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Our communities lay claim to US patent fame
February 15, 2010
by Mark Ollig

This week, we will take a break from the “That’s so amazing!” high-tech gadget columns.

Your Bits & Bytes columnist has been known for finding himself immersed in browsing the United States Patent Office web site for hours.

Tell me, what is more interesting than reading about all those famous (and not so famous) patented inventions?

The real reason I spent so much time searching the US Patent Office web site in the beginning (around 1996), can be attributed to my desire to see a copy of the US patent my father obtained.

Difficulties I ran into back then included search term queries – which were extremely limited for one thing – plus I needed to use a special software program (Visio) to view the technical drawings.

Today, it is much more straightforward when performing searches and viewing those technical drawings.

Last week, I found another way to search for patents online which helped me learn a bit about my own city’s patent history.

Since I grew up and worked in Winsted, I wanted to learn about any US patents attributed to my hometown.

As some of you may be aware, there are in fact two Winsteds, the other being in Connecticut.

When I entered my search term for Winsted, MN, I was amazed with the results.

The earliest issued patent for Winsted I found was from Oct. 17, 1871 and it belonged to Eli F. Lewis, who is considered by many to be the founder of Winsted.

His patent 119,933 is titled IMPROVEMENT IN WASH-BOILERS.

“Be it known that I, Eli F. Lewis, of Winsted Lake, in the County of McLeod and State of Minnesota, have invented certain Improvements in Automatic Washers . . .” states the first sentence on the patent.

Included in his patent are two drawings. Eli F. Lewis’s patent can be seen at tinyurl.com/yl4web6.

US Patent 211,477 was filed Oct. 5, 1878 by Narsice Sailvail of Winsted, MN.

The patent was titled IMPROVEMENT IN LINIMENTS. After a complete description and list of the ingredients, the following words are recorded on the patent: “The medicine is used in the cure of burns, sprains, bruises, rheumatism, fever-sores, &c., [sic] as a liniment.”

Narsice Sailvail’s US Patent 211,477 issue date occurred Jan. 21, 1879 and can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y9vwhkb.

US Patent 774,543 was listed as PARTY LINE TELEPHONE SYSTEM.

This patent was filed Nov. 20, 1903 by Felton Vollmer, a person whose name is well- known to those of us who grew up in Winsted.

Felton Vollmer was Winsted’s first mayor.

The patent description starts with, “Be it known that I, Felton Vollmer, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Winsted, in the County of McLeod and State of Minnesota, have invented a new and Improved Party-Line Telephone System, of which the following is a full, clear, and exact description.”

Vollmer goes on and gives a very truthful description of a telephone party-line, which this humble old telephone man can appreciate.

Three pages of drawings are shown by the inventor, and the next few pages of the patent description are exceptionally defined, insofar as the specific schematic description of materials used.

Felton Vollmer describes in precise detail how the contact-springs, magnets, ohms, resistance (resistors) wires, and other intricate components are attached and used.

Vollmer’s final summation of his invention is well worth reading.

Felton Vollmer’s US Patent number 774,543 issue date was Nov. 8, 1904. It can be seen at tinyurl.com/yazg94v.

Enoch E. Ritchie of Howard Lake Minnesota filed US Patent number 549,535 June 28, 1895 titled WASHING MACHINE.

In his patent application, Ritchie says about his invention, “The invention relates to improvements in washing-machines.”

Ritchie also states, “The object of the present invention is to improve the construction of washing-machines, and to provide a simple and inexpensive one which will enable the operation of washing to be rapidly and thoroughly effected without injuring the fabrics, and at the expenditure of a minimum amount of labor.”

The patent also includes two well-drawn diagrams of his improved washing machine.

Ritchie’s US Patent number 549,535 issue date was Nov. 12, 1895 and can be seen at tinyurl.com/yfhxyg7.

Sept. 5, 1882, Stephen Woodard of Delano, MN filed US Patent 276,950 titled as SIDING BRACKET.

Woodards begins his patent description with, “This invention has for its objects to provide an improved bracket to be employed for supporting the sidings in the construction of frame buildings while they are being nailed to the frame-work of the building and adjusting them to any desired position accurately and without trouble, as more fully hereinafter specified.”

A detailed drawing of the siding bracket is included in his patent.

Woodard’s US Patent number 276,950 issue date was May 1, 1883 and can be seen at tinyurl.com/yk8b647.

US Patent number 461,543 which was filed Dec. 27, 1890, belongs to Charles J. Carlson, of Cokato, MN.

Carlson’s patent was titled CURRY-COMB AND CLEANER.

I admit, I am not up on my curry combs, so I checked the Oxford pocket dictionary and found they are “. . . used for removing dirt out of a horse’s coat or for cleaning brushes with which a horse is being groomed.”

Carlson states on his patent, “The invention relates to improvements in curry-combs and cleaners. The object of the present invention is to provide a simple and inexpensive curry-comb and means for readily and effectively cleaning the same.”

Three nicely drawn diagrams of the curry-comb and cleaner are attached to the patent as well.

Carlson’s US Patent number 461,543 issue date was Oct. 20, 1891 and you can see it at tinyurl.com/y932hxp.

The patent information I used for this column was obtained from the beta web site at: google.com/patents.

The web site patft.uspto.gov is for the official United States Patent and Trademark Office.