A selection of 19th century patent models from Hagley Museum and Library will be on display throughout the summer at Philadelphia International Airport.
The 49 chosen to be part of the exhibit by Chris Cascio, Hagley’s Alan W. Rothchild assistant curator, all have connections to Philly or — appropriate for air travelers — transportation, food and drink.
The airport’s “Artifacts of Invention: Patent Models from Hagley Museum and Library, 1845-1895,” will feature only a tiny portion of Hagley’s 5,000 patent models. Miniature models of a design were once required by the U.S. patent office in order to apply for a patent. Sometimes they were created by the inventor and sometimes by a professional model maker.
On display is the model for the improved traveling trunk invented by Louis Ransom in 1867, a predecessor to the wheeled luggage commonly used today.
Ransom’s cylindrical trunk, which could be rolled, represented a different approach to the bulky, rectangular trunks porters had to carry around.
Also on display is a relative of the soft pretzels that are a Philadelphia staple snack.
The “bretzel” machine from inventors William Lampert and Henry Hubert, patented in 1860, made quick work of stamping out pretzel- and bagel-shaped bread. The dough would be fed between metal rollers, stamped with a pretzel shape, then the uniform “bretzels” would fall into a conveyor belt.
The exhibit has been started and is expected to be finished by Memorial Day.
It will also serve as a preview to the late-summer opening of Nation of Inventors at Hagley, a major exhibition featuring more than 100 patent models, celebrating the American spirit of ingenuity.
That new permanent exhibit was finished and within days of opening when the remnant of Hurricane Ida caused the Brandywine River to rise and flood Hagley. The exhibit wasn’t damaged, but the basement of the building it’s in was flooding, ruining a lot of power and other infrastructure equipment.
To learn more about the history of patent models, go to hagley.org/patentmodels
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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