City of Fullerton
Public Information Office

303 W. Commonwealth
Fullerton, CA 92832
Phone: (714) 738-6317


Subject :

Last Chance to See Exhibit
Contact :Fullerton Museum Center    (714) 738-6545
Fullerton City Manager’s Office    (714) 738-6317
Fullerton, Ca – "The Curious World of Patent Models" which opened on January 19 will be coming to a close on Sunday, March 31. “The Curious World of Patent Models” features over 50 original working models, including everything from the first patented rocking chair to the first burglar alarm.

A Family Day is planned by the Fullerton Museum to give everyone one last chance to see this exhibit on Sunday, March 31 from noon to 4:00 p.m. Drop-in tours, crafts and a scavenger hunt are all part of the planned festivities that is free with museum admissions.

From the time the U.S. Patent office was founded in 1790 and throughout the industrial revolution, inventors were required to apply for a patent.  A patent is a government-issued document that protects an invention or idea for up to twenty years.  This gives the inventor the opportunity to produce and sell the invention – or license others to do so – and to make a profit.  And while “patent model” may not be a familiar term today, to U.S. inventors between 1790 and the late 1800s, it was commonplace.  In order to obtain a patent, an application had to be accompanied by a working model of the invention.  These were called “patent models,” and were generally no larger than 12 inches square.  The models were made for the patent examiners, who compared similar inventions side by side, to see if the patents were new and different.  It was a unique system because no other patent system anywhere in the world required models – then or now.  The Patent Act of 1870 rescinded the model requirement, although models continued to be submitted and accepted through the early 20th Century.

The Rothschild Patent Model Collection is the largest private collection of viewable United States patent models in the world, and includes the work of many women, foreign and famous inventors. Containing over 4,000 patent models and related documents the collection spans America's Industrial Revolution.  The 58 models in this exhibition were created between 1852 and 1902 and vary from household to mechanical and technical to simplistic. Only one model exists for each invention, complete with its hand-written original tag. 

Museum visitors will recognize the names associated with many of the models:  a still from the Beam family of Bardstown, Kentucky, Christian Steinway’s capodastro frame for pianofortes, Eli Whitney’s (the son) breech-loading firearm, John Sargent’s improvement for safe doors, and a “machine for casting confectionary” by Stephen Whitman.  The exhibition also include patent models representing inventions and improvements from farmers, schoolteachers, carpenters, bankers and a house wife-all of whom by their everyday experiences envisioned and developed new and life-improving ideas.

The museum is located at 301 N. Pomona Ave., east of Harbor Blvd., in downtown Fullerton.  Hours are noon-4 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Sunday, and noon – 8 p.m. Thursday. Further information may be obtained by calling the Fullerton Museum Center at (714) 738-6545.

Persons requiring special accommodations to attend are asked to notify the museum staff prior to coming to the museum.