Babcock and Wilcox’s Patent Model of a Steam Generator – ca 1867

Babcock and Wilcox’s Patent Model of a Steam Generator – ca 1867

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 65,042 issued to George H. Babcock and Stephen Wilcox, Jr. of Providence, Rhode Island on May 28, 1867. The patent was for an improved design for steam generators, or boilers. The design is for a boiler in which the water being converted to steam is held in a number of small compartments rather than in one large mass.
The inventors claimed this had the advantage of greater economy in construction because the lower expansive forces allowed use of cast iron. They also claimed increased safety in that a failure in one of the sections would result in less destructive force, increased efficiency in heating the large surface areas, and easier removal of deposits within the tubes.
As can be seen in the image of the model, the boiler consists of a nest of horizontal tubes which serve as a steam and water reservoir above and connected to a second next of inclined tubes normally filled with water. The tubes in both nests are arranged in vertical rows with each row being connected by end tubes. Each vertical row forms a section of the boiler. The fire grate is the inclined plane at the lower right corner of the model. Combustion gases would travel up and through the tube sections and out via the flue at the upper right.
The inventors established Babcock, Wilcox & Company in 1867 to manufacture water tube boilers based on this inclined tube design. The company continues in business as of 2016.
The patent model is constructed of wood. A full description of the operation of the boiler along with complete diagrams of the patent can be found in the patent document online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website,
Object Name
patent model, generator, steam
date made
patent date
Babcock, George H.
Wilcox, Jr., Stephen
place made
United States: Rhode Island
associated place
United States: Rhode Island, Providence
overall: 10 in x 10 in x 3 in; 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Patent Models
Steam Engines
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Patent Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Power Machinery
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
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.


Add a comment about this object