonstrates Bell's method of constructing ships in detachable parts. In a vessel built after Bell's principle, the upper deck and a portion of any lower decks would float free if the main hull were sunk in some calamity, "so that when the hull sinks the deck will float upon the water, carrying the passengers and crew with it, and thus saving their lives." Bell also devised a sectional mast that could easily be cleared away in an emergency, to prevent it becoming an obstruction to the smooth separation of the decks; the mast is missing in the model. Ignoring the dangers of exposure, hunger, and heavy seas that often attended the use of lifeboats, Bell claimed that the "advantage of this invention lies in the almost absolute certainty of saving the lives of all on board the vessel, by having such a large part thereof prevented from sinking when the hull goes down."
Currently not on view
Object Name
ship hull construction, patent model
patent model, ship hull
Object Type
Patent Model
Date made
patent date
Bell, A. John
Bell, A. John
associated place
United States: Kentucky, Ashland
Physical Description
tin (overall material)
overall: 12 in x 5 1/4 in x 4 1/4 in; 30.48 cm x 13.335 cm x 10.795 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Patent Models
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Work and Industry: Maritime
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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