top of page

The Lincolns Visit the Patent Office

By David J. Kent

Washington D.C.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

On March 17, 1863, President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, tour the Patent Office. Lincoln is no stranger to the Patent Office. His own patent model resides there, for Patent No. 6469, “an improved method of getting vessels over shoals.” He took his son, Robert, there when he was a Congressman.

Also as a Congressman, Lincoln often assisted other Illinoisans get patents for their inventions. Lincoln wrote to Amos Williams, for example, telling him to send a description and drawing of his invention, along with $20 for the filing fee. Williams had sent a model, but reminded him that “nothing can be done…without having a description of your invention. You perceive the reason for this.” Similarly, Lincoln visits the Patent Office to inquire about an application for a patent by Jesse Lynch of Magnolia. “They tell me that no patent has [been] issued to any body,” Lincoln informs Lynch, “on any application made as late as the first of July last.”

On this day, however, the visit is more leisurely. He seems to be on a mission to find a suitable gift for foreign dignitaries. The New York Herald reports:

“This temple of American genius has lately received additions . . . Mrs. Lincoln, with characteristic unselfishness, has sent from the White House a splendid variety of the presents of the Kings of Siam and the Tycoon of Japan. Among the most noticeable is a suit of Japanese armor . . . for which the Knight of La Mancha would have given his boots. . . . The President and Mrs. Lincoln seemed to enjoy greatly this respite from the cares of State among so many interesting objects.”

Lincoln and Mary would return to the Patent Office several times for events raising money for organizations taking care of wounded soldiers.


bottom of page