Saturday, January 13, 2018

Jefferson to His Cousin About Potential Patent (January 1809)

by Steve Reiss (

The following is text from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to his young cousin Richard Randolph of the famous Randolph family of Virginia. The letter is dated, January 19, 1809. 
Thomas Jefferson

Under the Patent Act of 1793, at this time in 1809, interestingly,the patent would have been granted by Jefferson's Secretary of State, the president-elect, James Madison. The Secretary of War, referred to in the letter, was Henry Dearborn.

James Madison

Henry Dearborn

 The letter is now available for purchase for about $18,500, from a rare-bookseller in Germany: 
 I have duly received your letter of the 10th mentioning the invention of a bridle having the advantage of not going into the horse’s mouth. You know of course you can have a patent for the use of it on the terms mentioned in the patent law. In the event of the Secretary of War’s approving it, & wishing to make use of it, it would become a question whether he could give a price for permission to use it. I rather believe it would be lawful, but that he would venture to use it very moderately. If you should wish to try this latter experiment & would forward the bridle by the stage to me, I would submit it to his examination & take care that no use should be made of it injurious to your views. It would not at all be necessary for you to come here. Should the corps of volunteers proposed be raised, the appointment of the officers from field officers downwards will pretty certainly be referred by the President to the state executives. That is the quarter therefore to which your application will be to be made. I salute you with esteem & respect." 

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