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Chapter 1

Confederate Patent Office
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Confederate Patent Office Building

Rufus Rhodes
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On November 10, 1860, Rufus R. Rhodes was an employee of the United States Patent Office. He was a member of the "Board of Appeals", a position he termed "a post, whose duties are semi-judicial and semi-scientific and alike pleasant, responsible and honorable in their range and nature." The previous Tuesday, Abraham Lincoln had been elected President of the United States, and Rhodes was on this day writing to

Governor J.J. Pettus of his native state, Mississippi, to express his views on recent events and to offer his services to his state. Mr. Rhodes' mind was already made up. He wrote Governor Pettus that "I cannot with my views hold office under a republican Presidenta single instance of time without a total sacrifice of my self-respect. To do it would involve not only a loss of my own self-respect, but brand me as a disgraced and dishonored man in the estimation of all for whose good opinion I am anxious – namely the southern people. I regard the election of Lincoln as a verdict against the equality of the southern states on the part of the sectional majority of the north...."

Mr. Rhodes, as did many in that era, had a talent for elaborate prose, and he used the full range of his talents in explaining his feelings: "Infatuated by the spell which a love of the Union and a veneration for the works of our Father's hands cast over our own perceptions, we have hitherto refused to see and hear, or, seeing and hearing, to take heed of the lurid glare which lighted up and the muttering thunder which resonated from the northern skies with increasing spread and volume....Not altogether unnaturally we permitted this Delilah by her blandishments to steal away our judgment and persuade us to cling to the fond delusion that a sense of justice and of the right only slumbered among the northern people and would yet be awakened to gladden us by renewed demonstrations of fraternity and affection as in bye gone days when our fathers lived – until lo! the Philistine hosts are upon us...."

Rhodes concluded his letter with this offer: "Not doubting that all Mississippians entertain the views I have thus hastily expressed I must believe that Mississippi will secede from the union.... My object therefore in writing this is to tender through you her honored chief magistrate my humble services in that event in any sphere in which they can be of use."

Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States of American on March 3, 1861. History does not record exactly when Rhodes left Washington, but it was almost certainly well prior to this date, since Mississippi, Rhodes' home state, seceded from the Union on January 6, 1861. By the time of Lincoln's inauguration seven states had already seceded. On March 4, 1861, the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States authorized the filing of patent specifications of patents with the Attorney General, and on March 11, 1861 the Confederate Constitution, Art. I, Sec. VIII, par. 8, made specific provision for the granting of patents and copyrights, using essentially the same language contained in the United States Constitution.

A Confederate Patent Office was established, and Rufus Rhodes appointed was its first (and only) Commissioner on May 22, 1861. Mr. Rhodes moved rapidly to put the Patent Office into operation. Rules of Practice and Procedure were published in August, 1861. These rules follow closely the rules of practice then in effect in the United States Patent Office – rules with which Rhodes as a Member of the Board of Appeals would have been quite familiar. There were, however, several notable differences. Aliens were permitted to apply for and hold Confederate Patents, provided the alien's government had recognized the Confederate States and was "in amity" with them. In other words, Yankees need not apply. If the inventor was a slave, the master made the oath in his place and obtained the patent, if granted. In other words, slaves need not apply. Patents granted by the United States to citizens of the Confederate States prior to May 21, 1861 could be revived and continued in force by having them recorded in the Confederate Patent Office.

Provision was made for the grant of design as well as utility patents. In February 1862 the Patent Office employed a chief clerk, two assistant examiners, two clerks and a messenger, as well as Mr. Rhodes. During 1861, applicants filed 304 applications for patents. The Patent Office issued fifty-seven Confederate Patents and recorded 112 Unites States Patents issued to Confederate citizens.

The first Confederate Patent, "No. 1", was issued on August 1, 1861 to James H. Van Houten of Savannah, Georgia for a "breech-loading gun".

Confederate Patent Office
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