Washington DC – The Patent Office

It occupies many apartments of the building that bears its name, and employs a host of workers in its enormous and constantly increasing business. It is not only self-sustaining, but it is very profitable. In 1883 its receipts were more than one million dollars, and the profits exceeded $500,000. There are up-wards of 21,000 patents issued annually, covering nearly every conceivable thing under the sun, and, in addition, there are hundreds of caveats filed, and trade-marks and labels registered. The office is divided into divisions, in each of which are examiners who have charge of certain classes of inventions. When a patent is applied for, these examiners make the necessary investigations, carefully examining the invention claimed to be new, and patiently and laboriously comparing it, part by part, with devices already patented, in order to determine whether or not the application for a patent can be granted. The principal examiners receive salaries of $2,400, and the assistant examiners from $1,200 to $1,800. Three examiners-in chief, who supervise and finally decide as to the work of the others, receive $3,000 each. An examiner in charge of interferences receives $2,500, and a trade-mark examiner, $2,400. All applications for patents are classified as soon as received, and are taken up and disposed of in regular order, as far as practicable. A patent continues for seventeen years, unless the article patented has been previously patented in a foreign country, in which case the American patent expires with the date of the foreign one.

Since 1872 the office has issued a weekly publication called The Official Gazette, which takes the place of the old Patent Office Report. It contains the claims of every patent issued, including the reissues, with drawings illustrating the patents, the full list of designs patented, and the decisions of the commissioner. The copies of the monthly edition are authenticated by the official seal, and are received as evidence in the United States courts. One copy of this edition is sent to each state library, and one copy is deposited in the clerk’s office of each United States district court, for public reference. Senators and Representatives are also entitled to designate eight public libraries in their states to which copieS will be sent gratuitously.

A fine library is provided for the use of inventors, and its rooms on the first floor of the patent office are much frequented by that class. Congress annually appropriates $5,000 for the purchase of books. The library contains about twelve thousand volumes, comprising the best works published in all the lines of invention and mechanics, and the collections of foreign publications are specially valuable. The librarian has a salary of $2,000.

The numerous rooms used by the patent office are filled with officials, examiners, draughtsmen, clerks, and copyists, busy as bees investigating claims, comparing inventions, copying designs and specifications, and otherwise attending to the multifarious business. There are one hundred and forty-two examiners of patents, and over four hundred clerks and other employes. Since 1838 the patent office has accumulated a surplus of $2,700,000, which stands to its credit on the books of the United States Treasury, and this surplus eventually may be expended in the erection of a new building for its sole use, as its present quarters are inadequate for the business.

The Museum of Models is contained in four lofty, magnificent halls, extending throughout the second story of the department building. Here are to be seen 300,000 models of patented articles, arranged in classes and subdivisions, and filling hundreds of spacious cases, all properly labeled and indexed. By means of these models one can trace the progress of every line of industry, from crude de-signs to the perfected machine, wonderful in construction and almost human in action. Here is the result of the profound study of count-less men diligently working in all the industrial fields through many years, and it is a marvelous exhibition of human capability, and can be inspected for hours, and even days, with plentiful profit and enjoyment.

The first collections of patent models, comprising everything received by the government from 1790 to 1836, were entirely destroyed by fire when the Post-Office Building, in which they were stored, was burned on Dec. 15, 1836. Shortly after this fire Congress enacted a law for the better recording of patents, requiring models in every proper case, and made the patent office a regular branch of the public service, placing it in charge of a commissioner. Previous to that time patents had been issued from the office of the Secretary of State, under the direction of a clerk, who bore the title of superintendent of patents. In 1877 a fire in the north and west halls 0f the present Museum of Models, originating among a collection of ancient documents, destroyed 80,000 models. These halls were afterward reconstructed at a cost of $250,000.

The south hall of the museum is two hundred and forty-two feet in length, and sixty-three feet in width, and the north, east, and west halls are of nearly the same size. They are of handsome design, and present many pleasing architectural features. The museum is open daily, and visitors are allowed to gratuitously inspect the vast collections of models contained in it.