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Fourth of July US patents and the Seaview

July 3, 2020
by Mark Ollig

I was surprised to learn many technology-related US patents were approved on the Fourth of July.

“Aerial for Wireless Signaling” is the title of US Patent 793,651, issued July 4, 1905, to Reginald Aessenden.

Aessenden described his patent’s benefits related to “certain improvements in aerials for transmission and [reception] of electromagnetic waves over long distances.”

The triangular arrangement of supporting antenna guy wires and porcelain elements was described in Aessenden’s patent.

“Vending-machine” is the title of US Patent 1,189,954, granted July 4, 1914.

Its inventor, Alonzo Jacobs, said his machine “ . . . comprises a suitable base whose upper portion is formed into a tray compartment, this compartment containing a circular chambered delivery tray similar to the well-known dropping-plate employed in seed-planting machinery.”

The next time you use a vending machine and watch your product drop down into the delivering tray, you can thank Alonzo Jacobs.

Although not issued July 4, I found a patent with a Minnesota connection appropriate for the Fourth of July summer vacations spent here in “the land of 10,000 lakes.”

For the record, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports 11,842 lakes.

US Patent 2,854,787 issued Oct. 7, 1958, is for a self-propelled toy fish, invented by Paul E. Oberg, from Falcon Heights.

“This invention relates to a novel device for propelling and steering a buoyant object in a liquid medium. More particularly, the invention is concerned with means for propelling toy aquatic creatures,” Oberg described.

A patent for another aquatic creature was approved July 4.

US Patent 2,990,645, titled “Toy Whale,” was issued July 4, 1961, for an electrically powered, self-propelled toy whale.

Dean A. Polzin invented an animated toy whale having the ability “to move through the water and to alternately dive and surface while moving through the water,” as he described in his patent.

In addition to a battery motor inside the toy whale’s hollow body, a hand-crank can be used to wind tension cords for energy to propel the toy whale under and over the water.

Spring-actuated counterbalancing methods are used inside the whale for stability as it traverses the water.

Polzin also included a small hole on the top of the toy whale that shoots water as it rises to the surface, simulating a real whale’s spouting action.

US Patent 1,271,272, titled “Toy Submarine,” was granted two days before the Fourth of July to Joel W. Bunkley, July 2, 1918.

Speaking of toy submarines, during the mid-1960s, one of my favorite toys was the submarine from the TV series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”

It was the Seaview toy model submarine made by Remco.

The Seaview model is a 17-inch-long, yellow plastic submarine looking a lot like the model used in the TV series except for the color, which in the series was a darker shade of gray with a slight greenish tint.

At around 8 or 9 years old, I spent the weekend at my grandmother’s vacation home on Lake Minnie-Belle, near Litchfield.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I had brought along my Seaview model and looked forward to seeing it in a real body of water instead of the bathtub.

The next day, carrying the Seaview, I walked out from shore and stood waist-deep in Lake Minnie-Belle.

I envisioned being in the Pacific Ocean, where the television series’ Seaview was seen each week leaving port from Santa Barbara, CA.

The Seaview toy model is not nuclear-powered as shown on the TV show; instead, it uses a much simpler and nonradioactive “elastic motor propulsion.”

I needed to wind up the rubber-band located inside the submarine (using a blue plastic crank handle on the front of the sub) to create the energy to power its propeller.

After carefully placing my fully-charged Seaview submarine on the water’s surface, I was thrilled to see it begin traveling on the lake as the television series’ model did.

More than 50 years later, I still remember watching my Seaview submarine cruising on Lake Minnie-Belle. I also recall my grandmother smiling as she watched the submarine’s journey across the water.

President George Washington signed The Patent Act of 1790, April 10, 1790.

This Act brought about the modern American patent system giving rights to inventors.

From 1790 through 1836, patents did not have a specific number assigned, just its name and issue date.

Samuel Hopkins was issued the first US patent July 13, 1790, to make potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer.

President George Washington signed Hopkins patent.

I learned George Washington and Thomas Jefferson personally signed many early US patents.

In December 1836, a fire destroyed an estimated 9,957 US Patent paper descriptions and drawings in storage.

The irony here is the patents were in temporary storage while a new fireproof structure was being built.

Using original patent copies in possession by its inventor or family members, replacement patents were made and reassigned with an “X” preceding a number.

A total of 2,847 patents were replaced.

A new US patent numbering system began July 13, 1836.

US Patent No. 1 was issued to John Ruggles for his “Traction Wheels” device used on locomotive engine wheels to reduce their sliding, which lessons the deterioration of train tracks.

As of January, the US Patent and Trademark Office reports more than 10,525,000 US patents have been issued since 1836.

In 2019, 333,530 patents were granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Stay safe out there.


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