I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


13 May 2014

The Spanish-American War in US design patents

American design patents can be a valuable source of images for studying social history, but are little used. Here is an example: reactions to the Spanish-American War. They may not be typical, of course, as the number is small. Nor does the issuing of a design patent mean that the item was actually manufactured.

There is no doubt that there are numerous souvenir, commemorative or patriotic pins, badges, etc. in the American design patents, and how to find them is explained at the end of this post. The British registered designs, the same sort of right for the look of a design, are not online for historical material, and do not cover such subjects. They also lack explanatory text which could be searched in this way.

The background to the Spanish-American War is that Cuba, a Spanish colony, was fighting a war for independence from Spain. The American battleship Maine was moored in Havana harbour when, on the 15 February 1898, she blew up with the tragic loss of 266 sailors. Sabotage, screamed many American newspapers (although the evidence is inconclusive), which whipped up patriotic enthusiasm which led to war being declared (by the Spanish) in April 1898. The fighting was mainly in Cuba and the Philippines, and ended swiftly, in August 1898.

What follows is a list of the design patents that I have identified as being relevant, in order of being filed at the US Patent Office. Some of the images are attractive; others are dull.

In fact before the war those wishing to express pro-Cuban sympathies were assisted by Henry Caldwell of Hartwell, OH with his "Badge", D27621, filed 30 January 1897. It shows the Cuban colours and is meant to "indicate sympathy with the cause of Cuba", says the patent.

On the 2 April 1898 Willis Hart of Unionville, CT filed for D28629, "Spoon". It shows the Maine and its commander, Captain Charles Sigsbee.

On the 25 April 1898 Julius Becker of New York City filed for D28787, "Pipe", in the appearance of the Maine.

On the 26 May 1898 Charles Bailey of Cromwell, CT filed for D29049, "Toy bank". Again in the guise of the Maine. Bailey had numerous Design Patents to his name.

On the 16 June 1898 William Smith of Philadelphia, PA filed for "Woven fabric", again showing the Maine.

On the 18 June 1898 Amos Standing of St Louis, MO filed for "Game device". I strongly suspect that this is for a game based on the Battle of Manila Bay on the 1 May 1898, when Commodore Dewey's ships defeated the Spanish.

On the 28 August 1898 John Croskey of Dunkirk, IN filed for D29364, "Pitcher". The text explains that it commemorates the Battle of Manila, artillery, the flags of Cuba and the USA, and "the United States Admiral".

On the 28 September 1898 Frank Zecher of Lancaster, PA filed for D29686, "Toy bank", again as the Maine.

On the 29 September 1898 Conrad Stein of Bridgeport, CT filed for D29649, "Game board". The text says that the Spanish and American flags are above the forts.

On the 30 September 1898 William Brown of New York City filed for D29661, "Spoon". The text explains that it commemorates Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders volunteers, who fought in Cuba.

On the 6 October 1898 Charles Bailey of Cromwell, CT filed for D29687, "Toy money bank" -- almost inevitably, as the Maine. On the 26 May he had already filed for an earlier version.

On the 27 October 1898 Ole Prestholdt of Clarkfield, MN filed for D29812, "Medal or similar article". The text explains that Uncle Sam, while feeding chickens, is shooting a hawk that represents Spain while in the background is yes, the Maine. On the other side are images of notable Americans such as President McKinley.

On the 21 January 1899 Josephine Altshuler of New Whatcom, WA filed for D30210, "Game board". The big map is Cuba, the small map Manila Bay.

On the 11 April 1899 Morrison Swan of Manilla, IA filed for D30714, "Breastpin". It shows Dewey.

There is then quite a gap until the 8 July 1899, when Charles Kaiser of Rockport, IN filed for D31313, "chair seat and back". It shows President McKinley and the wrecked Maine. I wonder if the inventor considered if it was polite to sit on an image of the wrecked ship.

On the 11 July 1899 August Grametbaur of New York City filed for D31434, "Plate". Dewey is in the middle, surrounded by his leading naval officers.

On the 30 August 1899 Warren Greveling of New York City filed for D32001, "Lamp body". It shows Dewey.

Finally, on the 8 March 1900 Anson Bacon of Halliwell, ME filed for D32728, "Pencil". It shows Dewey.

The slogan "Remember the Maine" only turned up once -- as an example of what could be used in setting up type, in "Printing form". Filed on the 7 July 1898, it was published as utility patent 626649.

I found the designs on Google Patents Advanced by specifying a time period and designs and then searching the accompanying explanatory text for each design by keywords such as Dewey, Cuba, etc. The database seems to contain a full set of design numbers for showing PNG images of the drawing pages, but as the remainder is scanned content it is likely that some material has been missed. Of course, if no keywords were mentioned then relevant Design Patents won't turn up. There is a classification scheme, but this would simply define badges, pins, flags and so on.

A specific design can be found on that database by asking for e.g, D27621.

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