For President’s Day: The Only President to Obtain a Patent

In honor of President’s Day, this little tidbit — Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. President to hold the distinction of having been granted a U.S. Patent. From

Abraham Lincoln had a strong interest in new technology and is the only U.S. President to hold a patent.

As a young man, Lincoln took a boatload of merchandise down the Mississippi River from New Salem to New Orleans. At one point the boat slid onto a dam and was set free only after heroic efforts. In later years, while traveling on the Great Lakes, Lincoln’s ship ran afoul of a sandbar. These two similar experiences led him to conceive his invention. Lincoln received Patent #6,469 for “A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals” on May 22, 1849.

The invention consists of a set of bellows attached to the hull of a ship just below the water line. On reaching a shallow place, the bellows are filled with air and the vessel, thus buoyed, is expected to float clear. The invention was never marketed, probably because the extra weight would have increased the probability of running onto sandbars more frequently. Lincoln whittled the model for his patent application with his own hands. It is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

In 1858, Lincoln called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments “in the world’s history,” along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing. During the Civil War, he took a personal interest in new weapons, advocating the adoption of ironclad ships, the observation balloon, the breech-loading rifle, and the machine gun. Lincoln declared that “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”

Well, this wouldn’t be the first patent that never saw the light of day as a product…  nor the last… but at least Lincoln’s was timely, and had utility.  I can’t say as much for US Patent 5,188,107, which basically patents the process of pulling a patient’s finger(s) in order to diagnose the internal organs of same patient, linked here for your complete shock at our system of jurisprudence, or amusement, depending how you look at it:,188,107

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a Granted patent.  Nothing wrong with our patent system to see, folks… move along.

Credit to for finding this priceless piece of… legal trivia.


~ by opticalflow on February 16, 2009.

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