MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Historical Patent Records

from the Blatchford, Seward & Griswold Collection (1841-1910)


Drawing: sewing machine

Portion of patent drawing: Elias Howe, Jr.'s sewing machine

View of entire drawing

The law firm of Blatchford, Seward & Griswold (BS&G) helped many prominent American inventors in the nineteenth century with patent application and patent extension procedures. BS&G provided counsel for individuals and companies accused of infringement and for inventors bringing lawsuits. The firm also worked with newly formed manufacturing firms on patent licensing matters. Blatchford, Seward & Griswold is a predecessor to the New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which gave the collection to MIT in 1955.


From testimony of June 31, 1860,
by James McCall

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The BS&G records pertain to thirty-four inventions. Among the clients represented are Samuel F. B. Morse (regarding unlicensed telegraph lines), Charles Goodyear (regarding patent extension of a rubber manufacturing process), and Elias Howe, Jr. (regarding patent extension for the sewing machine). The collection includes copies of patent applications, correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, drawings, printed court records, court notices, witness lists, depositions, transcripts of testimony, and patent assignments. Records relating to Howe's sewing machine, such as the examples reproduced here, are particularly detailed. Testimony taken from workers in Boston and New York illustrates changes in working conditions brought about by the introduction of the sewing machine, offering insight into the lives of the men and women working in the clothing industry--from factory owners to seamstresses.

More recent materials pertaining to patents, copyrights, and licensing agreements in the holdings of the Institute Archives and Special Collections include the records of the MIT Technology Licensing Office and its predecessors. In 1932 the MIT Committee on Patent Policy was formed to address issues of ownership of inventions and discoveries stemming from research done at the Institute. During World War II, the Patent Committee, which was composed of faculty members, recommended the creation of an administrative Patent Management Committee. By 1986, the Patent, Copyright, and Licensing Office, having been a part of the Division of Sponsored Research, had become a separate entity and was renamed the Technology Licensing Office. Its function is to facilitate patent applications in the United States and abroad and to execute copyright and patent licenses with industries, government agencies, and other research institutions.

The Blatchford, Seward & Griswold records (MC 4) are available for research in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, as well as the records of the MIT Committee on Patent Policy, 1931-1968 (AC 64), the MIT Patent, Copyright, and Licensing Office, 1930-1979 (AC 67), and the MIT Technology Licensing Office (AC 503 and AC 558).

Object of the Month: November 2006

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