Samuel Hopkins (inventor)

Samuel Hopkins (inventor)

Samuel Hopkins ( December 9, 1743 – 1818 ) was an American inventor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On July 31, 1790 he was granted the first U.S. patent, under the new U.S. patent statute just signed into law by President Washington on April 10, 1790. Hopkins had petitioned for a patent on an improvement "in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process." [ Kids - Time Machine - Historic Press Releases - USPTO ] ]

The statute did not create a Patent Office. Instead a committee of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War and the Attorney General were authorized to make a decision on the merit of a properly documented petition.

The patent was signed by:
*President George Washington,
*Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and
*Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

The other U.S. patents issued that year were for:
*a new candle-making process and
*Oliver Evans' flour-milling machinery.

Samuel Hopkins, the second child of Quaker parents, was born just north of Baltimore, Maryland. At about the age of 16 he was apprenticed to Robert Parrish, a Quaker tradesman in Philadelphia. In the spring of 1765, Hopkins married Parrish's sister-in-law, Hannah Wilson, and together they raised six children in Philadelphia over the course of 25 years.

The 1790 U.S. Census listed Hopkins' occupation as "Pott Ash Maker". The city directories of the period listed him as a "pot-ash maker" and a "pot-ash manufacturer". Around 1800, for financial reasons, he and his wife moved to Rahway, New Jersey, to live with their daughter Sarah and son-in-law, William Shotwell. They returned to Philadelphia, before Hopkins' death in 1818.


* [ Henry M. Paynter, "The First Patent", Invention & Technology, Fall 1990]
* [ Kenneth W. Dobyns, "History of the United States Patent Office"]

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