Some of the innovations shown here had a profound impact on human history, like Samuel Morse’s telegraph and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Others focus on small changes to existing devices. All represent stories of creative men and women endeavoring to reshape the future.
This model was the prototype for the Comptometer, the first commercially successful adding machine with a mechanism driven by pushing the keys. Comptometers were used primarily in businesses and government offices. Dorr E. Felt made the model from a wooden box that had been used to ship macaroni. (Gift of the Heirs of Dorr E. Felt)
C. Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden & Samuel W. Soule, Patent No. 79265
This patent model was created by three Milwaukee inventors who made progress toward a viable typewriting machine. Six years later, Remington & Sons produced the first commercially successful machine, bearing the names Sholes and Glidden.
Claude S. Beck, the first American professor of cardiac surgery, successfully revived a patient by directly shocking the heart with a defibrillator in 1947. Later innovations allowed defibrillator paddles to be used against the chest. (Gift of Dr. Claude S. Beck)
This electrohydraulic artificial heart is a prototype for what became the Jarvik-7 Total Artificial Heart, which was first implanted into a human in December 1982 at the University of Utah Medical Center. The two sides of the device are connected with Velcro. (Gift of Willem J. Kolff, MD, PhD)
Windmills pumped water to irrigate land, especially in dry western states and territories. This patent model showed Elijah Smith’s design for a control mechanism to regulate the spacing between windmill blades, which controlled the rotation speed in varying wind strengths.
This “Method and Apparatus for Photographing Objects in Motion” was adapted to photographic equipment. As demonstrated with this patent model, it could produce images of subjects in rapid motion. It was used by Eadweard Muybridge in his celebrated animal locomotion photography.
The style of bed and platen printing press in this patent model inspired Isaac Adams design of the later Adams’s Power Press, which was praised by early 19th-century printers for its production of quality bookwork into the late 19th century.
Lee De Forest, Patent No. 824637 & Edwin Armstrong, Patent No. 1113149
Lee De Forest invented an electron tube called an “Audion” that could amplify radio signals, a crucial step toward practical electronic devices. Using an Audion tube, Edwin Armstrong invented a circuit that allowed people to hear radio signals without headphones. (Gifts of American Museum of Electricity and Marion Armstrong)
Vegetable Assorter, 1879
John Heinz, Patent No. 212000
With the improvements in commercial packaging, food producers needed other machines that could keep up with production timelines. This invention submitted by John Heinz automated the sorting of vegetables by size, which would otherwise be done by hand.
This patent model for an improvement in sewing machines introduced the buttonhole stitch. Helen Blanchard received some twenty-eight patents, many having to do with sewing. She is best remembered for inventing the zigzag overstitch sewing machine.
After physician John I. Howe observed pins being made by hand, he designed and patented a machine that automated the process. Just one of his machines could produce twenty-four thousand pins in an eleven-hour workday.