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This canning jar with a funnel-shape one-way entrance cap used metal prongs to prevent mice from escaping. Since the U.S. Patent Office was formally established in 1838, it has granted more than forty-four hundred mousetrap patents, more than any other invention. 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 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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trap, mouse
date made
1923 - 1933
patent date
Mason, John Landis
Ball Brothers Company
place made
United States: Indiana, Muncie
found; possibly used
United States: Maryland, Gaithersburg
Physical Description
glass (jar material)
metal, iron (wires material)
metal, steel (screw cap material)
overall: 9 in x 4 in x 4 in x 5 in; 22.86 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Steven A. Clyburn
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Industry & Manufacturing
Artifact Walls exhibit
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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