Location of original: Offices of Beem Patent Law Firm, Chicago, IL

Key Signers

President: James Madison
Secretary of State: James Monroe
Attorney General: William Pinkney

Patent Information

Date signed: August 3, 1813
Inventor: John James Giraud
Invention Title: Wooden Still

James Madison, as president, and James Monroe, as secretary of state, signed this patent on a new and useful improvement in a wooden still as well as an improvement in the distilling process.

On display is the first page of the patent, which is bound like a book with blue ribbon. The form differs from #5. For example, the preprinted text is no longer in script. Also, the year “one thousand eight hundred and thirteen” as well as the “thirty-eighth” year of independence, is included in the preprinted form, whereas the previous patent (#5) was not specific to any year of independence.

Superintendent of Patents- Dr. Thorton Saves Patent Models

During the War of 1812, on August 25, 1814, Thornton observed the burning by the British of public buildings in Washington. See Patent Office History, Chapter 11. Informed that the British were preparing to burn the War Office and Blodgett’s Hotel (a misnomer: Blodgett’s originally was intended to be a hotel, but the bankruptcy of its builder led to its use as the site of the Thornton’s office), Thornton made his way to Blodgett’s Hotel to see if he could remove a musical instrument he had in the building. According to contemporaneous accounts, Thornton was so successful in pressing his request for sparing of his musical instrument that he went on to ask, also successfully, that the patent models (and thus the building in which they were housed) be spared as useful to all mankind, not just Americans, urging the British not to follow the example of the Turks in their burning of the Library at Alexandria, which act was justly condemned by the judgment of history. (1)

In April 1819, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary that he visited the Superintendent Thornton’s office, and that Thornton gave him a tour of the model room, leading to the Secretary’s new understanding of the value for engineers in study of patents and models. See Patent Office History, Chapter 12.

John Quincy Adams continued to take an interest in patents, as Secretary of State in 1823, intervening to authorize hiring of a skilled mechanic for repair of patent models, see Patent Office History, Chapter 12, and later as President, delivering a message to Congress in 1825 calling for improvement of the patent system, even while in his ongoing responsibilities he often worked late into the night to review and sign patents. See Paul C. Nagel, John Quincy Adams (1997).

The Patent Act of 1836 marked a major, systemic revision of U.S. patent law and practice, providing for the creation of the U.S. Patent Office (which many years later was provided with additional authority over trademarks and was renamed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is the name it bears today). Enactment of the Patent Act of 1836 was spurred by complaints about the grant of patents for things that lacked novelty, and also by the growing number of inventions in the U.S. and the need for examination of applications and issuance of patents to deserving inventors, and the inability of a small office within the State Department to handle the increasing volume of applications. Modern claim drafting practices worldwide, requiring the applicant or his or her attorney to “particularly specify and point out the part, improvement or combination, which he [or she] claims as his [or her] own invention or discovery,” trace their origin to the Patent Act of 1836.

It was on July 13, 1836, that patents were first issued with patent numbers, beginning on that date with the number 1 (issued to U.S. Senator J. Ruggles for his invention of “Traction Wheels”), and proceeding in numerical order. Subsequently, such older patents as could be identified (many were destroyed in the Patent Office Fire of December 15, 1836, see http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/opa/kids/special/1836fire.htm) were provided with “X” numbers and, at that time, Samuel Hopkins’s 1790 patent was numbered “X000001.”

The historic, original U.S. patents in the Beem Collection of Presidential-Signed Patents were issued between 1800 and 1835 and, thus, they were issued without patent numbers. It presumably would be possible to correlate them with X-numbers, however, this correlation has not yet been performed.

(1) Thornton’s sparing of Blodgett’s Hotel nevertheless resulted in the eviction of his office in favor of Congress, which, now homeless, met in Blodgett’s Hotel. Also, the office ultimately did burn (due to an accidental fire caused by unsafe but not uncommon indoor storage of hot ashes), along with almost all its records and models, in 1836, while awaiting construction of a new Patent Office building.

Patent Transcript – Front Page

The United States of America,


Whereas John James Giraud a Citizen of the United States hath alleged that he has invented a new and useful improvement

in distilling & of his wooden Still

which improvement he states has not been known or used before his application; hath made oath that he does verily believe that he is the true inventor or discoverer of the said improvement; hath paid into the treasury of the United States the sum of thirty dollars, delivered a receipt for the same, and presented a petition to the Secretary of State, signifying a desire of obtaining an exclusive property in the said improvement, and praying that a patent may be granted for that purpose: These are therefore to grant, according to law, to the said John James Giraud his heirs, administrators or assigns, for the term of fourteen years, from the third day of August one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, the full and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using and vending to others to be used, the said improvement; a description whereof is given in the words of the said John James Giraud himself, in the schedule hereto annexed, and is made a part of these presents.

In testimony whereof, I have caused these Letters to be made Patent, and the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of Washington, this third day of August in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, and of the independence of the United States of America, the thirty-eighth.

James Madison


James Monroe  Secretary of State.

City of Washington, To wit:

I DO HEREBY CERTIFY, That the foregoing Letters Patent were delivered to me on the third day of August in the Year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, to be examined; that I have examined the same, and find them conformable to law: and I do hereby return the same to the Secretary of State, within fifteen days from the date aforesaid, to wit: On this third day of August in the year aforesaid.

William Pinkney Attorney General of the United States.

Patent Transcript – Back Page

Chapiters its form resembles that of a retort; its body or belly is about 3 feet six inches, in diameter its bottom is elevated and at the side of its bend is an opening which receives a pipe 15 inches in diameter & 2 feet in length one foot of which rests within & the other runs out in order, to pass on & shut itself up in an opening which is in the middle of the top of the large Chapiter. This pipe is so placed, that the pipe which discharges the vapours, will have its ordinary inclination. There is a great turnspit, with a chain, which moves about in the boiler for Distillation.

Description of the Furnace

This furnace is of a round form, more or less high, forming above a platform of 9 or 10 feet in diameter, in the middle of this platform is an opening about two feet in diameter for the purpose of placing there a pipe of cast iron of the same diameter which will be fixed in this opening. This pipe will be about 2 feet 4 inches long. Two feet will be outside, and four feet in the brick work, to form a kind of chimney. There are 2 openings (one opposite the other) on each side of this pipe of about 9 inches in diameter which descend obliquely a foot in depth, on the platform in the heart of the furnace & run outside to meet & enter a chimney at the side of the furnace. The fire place of this chimney is 2 feet lower than the platform of same shape as air furnaces. This fire place is 4 feet 4 inches long, 3 feet wide & 10 inches high. The ash hole is below of the same diameter, with a door like that of the other a little passage being between the two doors to give vent to the air. This furnace produces a greater heat with little fuel. The platform on which the still is to be placed ought to be covered with mortar made of the best lime, sand ashes salt & Rosin 4 inches thick & the still must be placed on it in such manner that the little chimney or pipe of the middle of the platform shall enter the centre of the inside of the boiler, so that the flew of the furnace may strike the centre of the bottom of this boiler & thence descend into the two openings at the sides of the pipe, in order to enter the chimney at this spot a damper will regulate the heat. The flew of this furnace brought to the Chimney may make another Still boil, & by its means many others may be heated.

Description of the Worm

This worm is formed of many small worms of common pewter put together as follows. Three or more worms of one inch in diameter, with 20 or 30 turns are placed in a row in a wood frame which supports them; 2 or 3 others with same turns are placed in a row in the same frame, a little higher than the other, these form the front & the openings or ends of these last enter last turns of the others to empty themselves within & the openings of the lower ends of the 3 first empty all the liquor of the other in a pipe, which receives the said ends. These 5 or 6 upper ends or openings are fixed in a little plate of brass or pewter of a form a little concave; which keeps them all fixed near one another on the same level & in such a way, that the liquor or vapour which is brought here, may distribute itself in equal quantities. This plate is covered with a kind of funnel, the other end of which funnel forms a common pipe of a diameter to receive the pipe from the head of the still. The effect of this worm is to acord the spirituous vapour a space of 5 or 6 inches in diameter & to divide the liquor into little volums & to give it longer space to purify & experience a kind of condensation more perfect, less vapour is lost, the liquor is finer & discharges faster & in greater quantities.

J.J. Giraud


JO. Smith
P. Taylor

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