National Archives’ Inventor & Engineering History Records


1935 Construction Engineer (National Archives)Lately, you can’t look at the news without coming across a story about artificial intelligence and how it will shape our future.  But inventors and engineers have been using creativity and ingenuity for centuries to design the future.

In the National Archives, this innovation can be seen in Record Group 241 Records of the Patent and Trademark Office held in the Cartographic and Architectural Records Branch.  In the series Utility Patent Drawings, 1837-1911, you can find some interesting images demonstrating how applied science has shaped the modern world.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. Established on July 4th, 1836,  The USPTO can trace its beginning to Section 8, Article 1 of the Constitution which states:

“The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

In the Utility Patent Drawings series you can find patents for inventions that changed the world and ones that never caught on, but they all represent an attempt to solve a problem and improve the world through engineering.

New York Almanack collects its stories about engineering history here.

Photo of a construction engineer courtesy the National Archives.

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