March 10, 1849 — Today, Abraham Lincoln applied for a patent for an invention that lifted a boat over shoals and obstructions. A patent lawyer at one point in his career, the application process very familiar to the future president.
On May 22, 1849, he received Patent No. 6469. Although the invention was never manufactured, when he was elected in 1861, the accomplishment gave him the distinction of being the only U.S. president to hold a patent. (Shown above is his scale model at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.)
Did you know: Lincoln displayed a lifelong fascination with mechanical things. William H. Herndon, his last law partner, said this of the future president: “[Lincoln] evinced a decided bent toward machinery or mechanical appliances, a trait he doubtless inherited from his father who was himself something of a mechanic and therefore skilled in the use of tools.”
Henry Whitney, another lawyer friend of Lincoln’s, recalled: “While we were traveling in ante-railway days, on the circuit, and would stop at a farm-house for dinner, Lincoln would improve the leisure in hunting up some farming implement, machine or tool, and he would carefully examine it all over, first generally and then critically.”
Words of Wisdom
Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. The patent laws have secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.