Leaving One’s Mark

We have frequently commented in this blog about how the U.S. patent collection records historic events in the country. So it should not be surprising that Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream,” left its mark not just on society, but in the patent collection. His speech has been referenced in at least 22 patents:
























Dr. King indisputably left his mark on the world, but he also left a mark on the patent collection. We salute a great American on what would be his 94th birthday, as we still wait for his dream to come true, sixty years later.

Happy New Year 2023

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2023, full of great new ideas and no infringements!

U.S. Patent No.1,539.895 issued to George Buzza on June 2, 1995, on a “Game Device.”

George Buzza’s invention, featured above, was a game device that provided blocks, “preferably two in number, which have imprinted on the faces thereof words which are so devised that when the blocks are thrown , the words carried by the faces which come uppermost on the different blocks, when read in proper sequence, may combine to spell expressions indicative of various greetings.” George applied for a patent on his idea in 1923, and less than two years later his U.S. Patent No. 1,539,895 issued.

What idea do you have “rolling” around in your head, that you should finally do something with in 2023?

Good Timing

U.S. Patent No. 6,333,083, on Foldable Artificial Christmas Tree is one of the few Christmas related patents that actually issued on Christmas. Since 1848, patents only issue on Tuesdays, and thus a Christmas Day Christmas patent only occurs when Christmas falls on a Tuesday. From 1850-1880, the Patent Office missed a few Tuesdays — those that fell on Christmas. Since then the Patent Office has not missed a Christmas, but they did miss a few Tuesdays during WWII in 1945, and a Tuesday in 1970 during a change in patent printing systems.

Patents have issued on Christmas in 1888, 1894, 1900, 1906, 1917, 1923, 1934, 1945, 1951, 1956, 1962, 1973, 1979, 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, 2012, 2018, and the next batch of Christmas patents will issue in 2029.

More Christmas Tech

Continuing last Saturday’s post about Christmas Tree Candle holders, here are some candle holders through 1900:

U.S. Patent No. 217908 (1879) on Christmas-Tree Lamp
U.S. Patent No. 395514 (1889) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees
U.S. Patent No. 414897 (1889) Christmas Tree Ornament and Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 420607 (1890) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees
U.S. Patent No. 464228 (1891) Candlestick for Christmas Trees

U.S.Patent No. 474768 (1892) Candle Holder

U.S. Patent No. 495641 (1893) Christmas Tree Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 499568 (1893) Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 501473 (1893) Candlestick
U.S. Patent No. 530626 (1894) Lantern
U.S. Patent No. 562155 (1896) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees.
U.S. Patent No. 574356 (1896) Candle Holder.
U.S. Patent No. 582375 (1897) Christmas Tree Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 589821 (1897) Swinging Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 601397 (1898) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees
U.S. Patent No. 601754 (1898) Candle Holder and Extinguisher
U.S. Patent No. 603871 (1898) Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 629791 (1899) Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No 633900 (1899) Candle-Holder
U.S. Patent No. 630423 (1899) Candle-holder for christmas trees
U.S. Patent No. 660899 (1900) Candle Holder

Christmas Tech

Patents are about solutions to problems, and the patent collection contains an interesting history of solving the problems with Christmas Tree Illumination. From 1867 unitl the advent of electric Christmas lights, a surprising amount of effort was devoted to making candles safe for Christmas trees:

U.S. Pnatent 69254 (1867) on Candlestick.
U.S. Patent No. 89,270 (1869) on Candle Holder.
U.S. Patent No. 133479 (1872) on Lantern
U.S. Patent No. 150572 (1874) on Decorative Lanterns
U.S. Patent No. 151055 (1874) Candlesticks for Christmas-Trees
U.S. Patent No. 152817 (1874) on Candle-Holders

U.S. Patent No. 155450 (1874) on Candle-Holders.
U.S. Patent No. 178603 (1876) on Christmas-Tree Bracket.
U.S. Patent No. 183573 (1876) Candle-Holders for Christmas Trees
U.S. Patent No. RE7652 (1877) on Candle-Holder
U.S. Patent No. 194421 (1877) on Illuminating-Devices for Christmas Trees
U.S. Patent No. 202342 (1878) on Candle-Holder
U.S. Patent No. 216628 (1879) on Candy Toy..
U.S. Patent No. 227088 (1880) on Candle-Holder for Christmas-Trees
U.S. Patent No. 227693 (1880) Candle-Holder for Christmas-Trees.
U.S. Patent No. 244045 (1881) Christmas Tree Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 266463 (1882) Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 270771 (1883) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees

U.S. Patent No. 286572 (1883) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees.

U.S. Patent No. 295182 (1884) Christmas Tree Candle Holder
U.S. Patent No. 298478 (1884) Reflector Support for Candles
U.S. Patent No. 347873 (1886) Candle Holder for Christmas Trees

U.S. Patent No. 373958 (1887) Lamp for Decorating and Illuminating Purposes

The Accidental History Library

The U.S. patent collection is a fabulous record of the history of innovation in the United States, and the rest of the world. But in recording the history of technology, that patent collection also captures glimpses of the broader history of society.

So, before December 7, 1941, there are several references to Pearl Harbor (in the Territory of Hawaii), but always as a place (the address of an inventor). See, for example, U.S. Patent No. US1677261, US1854268, and US2234109. After December 7, 1941, “Pearl Harbor” took on a new meaning as an event, rather than simply a place, reflecting the horrific events of that day, For example US2401521, filed in 1944, on a bomb site, references the “disaster” are Pearl Harbor:

US2471496 filed in 1945 on reclaiming scrap of natural rubber mixed with buna-s, references Pearl Harbor:

US2484051 refers to Pearl Harbor as a point of geographic and historical interest:

US6022637 identified the filing date of a prior art patent with reffe Eleven days after Pearl Harbor (Dec. 18, 1941), Bert Adams applied for a patent on his battery

US8584226 references Pearl Harbor, showing its impact

US8521512 even identifies Pearl Harbor as a “concept”:

US10300779 refers to a possible digital “Pearl Harbor” event:

It is interesting to hear the echo of historical events in the timeline of technology that is the USPTO patent collection.

December 6

December 6 is the anniversary of the completion of the Washington Monument. On December 6, 1884, in workers place a nine-inch, 100 ounce, aluminum pyramid inscribed “Laus Deo” (“praise be to God”), on top of the white marble obelisk, completing the monument to the country’s founding father and first president, George Washington.

Why aluminum? Because at the time aluminum was considered a precious metal, with a price comparable to silver ($1 per ounce vs, $1.18 per ounce for silver). The process of extracting aluminum was difficult and expensive. An acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, William Frishmuth, who patented an improvement to the process on August 7, 1883 (U.S. Patent No. 282622) was commissioned to provide the aluminum and cast the pyramid. The completed pyramid was even displayed at Tiffany’s prior to its installation (see above).

Unfortunately for Frishmuth, On April 2, 1889, Charles Martin Hall patented (U.S. Patent No. 400,666) a much easier and less expensive method for the production of aluminum, which brought the metal into wide commercial use. Hall’s patent interfered with that of Paul Heroult who independently developed the same process at almost the same time. Hall was able to prove priority, and received the patent instead of Heroult.

In 1888 Hall and others founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company now known as the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). By 1914 the cost of aluminum had dropped to 18 cents a pound, and eventually become the stuff of screen doors and soda cans, rather than monuments.

Another inventor Karl Joseph Bayer, an Austrian chemist, developed another process for obtaining aluminum from bauxite about the same time. Hall’s and Bayer’s methods are still used today to produce virtually all of the world’s aluminum.

In a sad post script and reminder that the march of technology can be disruptive, Frishmuth, having lost his monopoly on the production of aluminum, killed himself in his Philadelphia apartment in 1893.

Holiday Countdown

Every year growing up a favorite aunt would send us a paper Advent calendar to help us count down the days until Christmas (and her holiday visit). When I eventually had a family of my own, we purchased a wooden box with 25 little doors, and had fun filling it with little toys and candies for our children to open each day.

As much fun as we have had with Advent calendars, I really shouldn’t have been surprised at the wide variety of forms that these calendars take in the U.S. patent collection, but I was and perhaps you will be too.

U.S. Patent No. 3109252 covers an Advent calendar in the form of a lamp.
U.S. Patent No. 5058296 covers a stair-shaped Advent calendar.
U.S. Patent No. 9809043 covers a tree-shaped Advent calendar
U,S. Patent No. 9809043 also covers a snowman-shaped Advent calendar

U.S. Patent No. D788849 protects this house-shaped Advent calendar

Thanksgiving Technology: the Story of Cramonnaise

Cranberry is a stable of thanksgiving, and not surprisingly there are quite a few patents on processing and serving cranberries.

However one patent application that went nowhere was Patrick Kelleher’s application on CRAMONNAISE a pre-packaged combination of CRAnberries and MayONNAISE. Patrick abandoned his application after the Examiner found prior art recipes for his dubious creation.

Not surprisingly, more successful cranberry technology has come from Ocean Spray. In 1960, Ocean Spray received U.S. Patent No. 3142577 on a Process for Preparing Jellied Cranberry Sauce, followed in 1962 by U.S. Patent No. 3,023,108 for a Process for Preparing Cranberry Sauce, and in 1965, by U.S. Patent No. 3,360,379 on a Process for Preparing Whole Cranberry Sauce.

Of course its no use making cranberry sauce without a way to serve it. U.S. Patent No. D853200 covers a Cranberry Sauce Serving Container:

July 4, 2022

It’s the Fourth of July, 2022, and time to celebrate the holiday, as this blog always does, with patents.

We begin with the appropriately named Fourth of July Echinacea, the subject of PP26075, issued November 10, 2015:

U.S. Patent No. PP2605, Fig. 2.

Edward Driscol, Jr. was issued U.S. Patent No. 250507 on December 6, 1881, for a Toy Whip that used caps to make a cracking sound.

U.S. Patent No. 250507, Fig. 1

according to Mr. Driscol:

U.S. Patent No. 250507, Col. 2, ll. 41-46.

Inventor Louis Schuetz of Newark, New Jersey, was also concerned with entertaining the children on the Fourth of July, and received U.S.Patent No. 370,356 for his Toy on September 20, 1887.

U.S. Patent No. 370,356, Col. 1, ll, 16-26.

Miniature cannons and fire crackers — what a blast.

U.S. Patent No. 370356

Another inventor perhaps focus more on Fourth of July fun, rather than safety, was Edwin H Cady, of Gardner, Massachusetts. He received U.S. Patent No. 423215 on March 11, 1890, for a Toy Detonator:

U.S. Patent No. 423215

Lastly, inventor William G. Spiegel, of New York, N.Y, invented a Time-Lock for Savings-Banks, which received U.S. Patent No. 474870 on May 17, 1892.

U.S. Patent No. 474870

The bank was specifically designed to help children save for the Fourth of July — likely to fund the purchase of fireworks and perhaps Mr. Schuetz’ and Mr. Cady’s inventions:

U.S. Patent No. 474870, Col. 1 ll. 23-28.