The United States is a nation built on innovation. For a look at the history of invention and intellectual property (IP) in America, and to learn how U.S. presidents have played a role in our nation’s patent system, we invite you to step into the History Room at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Museum.
Did you know that presidents used to sign each patent issued in the United States? When you visit our History Room, you’ll learn that the Patent Act of 1790 required the sitting president to sign all patent documents. Eventually, this practice was phased out as duties shifted. However, to celebrate the issuance of patent number 10 million in 2018, this milestone patent was signed by President Donald J. Trump, the first time since 1976 that a president signed a patent. The NIHF Museum displays this patent along with others signed by Presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Gerald Ford.
Not only have presidents signed U.S. patent documents, but they have also brought attention to the impact of patented inventions. Perhaps the most famous example of this is President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s praise and gratitude for NIHF Inductee Andrew Higgins’ invention of the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) or Higgins Boat used in World War II. In a 1964 interview, Eisenhower said, “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us.” He explained that if Higgins had not invented the landing craft that allowed the Allied troops to successfully storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, “We never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.” In the NIHF Museum’s History Room, you can find fascinating artifacts and learn more about WWII-era innovations.
While many presidents have supported the U.S. patent system and recognized the contributions of our nation’s most influential inventors, only one president has earned a patent himself — President Abraham Lincoln. On May 22, 1849, Lincoln was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469 for a device designed to lift boats over shoals. He fully embraced the importance of IP, stating that “the patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
To explore the history of American innovation, plan your visit to the NIHF Museum to tour each of our exhibits, including the History Room, the Gallery of Icons™ and much more. You can even test your knowledge with two fun and challenging games — placing patents in chronological order and guessing the groundbreaking inventor behind some of the world’s greatest innovations — when you try out our interactive kiosk.