Inventions, Patents, and President Lincoln

Inventions, Patents, and President Lincoln What’s the recipe for an invention? Take In 1848, U.S. Congressman Lincoln was a problem, add curiosity, and stir with traveling by river back to Illinois from patience and persistence. Add a pinch of Washington D.C. when his boat got stuck brains and ingenuity, and let marinate. on a sandbar. Seeing With any luck, an idea will emerge and (again) the work it you’ll have your invention! took to raise the boat high enough to free Anyone who thinks up a technological it, Lincoln began to solution to a problem is an inventor. The think about a device invention could be a device, a machine, or apparatus that or even a process. If the idea is truly new, could lift boats over after some paperwork, the inventor can be sandbars or other awarded a patent. A patent protects the obstructions without new idea from being stolen or copied by having to unload someone else. The United States Patent them first. He came Office (USPO) is in charge of awarding up with the idea of placing inflatable air patents in the United States. chambers on each side of the boat, just So far, only one U.S. president has below the waterline. If the boat got stuck been awarded a patent. Abraham Lincoln or ran aground, these chambers could be was granted a patent in 1849, more than filled with air. This would lift the boat off ten years before his election to the White the obstruction so it could maneuver back House. The patent was for a “device to into deeper water. buoy vessels over shoals.” This was a Lincoln began work on a scale model way to lift boats up higher when they got of his invention, and soon hired a lawyer stuck on shallow ground in a river—an to apply for a patent. On May 22, 1849, all-too- common occurrence in the muddy he was awarded patent number 6459. rivers that were so vital for shipping and Today, Lincoln’s model is on display at transportation in Lincoln’s time. the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Like many inventions, Lincoln’s came American History. about because of a problem he encountered in his own life and sought a way to solve. Even though Lincoln’s device was never At age 19, he worked as a hired hand on a manufactured, it showed his fascination flatboat. He and one other person piloted with things mechanical, his perseverance, the boat all the way from Indiana to New and his practical, problem-solving mind. Orleans. A few years later, in 1831, he In the years since 1849, millions of patents worked on another flatboat, this time going have been issued to dreamers, inventors, from Illinois to New Orleans. On this and problem-solvers from all walks of life. trip, the boat got stuck on a dam over the In fact, the USPO grants well over 150,000 Sangamon River. Lincoln had to work fast patents every year. Got an idea for an to unload the boat, and find a way to drain invention? Maybe someday, one of those it quickly to prevent it from sinking. patents will be yours. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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