Women Inventors and their Patent Models

Clothes wringerBy Anne Gilbert
   Beginning in the 19th century women not only kept house they began inventing things to make their lives easier. They created working models of their inventions in order to get a patent that would protect their ownership rights. These models are avidly collected and worth big bucks.

   The making of patent models began when Congress passed the Patent Act of 1790 to regulate the process for people interested in getting a patent to protect their inventions. Along with the three-dimensional example, written specifications and a drawing were required. After 1880 models were no longer necessary, but some inventors continued to offer them until the end of the 19th century. The patent numbering system began in 1836.

   Many women inventors have remained largely unknown. Among those known are Mary Carpenter and Sarah T. Sanders. Carpenter was a prolific inventor during the 1870s. She created items to improve women’s tasks. Among them, an iron and fluting machine and an improved mop ringer.

   Clarissa Britain, in the early 1840s invented such items as a floor warmer and a patent model potato warmer.

   Ellen Eglen, an Afro-American woman, invented a clothes wringer in 1880. She sold the patent rights for $18.

   Some of the patent model inventions have contemporary applications found in todays’ spas. One, “Improvement in Electric and Vapor chairs,” patented in September 26, 1871, by Mary A. Hayward, was a precursor to our vaporizers.

   Sarah T. Sands model for “Improvement in apparatus for lifting and carrying an invalid from one bed to another without inconvenience with a frame on wheels.”

   CLUES: Collectors have always been fascinated with patent models, especially those with moveable parts. In 1994, the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware, held the first exhibit on the subject, that included inventions by men and women. This collection, donated by the late E. Tunnicliff Fox, stimulated collector interest and possibilities. Periodically, patent models come to auction, estate sales and even shops. They are often mistakenly sold as salesman’s samples. Not only are they historically important, but a part of Women’s growing involvement in the business world.

   PHOTO CAPTIONS: (1) Ice cream maker patent model, woman’s invention. PHOTO CREDIT: Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware (2) Clothes wringer invented by Ellen F. Eglen, 1880. PHOTO CREDIT: (2) Hagley Museum
women inventors ice cream maker.jpg

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