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Title: X-Patent  
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Subject: History of United States patent law, United States patent law, History of patent law, United States Patent and Trademark Office
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X-Patent number 72, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

The X-Patents are all the patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office from July 1790 (when the first U.S. patent was issued), to July 1836. The actual number is unknown, but the best estimate is 9,957. The records were burned in a fire, in December 1836, while in temporary storage. No copies or rosters were maintained by the government at the time, leaving only the inventors’ copies to reconstruct the collection.

The USPTO and its earliest days

The Patent Commission of the U.S. was created in 1790. Its first three members were Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.

On July 31, 1790 inventor Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont became the first person to be issued a patent in the United States. His patented invention was an improvement in the “making of Pot Ash by a new apparatus & process.” The earliest patent law required that a working model of each invention be produced in miniature.

The Patent Law was revised for the first time in 1793. It adopted a simple registration system where a patent would be granted for a $30 fee. The Patent Board was replaced by a clerk in the Department of State. James Madison, Secretary of State, created a separate Patent Office within the State Department and he appointed Dr. William Thornton as its first superintendent in May 1802.

The Patent Office was the only major government building to survive the British invasion of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. This is credited to Dr. William Thornton who was building a musical instrument in the same building. He persuaded British officers that they would be destroying the shared intellectual record of mankind if the patents were burned. [1]

The 1836 fire

The Patent Office 1836 fire occurred on December 15 when the patents were in temporary storage while a new (more fireproof) facility was being built. A fire station was located next to the temporary storage facility, but the hoses and pumps were frozen, and the firemen were unable to prevent the loss.

Recovery of the X-Patents

The United States Congress immediately passed a law to aid re-issuing of the missing patents after the fire. About 2,800 such patents have been recovered,[2] and 1,989 are online.

Following the 1836 fire, a serial numbering system was instituted. This system is still in use today. When an earlier patent was recovered and re-issued, the USPTO sometimes gave it a fractional number (e.g. 2960½X, issued on June 2, 1818; 8736¾X, issued on March 27, 1835) to preserve the correct sequence. Most, but not all, fractional patents are X-Patents.

Prior to this, U.S. patents were identified by titles and dates. Since then, all new patents issued are preserved and given a serial patent number started from 1. The recovered patents are also numbered from 1, however, these numbers have an “X” added to them. The X is generally added to the end of the number except for the first patent which has the X in the beginning of the number. Therefore, they are called X-Patents.

The latest X-Patents were recovered in 2004 from the Dartmouth College archives.[3] Of the 14 found, 10 were granted to Samuel Morey including the first known patent for an internal combustion engine.

A list of some X-Patents

Patent Invention Inventor Date Link Notes
1X Potash production Samuel Hopkins July 31, 1790 U.S. Patent X1 First U.S. patent
72X Cotton Gin Eli Whitney March 14, 1794 Revolutionized cotton farming and textiles industry
4378X Gas Or Vapor Engine Samuel Morey April 1, 1826 U.S. Patent X4,378  
9000X Grate N. Winslow July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,000  
9430X Improvement in Fire-Arms Samuel Colt February 25, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,430 A key patent in revolver history
9899X Brick Machine C. Waterman July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,899  
9894X Plow Moldboard I. Snider July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,894  
9893X Lock A. Roff July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,893  
9890X Thrashing Mach. A. Parson July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,890  
9889X Cook Stove W. Parmalee July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,889  
9887X Plow T. Miller July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,887  
9886X Dressing Stares C. McGregory July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,886  
9885X Cotton Gin J. McCreight July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,885  
9884X Door Lock J. Mo Clory July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,884  
9882X Clover Huller W. Loomis July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,882  
9879X Feather Dresser F.P.Knowlton July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,879  
9878X Platform Balance J. Horton July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,878  
9877X Nail Extractor R. Haynes July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,877  
9876X Cotton Press H.G. Guyon July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,876  
9875X Cook Stove C. Granger July 2, 1836 U.S. Patent X9,875  

See also


  1. ^ "Great Patent Fire of 1836". The United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  2. ^ Riordan, Teresa. "Lawyers Unearth Early Patents". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Riordan, Teresa (August 9, 2004). "Lawyers Unearth Early Patents". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 

External links

  • X-Patents Online at USPTO Website
  • Interesting Patent Events
  • The U.S. Patent No. 1X
  • “Patent Models’ Strange Odyssey” by Teresa Riordan, The New York Times, February 18, 2002.
  • Early patent records found in library
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