With the Patent Act of 1790 the United States Patent Office was created. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph headed the three-member Patent Commission. They established the requirement that a working model of each invention be produced in miniature.??The first US patent was granted in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for an improvement in the "making of Pot Ash by a new apparatus & process."
The original Patent Law was revised. A simple registration system was implemented whereby anyone who applied and paid a $30 fee was granted a patent. The revision of the Law also eliminated the Patent Board. The act of granting patents fell to a clerk in the Department of State. James Madison, Secretary of State, created a separate Patent Office within the State Department. In May 1802, he appointed Dr. William Thornton its first superintendent.
The Patent Office moved from the Department of State to Blodgetts Hotel. For the first time many of the models were put on public display. It became a local custom on Sundays to stroll through the rooms and see what new models were there.
An attempt was made to record and keep a list of the then-existing models which totaled 1,819.
The Patent Act of July 4, 1836 reestablished the examination system of 1790. Models were once again required by the Commissioner. "The model, not more than 12 inches square, should be neatly made, the name of the inventor should be printed or engraved upon, or affixed to it, in a durable manner." The application fee was $30 for United States citizens, $500 for British subjects, and $300 for any other alien. ??On July 13, 1836, a numbering system for the patent models was instituted instead of the previous practice of using names. Patent number 1 was issued to Senator John Ruggles of Maine (head of the committee to draft the new patent law). ??On December 15, 1836, there was a fire in the Patent Office. The entire building burned to the ground. All records and most of the models were destroyed. Congress appropriated $100,000 for the restoration of 3,000 of the most important models.
New and original designs became patentable. The first design patent was granted to George Bruce of New York City for a typeface.
Congress abolished the legal requirement for models,however, the US Patent Office kept its requirement for models until 1880. Some models were still being submitted at the turn of the century.
The public was barred from seeing the models because of lack of space.
A second fire in the Patent Office on September 24, 1877 destroyed 76,000 models. Congress appropriated $45,000 for their restoration.
The model requirement was deemed impractical and the law was changed to permit models only when required by the Commissioner. 246,094 patents had been issued by 1880 and perhaps 200,000 were represented by models.
The models were moved out of the Patent Office and placed in storage.
Congress decided to sell all the models. An auction of some 3,000 models that had failed to receive patents sold at that time for $62.18. The remaining estimated 150,000 models were stored, finally ending up in an abandoned livery stable. It is estimated that from 1884 to 1925, $200,000 had been spent in moving and storing the models.
The one millionth patent was issued. The models were stored in barns and basements for almost 20 years until a sale was finally organized during Calvin Coolidge's presidency.
On February 13, 1925, not wanting to continue to pay the cost of storage, Congress appropriated $10,000 to do away with the models one way or another. The Smithsonian Institution received an additional 2,500 models. On December 3, 1925, the models were sold at an auction to philanthropist Sir Henry Wellcome. It is believed that he intended to establish a Patent Model Museum. His plans dissolved with the stock market crash of 1929. He died in 1936 at the age of 82 without realizing his ambition.
The trustees of Wellcome's estate sold the models for $50,000 to Broadway producer, Crosby Gaige. He in turn sold out to a group of businessmen for $75,000. This group formed American Patent Models, Inc.
American Patent Models, Inc. declared bankruptcy. In 1941 the models were acquired by O. Rundle Gilbert, an auctioneer, in a bankruptcy auction at Foley Square in New York City for $5,000 and moved to his home at Garrison-on-the-Hudson, New York. Gilbert held many auctions and thousands of the models were sold. On a number of occasions, Gilbert entered into various deals to sell the entire collection, but it wasn't until 1979 that a deal was actually completed.
Cliff Petersen, a designer and inventor within the aerospace industry, purchased from Gilbert his remaining 800 crates - some of which had not been opened since the original packing in 1926 - for $500,000. Petersen began collecting patent models from Gilbert in 1973.
Petersen donated 30,000 models and one million dollars to the United States Patent Model Foundation. He kept approximately 5,000 models that were in his personal collection.
Alan Rothschild created the Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum. A significant segment of the patent models represented in the Museum were purchased from the private collection of Cliff Petersen. In addition, Mr. Rothschild purchased all 82 models comprising the Patent Model Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and added them to the Rothschild Petersen collection.
In July 2001, The Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum(RPPMM) received museum status in New York State and official designation as a 501-C-3 corporation. ??In October 2001, patent models from the RPPMM formed the basis for the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office's exhibit, "School Days."
The Patent Model Collection was featured in articles in The Boston Herald, the Journal of Antiques and the National Post of Toronto. In November 2001 the Collection was featured in a segment on Home and Garden Television.
Beginning in May 2001 and continuing to the present, an exhibit of 53 patent models from the Collection are on display at Disneyland Paris in Paris, France.
Patent models from the Rothschild Collection were featured in the following:
-International Wristwatch Magazine
-In February 2002, the patent models were the centerpiece in an exhibit at the USPTO, entitled, "Icons of Innovation." Also during this month the models from the Collection were included in an article in the New York Times. ?- In April 2002, the Patent Model Collection was featured in a segment on the television program, CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood.
-In June 2002, the Collection models were included in a story on the History Channel’s program, Modern Marvels.
In August 2002, the RPPMM hosted the 7th Annual Independent Inventors Conference, ICON 2002. Cosponsored by the RPPMM, the USPTO, the United Inventors Assoociation, and Onondaga Community College, the conference attracted inventors and aspiring inventors from across the country and Canada. With a keynote address by the inventor of the medical respirator, Dr. Forrest Bird, the two day conference was a resounding success. An exhibit of over 200 patent models from the Central New York area served as a backdrop to the conference which was held at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.
An exhibit of sixty five patent models from the Collection were on display at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston throughout 2004.
Models from the Collection were featured in articles in Forbes Magazine,The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles and Antiques and Auction News.
The Rothschild Collection Patent Models were the subject of articles in The Christian Science Monitor, the Robb Report, Chubb Collectors, Open Skies: The Inflight Magazine of Emirates, American Spirit: Daughters of the American Revolution, Steinway and Sons, and the American Profile supplement.
Patent models from the Rothschild Collection went on permanent display at the Bird Aviation Museum & Invention Center in Sandpoint, Idaho.
An article on Alan Rothschild, the museum and the patent models was featured in the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Postscripts Magazine.
After much planning, the Smith Kramer Fine Art Services Traveling Exhibit entitled, “The Curious World of Patent Models” and organized by The Rothschild Patent Model Collection began its tour. The first venue opened in February 2010 and travels to museums throughout the country through 2014. The exhibit was originally scheduled for three years, but because of widespread interest, a fourth year was added and then an additional fifth year was added to the schedule.