Cliff Peterson, a civil engineer who collects patent models, made the buy of his life when he bought more then 40,000 of them for half a million dollars in 1979.
Now he's opening the more than 800 crates they came in and putting prices on them. Some of the models deal with steam inventions.
Here are samples of drawings and papers from a package Cliff sent IMA:
Steam engine valve gear, by P. W. Gates, D. R. Fraser and Thomas Chalmers, all of Chicago, patented July 5, 1859'a new and improved valve cut-off gear.'
Improvement for feeding boiler in locomotive, marine and stationary steam engines, by William H. Hubbell and David Matthew, Philadelphia, PA, patented May 29, 1855.
Means for taking the side strain from the rotative shaft and avoiding soft or elastic packing from coming in contact with the shaft, on rotary steam engines, by Matthew Fletcher, Louisville, Kentucky, September 18, 1866.
Improvement for rotary steam engines, Frank Rhind, Brooklyn, New York, November 3, 1869.
Improvement in anti-friction balanced valves, by William Seiffert, and Matthew T. Kane, both of New York City, March 28, 1871.
Peterson is cataloging some of the models at his California home. The rest are at Peterson's Garrison Inn, West Point, New York.
When the U.S. Patent Office was set up in 1790, models were required of all inventors who sought patents. The model requirement was dropped in 1793, but made law again in 1836. A fire at Christmas 1836, ruined the Blodgett Hotel, interim headquarters, and destroyed all Patent Office records and most models.
Congress appropriated $100,000 to restore 3,000 of the most important models. Very few survive; Peterson has a dozen.
Despite another fire, in 1877, which destroyed about 76,000 models, the flood of models continued to rise. Congress decreed in 1907 that no more models would be required. The Smithsonian Institute obtained 1,000 by famous inventors such as Edison and Whitney, and received some more later.
The bulk of the wooden crates containing the models was sold to a wealthy Briton who planned a patent model museum, but whose hopes were dashed by the 1929 stock market crash. Several buyers later owned the crates for various periods. Peterson, who had been collecting models since 1973 then bought the crates, some of which had not been opened since 1926.
Peterson, trying to find good homes for the models, publishes illustrated catalogs. Some of the models are very choice in fabrication. Peterson is also trying to locate descendants of inventors, to return models to them.
Catalog listings include pictures, numbers, brief summaries on purpose, estimates of condition, inventors' names, materials in the model, and prices.
To see the collection, an appointment is necessary. Write Cliff Petersen, Suite 400, 2444 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, California 90403. His telephone number is (213) 828-6041.