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1836 Patent Fire
On December 15, 1836 the building temporarily housing the Patent Office caught fire. All of the approximately 10,000 patent documents from 1790-1836 and some patent models were destroyed. According to the U.S. Patent Office, only 2,845 patents were restored. These patents were given a new number beginning with the letter 'X'. You can read more about the Patent Office fire at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/01-60.htm
Many patent documents with historical significance were lost in the fire. If you are researching U.S. inventions from 1790-1836 it may be difficult or impossible to find the original patent. However, there are other ways to research inventions from this time period. Below are some databases, books, and magazines that can be helpful in finding information about an invention from this time period.
Making of the Modern World Digital Archive (1450-1850)
Digital edition of the Goldsmiths'-Kress collections of books that document economic and business activity in the West, from the last half of the 15th century to the mid-19th century. Materials include books, pamphlets and ephemera.
Nineteenth Century Masterfile
Combines various general, scientific, religious, psychological, and legal indexes covering the nineteenth century. Includes an index of the Subject matter index of patents issued by the U.S. (1790-1873).
There were several magazines published in the early nineteenth century called Mechanics' Magazine, one out of London, New York, and Boston. All included listings of patents or descriptions of inventions in England or the US. To access Princeton's collection, search in the catalog for Mechanics' Magazine as a Journal Title. Links to searchable electronic copies will be found in the catalog records. Be sure to check geographic and period coverage before searching.
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents 1790-1848
Internet Archive of "The U. S. Patent Office list of patents for inventions and designs from 1790-1847 with the patent laws and notes of decision of the courts of the United States for the same period."