Friday, July 31st. The first patent in the young United States was issued on this date in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins of Vermont for a new method of making potash — useful in producing soap, fertilizer, and glass. The Constitution recognized, for the first time in history, the intrinsic right of an inventor to profit from his invention. Hopkins’ application was initially reviewed by Thomas Jefferson and approved by President Washington. By 1802, the U.S. Patent Office was established to process applications. More than 326,000 patents were granted last year, out of some 615,000 submissions. Potash still has uses, as in Samuel Hopkins’ day. Mining it, along with soda and borate minerals, is a nearly $3 billion a year business in the U.S. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <www.census.gov>.
Saturday, August 1st. If you shop the cereal aisle in your supermarket, you’ll see dozens of brands on display, from the sugary and candy-like to high-fiber organic products. One of them has been available for over 120 years, an early entrant in the cereal business. It was on this date in 1893 that Denver restaurant owner Henry Perky received a patent for a “Machine for the Preparation of Cereals for Food.” That food was shredded wheat. By 1901, he had set up an ultra-modern plant at Niagara Falls called “the Palace of Light” to make shredded wheat, and the falls became the familiar logo of the cereal, which continues as a Nabisco product. In the U.S. today, there are 69 breakfast cereal manufacturing establishments, employing 13,500 workers. The business earns a combined $11 billion in annual sales. Profile America is in its 19th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sunday, August 2nd. A patent awarded on this date in 1903 literally affected the shape of things to come.Specifically, the shape of glass things to come. Michael Owens of Toledo, Ohio, patented a machine that could automatically manufacture glass bottles, producing four per second. The invention standardized and expanded the glass industry. It also enabled tremendous growth in the soft drink and beer industries, making available a less expensive way of packaging their products. Owens’ later machines were developed to quickly turn out standard, uniform glass jars, as we use today. Manufacturing glass containers currently engages 80 establishments and 14,000 workers in the U.S., with annual business receipts of around $5 billion. You can find current data on the country’s economy by downloading the ‘America’s Economy’ mobile application at <www.census.gov/mobile>.