Paul K. Graham

Certified Genealogist SM

Accredited Genealogist ®

United States Utility Patents

This book documents the earliest numbered patents issued by the United States. From the first patent act in 1790 through the summer of 1836, patents were not given a reference number. Instead, they were referred to solely by the name of the inventor and the date of issue. The practice of patents being numbered sequentially began in 1836, with patent number one issued in July. The sequence is still in place today: utility patent 7,000,000 was issued in 2006. In addition to utility patents, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office also designates design and plant patents. Design patents began in 1843 and plant patents began in 1931. The purpose of this book is to provide a record of the number, issue date, inventor, and title of the first 10,000 numbered patents, issued from July 1836 to September 1853. All of the information was abstracted directly from the published patent, rather than using a compiled patent index. The book includes a name index to inventors.


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$39.95 retail, 632 pages, hardcover, name index

LCCN: 2011923264
ISBN-10: 0-9755312-4-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-9755312-4-2

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The process for obtaining patents during the period of 1836 to 1853 was governed primarily by the Patent Act of 1836, Ch. 357, 5 Stat. 117 (4 July 1836). The law established the modern Patent Office and created the position Commissioner of Patents. The act required that inventions be examined prior to a patent being issued. Previously, courts were relied on to determine the validity of patents. All U.S. citizens were eligible to file patents. Aliens who had resided in the country for one year, and who had made a declaration of intention to become a citizen, could also file for a U.S. patent.

For researchers interested in particular types of inventions, see Subjectmatter Index to Patents for Inventions Issued by the United States Patent Office from 1790 to 1873, available in three volumes through the University of Michigan’s Making of America initiative. Those volumes do not include a name index and do not identify the full name of each inventor, only noting the first initials and last name in most cases.

A useful history of the patent office titled The Patent Office Pony is available online (as of March 2011).