A selection of 19th century patent designs from the Hagley Museum and Library will be on display all summer at Philadelphia International Airport.
The 49 people chosen to be part of the exhibition by Chris Cascio, assistant curator Alan W. Rothchild of Hagley, all have ties to Philly or, which suits air travellers, transportation, food and drink.
The airport’s “Artefacts of Invention: Patent Models from Hagley Museum and Library, 1845-1895” will feature just a tiny fraction of Hagley’s 5,000 patented designs. Miniature models of a design were once required by the US patent office in order to apply for a patent. Sometimes they were created by the inventor and sometimes by a professional model maker.
The exhibition presents the model of the improved travel trunk invented by Louis Ransom in 1867, the ancestor of the wheeled luggage commonly used today.
Ransom’s cylindrical trunk, which could be rolled, represented a different approach to the bulky rectangular trunks that porters had to carry.
A relative of the soft pretzels that are a staple Philadelphia snack is also on display.
Inventors William Lampert and Henry Hubert’s “pretzel” machine, patented in 1860, made quick work of crushing bread into pretzel and bagel shapes. The dough would be fed between metal rollers, stamped with a pretzel shape, and then the uniform “pretzels” would fall into a conveyor belt.
The exhibit has started and is expected to be complete by Memorial Day.
It will also serve as a preview of the late summer opening of nation of inventors in Hagley, a large exhibition featuring more than 100 patented designs, celebrating the spirit of American ingenuity.
This new permanent exhibit was completed and within days of opening the remnant of Hurricane Ida caused the Brandywine River to rise and flood Hagley. The exhibit was undamaged, but the basement of the building it is in was flooded, destroying much electricity and other infrastructure equipment.
To learn more about the history of patent designs, visit hagley.org/patentmodels
Betsy Price is a freelance writer from Wilmington with 40 years of experience, including 15 at the News Journal in Delaware.