Hagley Owns World’s Largest Private Collection of Patent Models
Wilmington, Del (February 23, 2016)…Hagley Museum & Library now has the world’s largest private collection of patent models, a collection that is second only to that of the Smithsonian Institution. Approximately 100 of the patent models are currently on display in the Copeland Room in the Hagley Library. Hagley traces its beginning to 1803 when E.I. du Pont settled in Delaware along the banks of the Brandywine River and began harnessing the river’s power to make high quality black powder thus spawning the mighty DuPont Company. Today, Hagley functions as a major museum and research library dedicated to exploring the history of American business, technology and innovation and its impact on the world.
These one-of-a-kind models range from an apparatus for drying cloth and a variety of gears to a brass artificial leg. The library is open from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM on weekdays and 9:00 AM until 4:30 PM on the second Saturday of the month. Admission to the exhibition is free. Those interested in seeing the exhibition should use Hagley’s Buck Road entrance to access the Library. Plans are underway to organize a full-scale display in the Visitor Center.
In 1790, the United States issued the Patent Act, which stated that “Any useful, art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement therein not before used” could be patented. Patents were granted for fourteen years and allowed the patentee rights to manufacture and sell the idea and to prevent others from using it without permission. Like its European predecessors, the United States required patent applicants to submit a written description and drawing of their idea for examination. However, the United States went a step farther and required applicants to submit a physical model of their proposed patent.
Patent models are small, three-dimensional prototypes created to accompany a patent application. This requirement remained in place until 1880 when the cost of storing the models and re-creating patent models after two fires became excessive. The Smithsonian Institution kept a substantial number of the models for its collection; the remaining models were sent to auction in 1925.
Hagley’s collection of 870 patent models has been dramatically expanded by the acquisition of 4,101 patent models from the Rothschild Collection and now numbers 4,971. David A. Cole, Jr., Hagley’s Executive Director, describes the patent models as “…emblematic of American ingenuity and inventiveness.” According to Cole, “These models fit perfectly into Hagley’s vision of becoming a place where innovation inspires and imaginations run wild.”