Our museum is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Mousetrap

Mousetrap

Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description
This simple wood and coil-spring trap by an unknown maker has an unusual upright mechanism. Since the U.S. Patent Office was formally established in 1838, it has granted more than forty-four hundred mousetrap peatents, more than for any other device. John Mast heeded Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice to, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” and in 1899 built the more familiar snap trap, which received its patent in 1903. Simple and effective, Mast’s trap is the best-selling mousetrap of all time. However, inventors are still attempting to improve upon Mast’s design--the Patent Office grants about 40 patents for mousetraps a year, and it receives almost ten times as many patent requests!
The simple mousetrap is a testament to American ingenuity. Inventors and innovators have sought to deal with the mice in different ways--some traps are “beheaders,” some “imprisoners,” and some are “mashers.” No matter the design, the mousetrap has an undeniable grasp on the American imagination, with board games, gambling apparatus, and even movies being based on this pervasive mammal and the attempts to capture it.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
trap, mouse
date made
mid 19th century
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
wood (overall material)
ID Number
1982.0064.03
accession number
1982.0064
catalog number
1982.64.03
Credit Line
Silvio A. Bedini
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Industry & Manufacturing
Artifact Walls exhibit
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Comments

Add a comment about this object