Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Look at Numbers of Patents Issued in 1858

While looking for some information on the two earlier posts I made about the Patent Office (pictured) not issuing patents to slaves, I ran across a list that showed the number of patents issued per state or territory in 1858. I think it would be more informative to have a list of patent applications per state, but a list of those actually issued can be productive too for comparative purposes.

There were 5,364 applications made in 1858, and of those, 3,668 were actually issued patents. The breakdown is as follows:

NY - 1,075
PA - 447
MA - 438
OH - 302
CT - 211
IL- 155
NJ - 126
MD - 82
IN - 82
VA - 61
ME - 58
MI - 54
DC - 52
NH - 51
RI - 48
MO - 46
VT - 42
LA - 34
IA - 33
MS - 31
KY - 30
AL - 24
CA - 23
NC - 22
GA - 21
TN - 19
SC - 12
TX - 10
DE - 8
FL - 8
WA Territory - 4
AR - 3
MN - 2
KS Territory - 1
US Navy - 2
US Army - 1

Just looking at the list is clearly obvious that most of the patents issued in 1858 were to inventors in Northern states. That is probably not all that surprising considering that most of the nation's industrial capacity was in those states.  

Broken down per section it looks like this:
Free States = 88% of the total issued
Slave States & DC = 12% of the total issued

But, does industrial output equal inventiveness? I'm not sure, but I would probably argue that a free labor system encouraged inventiveness more than a slave labor system.

The same report that offered the state figure breakdown also indicated that the category that received the most number of  patents issued (1198) were for products associated with railroads. The North certainly had the greatest amount of mileage in railroads. The next most numerous category was agricultural implements and processes (561). Both the North and South in 1858 were overwhelmingly rural and depended on heavily on farming, so in my thinking, neither section would have had an advantage in that particular category.

What would be interesting would be to compare the free population percentages (since slaves couldn't receive patents) of both sections to the percentages of patents issued to the sections. Maybe I can do that with some research from the closest census (1860) in a future post.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

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