Today, the Half Cent Coin remembers the first recorded patent by a woman 208 years ago in the United States Patent Office.
An excerpt from an article by Mrs. William Eisenman of Kunkle, Ohio, titled Woman as an Inventor, printed in the Fifty-Ninth Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture, published 1905.
The first patent ever issued to a woman was granted in 1738, to Sara Gerome, for a machine for cutting wood into thin pieces for use in making bandboxes and sword sheaths.
The first invention by woman mentioned in our patent office reports was a device for weaving straw with silk and thread by Mary Kies, May 5, 1809.
A wealthy banker’s wife, of New York, invented a machine for twisting wire rope, the patent of which she sold for fifty thousand dollars.
The Burden horseshoe machine, turning out a horseshoe every three seconds and by which thirty-three million dollars was saved to the public in fifteen years, was invented by a woman; also many important attachments to the reaper and mowing machine.
The invention of the baby carriage has remunerated a San Francisco lady to the amount of fourteen thousand dollars.
In the invention of baby jumpers, trundle beds, juvenile toys and games, churns, dish washing appliances, washing machines and other similar domestic devices, women naturally have been prolific.
A Philadelphia woman is responsible for an invention by means of which hundreds of readymade barrels are turned out every day, which she furnishes to the sugar and oil refineries at a comfortable profit.
Mrs. Emma Mills has invented a typewriter attachment and personally superintends the manufacture and sale of her invention, which required the making of special tools to facilitate the output of the article.
Mrs. Cynthia Westover is another woman who has made her mark as an inventor; she has patented an improved dumpcart which has been practically tested and works perfectly; it may also be used in coaling vessels.
Mrs. Eubank, of California, has invented a combined trunk and bureau which is complete In every detail for home use and travel.
The paper pail was invented by a Chicago lady. A woman invented that wonderful little patent shirt button which has been such a boon to the men and saved the use of so many expletives.
The furnace for melting ore, a process for burning petroleum to generate steam, a spark arrestor for locomotives, a signal rocket used in the navy, a steam whistle and a writing machine all were invented by women.
The deep sea telescope for bringing the bottoms of ships into view without raising them into dry dock, for inspecting wrecks and making examinations for torpedoes, was invented by Mrs. Mather and her daughter.
The Metropolitan Elevated Railway Company, of New York City, paid Mrs. Mary Walton ten thousand dollars and a royalty for life for an Invention which deadened the noise on their lines. Edison had worked upon this patent for months. He walked up and down their lines so often with a stick in his hand that the employees called him “the Wizard.”
Miss Montgomery, of New York, has recently been granted a patent for an improved war vessel.
Mrs. Martha Coston invented the Coston signals, used to such good advantage during the Civil war. They have been valuable in the life saving service and have been adopted by many European governments.
Mrs. Green, with the assistance of Eli Whitney, invented the cotton gin. Mrs. Green, being a wealthy Georgia plantation owner and seeing the slow process of separating the seed from the cotton, called into play the ingenuity of Mr. Whitney (who was boarding with her) for the construction of a machine to do the work more rapidly. Wooden teeth were tried at first without success, and Mr. Whitney became discouraged and wished to give it up, but Mrs. Green with that sticktoitiveness, peculiar to woman, would not consent and suggested the substitution of wire teeth and within a few days a model was completed so perfect that all succeeding gins have been based upon it. Mrs. Green has been given but little, if any, credit for her very important part in the work.
Mrs. John Miller, of Syracuse, New York, noticing that in all the great fires more people lost their lives from the effects of suffocation by smoke than by flames, set to work upon a device for relieving this condition among firemen, and has succeeded in producing an article of head wear which is practically fire proof, heat proof and smoke proof. It is made of asbestos cloth; holes in which mica is fitted are cut through for the eyes; over the mouth is a sponge kept moist which permits the fireman to breathe. With this cap the firemen who tested it in Syracuse entered a room full of smoke and stayed there for thirty-five minutes without any apparent ill effect, and the fire department pronounced it the best addition to their weapons they have yet received. Another wise scientific suggestion of this talented inventor is the use of an overcoat, also made of fine asbestos cloth.
A cooking clock was recently invented by a woman. What a blessing it would be to us women if some one’s fertile brain would be able to invent a device for doing the cooking and general housework, especially when we have a literary turn of mind.
From the foregoing we have only a small idea of what woman has accomplished in the way of invention. From 1790 to 1897 there were four thousand, four hundred and fifty-eight patents issued to women, about one hundred of these being foreigners. The past year there have been more than five hundred applicants for patents.
The number of patents taken out by women is increasing rapidly year by year, marking the step of education, civilization, wealth and luxury. The rapid increase in woman’s patents is clear evidence that it has been opportunity, rather than faculty, that was lacking to place her among the inventors of the day.
Who of us visiting the World’s Fair was not proud of the woman’s building! Beautiful in conception, design and execution, it stood there with its gathered treasures marking an era in the growth of woman’s power of accomplishments that was full of interest to us all.
But woman is only half awake to her possibilities. The more she becomes familiar with the commercial and industrial needs of the country the better she will be able to master the mechanical complexities of the day.
Edison prefers women to assist him in his electrical inventions, as is made evident by the fact that he has on his payroll the names of more than two hundred women. He has said that woman has a more delicate perception of machinery in one minute that most men have in a whole life time.
The Half Cent Coin shows with an image of a Renoir painting of Woman in a Flowered Hat.