Autographs, Historic Documents, Vintage Photographs, Fine Art




ABRAHAM LINCOLN PATENT COLLECTION: On March 10, 1849, U. S. Senator Abraham Lincoln, filed a patent for a device, for buoying riverboats over the shoals that obstructed the shallow waters of rivers, with the U. S. Patent Office. Patent No. 6,469 was approved two month later, giving Abraham Lincoln the honor of being the only U. S. President to hold a patent. Years later, that patent and a Civil War-dated handwritten note by the president came together.


Abraham Lincoln Signed War-Dated Note to His Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, “Submitted to the Sec. of War. A. Lincoln, Aug. 6, 1862”, 3 x 3, that was discovered in a rare copy of the U. S. House of Representatives book that was published in 1850 and contained three entries regarding Abraham Lincoln’s patent, issued while he was a U. S. Congressman, among a list of patents issued in 1849. There is a lot of speculation regarding this handwritten note and this 625 page book being found together. Why in the heat of the American Civil War would President Lincoln want his Sec. of War to have a copy of this book? Or, why would the Sec. of War put President Lincoln’s note in a copy of this book? Or, how and why, was this handwritten note by Abraham Lincoln and this beautiful leather bound government report united? That’s the fun of historical research and the joy of owing exciting and interesting autograph documents like these.


Comes with the Patent Office Report containing patent for Abraham Lincoln's Invention: US Patent Office House of Representative Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1849, Office of Printers to the House of Reps., 1850. First Edition, First Printing. 8vo, attractive leather bound with gilt spine. The book contains three patent references for Abraham Lincoln of Springfield, IL, on page 57 and 96 and his descriptive statement on page 262. Lincoln received the patent on May 22, 1849, No. 6469, for a device to lift boats over shoals. Though it was never manufactured did he want to remind his Sec. of War about its possible use in river warfare during the Civil War?  

 As a teen, Lincoln used his river navigation skills to explore the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As a young adult, he worked on the crew of several cargo ships, moving goods to New Orleans down the Mississippi River. His skills and intuition were essential on one such trip, when the boat was damaged after it ran aground on a shallow. Lincoln quickly led the effort to shift cargo, drain water and move the boat along without capsizing. This experience, and others, including one in 1848 when he was a congressman, led to Lincoln's interest in improving the technologies and resources available to the shipping and boating industries. He spent about a year in between sessions of Congress developing a solution to this common river navigation scenario. As his law partner William Herndon later wrote: "Continual thinking on the subject of lifting vessels over sand bars and other obstructions in the water suggested to him the idea of inventing an apparatus for this purpose." And in the end, the only one ever built was Lincoln's scale model that accompanied Lincoln’s patent application and now sits in the Smithsonian Institution. Included in this collection is a typescript of the original patent, a reproduction photo of the actual scale model and copies of the patent drawings.


Our sixteenth president was mechanically-inclined and a staunch upholder of the patent system. His successful patent application led to his drafting and delivering two lectures on the subject of patents while he was President. Years earlier Lincoln was at times a patent attorney and was familiar with the patent application process as well as patent lawsuit proceedings. We also discovered that in September 1855, Edwin Stanton went to Cincinnati, to be part of a legal team in a patent case that included Abraham Lincoln. Both he and his future Secretary of War provided counsel for their client.

Stanton proved an influential force in managing the Union war effort and eventually became one of Abraham Lincoln’s closest advisers. The Civil War began with both sides scrambling to put their navies on a war footing. Every battle was fought within twenty miles of a railroad or a navigable river. Control of navigable rivers was of primary importance during the Civil War because they were major arteries of the operation in that era. As for the movement and supply of large Armies, water transport was all but indispensable throughout the great region of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and very necessary along the eastern seaboard. The Union’s hard-won gains on the nation’s rivers were instrumental to overall victory in the war. Could this be reason for Lincoln wanting to alert Stanton to the possibility of using his patented invention in the war effort or was Stanton reviewing Lincoln’s patent to see what application it might offer for better river navigation and simply left Lincoln’s note with the patent book?                                                                      

It should also be noted that on the date of this handwritten note, President Lincoln spoke to a crowd gathered on the east front of the Capitol Building to dispel rumors that General George McClellan and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were feuding. A few months earlier, General McClellan’s ill-fated Peninsular Campaign of April 1862 had been saved by the evacuation by water which was covered by the U. S. Naval Squadrons. At about the same time Admiral Farragut’s forces were able to defeat Confederate naval resistance on the lower Mississippi to capture New Orleans. Both of these events would surely give Lincoln motivation to want to see his invention made available for use during the war. He most likely would have discussed this with Stanton. Or at least they would have discussed Lincoln’s patent years earlier when they worked together. This is a wonderful conversation piece and a rare find worthy of consideration by any serious Abraham Lincoln collector.

All five items in fine condition, with age toning on the note and folding creases.

$9900   #11569ZLRMA