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Identify Mystery Antiques
If you've got any "mystery" tools or equipment lying around your home or barn that you just can't identify, you'll be interested in this simple and easy way to find out everything you needed to know about virtu-ally any piece of antique or even recent model equipment.
C.F. Marley of Nokomis, Ill., who often writes about farm equipment for FARM SHOW and is also an accomplished inventor in his own right, came up with the idea after buying a piece of equipment at a church auction that no one could identify. "Even the auctioneer, who was in his 80's and had conducted thousands of auctions in his career, said he'd never seen anything like it before. After looking at it, I guessed it was a sausage stuffer and decided to make a bid on the cast iron rig, which was in beautiful condition. Embossed in metal was the name `John Wagner, Pittsburg, Penn., March 21, 1859'," says Marley, who set out to find out more about Mr. Wagner's invention after he got his "prize" home.
Marley started at a nearby U.S. Patent Office depository library in Springfield, Ill. Patent depositories are usually located within libraries in bigger cities and they contain information about every invention ever patented in the U.S., back to patent number one issued in the late 1700's ( the total number of patents issued is now over 5 million). There's no cost to use the depositories - all you do is talk to the librarians on duty and they'll help dig out whatever you need. Marley says if you don't live near a depository library, you can get the same information by writing the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., although it generally takes a few weeks for them to reply.
In Marley's case, he went toe the patent depository and looked up the name John Wagner in the 1859 directory. That provided him with a patent number for Wagner's invention and then it was a simple matter to look through aroll of microfilm for that year to pull up a copy of the patent for what turned out to be Wagner's sausage stuffer. The patent contains a drawing, description and claims made by Wagner 133 years ago. We got a print-out copy containing all the informaton just by pushing a button.
Marley says it's more common to find just a patent number on a piece of equipment. In that case, you can skip the first step and just look it up. "Old patents are filled with a lot of fascinating information that give you an idea of the state of technology during a given time period. For example, since I had the entire year of 1989 up on microfilm, I decided to look through and see what other sausage stuffers might have been invented that year. It turned out there were four different stuffer patents granted that year, which told me there was a lot of interest in making sausage at that time.
Another time, Marley found a hay carrier used in many old barns to put up loose hay in lofts. Information embossed on the carrier said it was patented Dec. 25, 1906 and the trade name was Boomer. "At the patent library, I simply found the 1906 patent directory, looked up under "hay carrier" and the date and found my carrier, which had been invented by a W. Gutenkunst of Milwaukee, Wis.
Anyone interested in searching out patents can write for booklet, General Information Concerning Patents, U.S. Patent Office, Washington, D.C. 20231. The booklet lists all Patent Deposit Libraries so you can find the one nearest you and also tells how to order patents direct by mail.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, C.F. Marley, P.O. Box 93, Nokomis, Ill. 62075 (ph 217 563-2588).

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1992 - Volume #16, Issue #3