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Fascinating facts about the invention of a Pot Ash Process by Samuel Hopkins in 1790.

POT ASH PROCESS
AT A GLANCE:
The first inventor to avail himself of the advantages of the 1790 Patent Act was Samuel Hopkins, born in Vermont and living in Philadelphia, who received a patent on the 31st of July for an improved method of "Making Pot Ash and Pearl Ashes."
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
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DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: Making Pot Ash and Pearl Ashes
U.S. Patent No. 1 issued July 31, 1790 courtesy USPTO
Function: noun / pot-ash
Definition: Pot Ash, is a potassium carbonate, esp. the crude impure form obtained from wood ashes. Useful in making soap and in the manufacture of glass
Patent: X1* issued July 31, 1790
Inventor: Samuel Hopkins
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IMAGE
AVAILABLE
Criteria; First to invent. First to patent. Entrepreneur.
Birth: December 9, 1743 just north of Baltimore, Maryland
Death: 1818 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality: American
Milestones:
potash, pot ash, pearl ash, pot ash improvements, Hopkins, Samuel Hopkins, first patent, history, invention, facts, bipgraphy, inventor.
The Story:
The world knows nothing of this Samuel Hopkins, but the potash industry, which was evidently on his mind, was quite important in his day. Potash, that is, crude potassium carbonate, useful in making soap and in the manufacture of glass, was made by leaching wood ashes and boiling down the lye. To produce a ton of potash, the trees on an acre of ground would be cut down and burned, the ashes leached, and the lye evaporated in great iron kettles. A ton of potash was worth about twenty-five dollars. Nothing could show more plainly the relative value of money and human labor in those early times.

 
*  Prior to the Patent Act of July 4, 1836, patents were issued by name and date rather than number. The Patent Office had already issued nearly 10,000 patents, when a fire destroyed many of the original records in December of 1836. Using private files, the office was able to restore 2,845 patents. The restored records were issued a number beginning with an "X" and called the "X-Patents." Thus the first patent ever issued was actually designated patent X1. The patents that could not be restored were cancelled.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Creation of the U.S. Patent System   from The Great Idea Finder
Historical Patents   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The Patent Guide: A Friendly Guide to Protecting and Profiting from Patents
by Carl W. Battle / Paperback - 192 pages (November 1997) / Watson-Guptill Pubns

Geared toward the businessperson and individual inventor, this overview takes the reader from inception to patent drafting, follows an application through the Patent Office, shows how to select legal representation if needed, and concludes with information on infringement procedures, foreign protection options, and licensing and marketing an invention.
Patent Searching Made Easy: How to Do Patent Searching on the Internet and in the Library
by David Hitchcock / Paperback - 208 pages 2nd edition (April 2000) / Nolo Press

This book should be a valuable aid to most inventors and an excellent starting point for first-time inventors

ON THE WEB:
FIRST U.S. PATENT ISSUED IN 1790
On July 31, 1790 Samuel Hopkins was issued the first patent for a process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer. The patent was signed by President George Washington. Hopkins was born in Vermont, but was living in Philadelphia, PA when the patent was granted.The first patent, as well as the more than 6 million patents issued since then, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website at www.uspto.gov. The original document is in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society.
(URL: www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/01-33.htm)
Ask Yahoo! Who holds U.S. patent number 1?
Patent 1, the first patent issued under the new numbering system, went to Senator John Ruggles of Thomaston, Maine. His invention, patented July 13, 1836, was a cog mechanism for locomotive wheels.

(URL: ask.yahoo.com/ask/20020408.html)
Gutenberg Project
From the book THE AGE OF INVENTION, A CHRONICLE OF MECHANICAL CONQUEST BY HOLLAND THOMPSON. In 1790, came a great boon and encouragement to inventors, the first Federal Patent Act, passed by Congress on the 10th of April.
(URL: www.gutenberg.net/etext01/nvent10.txt)
Samuel Hopkins: Holder of the First U.S. Patent
In a nation that cherishes its "firsts," we have been strangely neglectful of the holder of the first patent issued in the United States.  His name and the discovery that resulted in  the patent grant are all but unknown. 
(URL: www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/scitech/ptdl/pgh/samhopkins.html)
The First Patent
Less than a year after the potash patent was granted, the Quebec Parlement passed an ordinance to "reward" him for his discovery. Legal experts now consider this Canada's first patent.
(URL: www.me.utexas.edu/~lotario/paynter/hmp/The_First_Patent.html)
Chicago Historical Society
Handwritten patent certificate (letters patent), signed by George Washington, President, U.S., at the City of New York. Granted to Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia (Pa.), for an apparatus and process for leaching wood ashes to make potash and pearl ash [potassium carbonate]. Signed also by Edmund Randolph, attorney general. Seal is attached. Endorsed on verso by Thomas Jefferson, as delivered Aug. 4, 1790. This is believed to be the first patent granted by the United States Government.
(URL: www.chicagohs.org/)

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Patent No. 1 on July 31, 1790, for an improvement "in the making Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process." The patent was signed by President George Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
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Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised November 3, 2006.
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