The JPTOS and USPTO have worked together to continue our tradition of providing the biographies of the past USPTO Leaders.  Please select the following to be taken to the content: https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/past-uspto-leaders  

12/12/2018

ROBERT FREDERICK WHITEHEAD 1920-1921

The son of a successful farmer and lawyer, Mr. Whitehead was born February 28, 1869, near Lovingston, Virginia. He attended the public schools and the University of Virginia, having by the year 1893 acquired a number of degrees at the latter institution. He taught school for a time, and then specialized in mathematics for two years at Johns Hopkins University.

11/28/2018

JAMES T. NEWTON 1917-1920

The chaotic condition of the rest of the world was reflected in the affairs of the Patent Office at the time when Mr. Newton became Commissioner. The personnel seemed to be leaving "en masse," some going directly into the military service, and others seeking transfers to the more remunerative positions in the war bureaus. Civil service registers were exhausted. For many months it became necessary to go into the highways and the byways to induce people to assume employment in the Patent Office at a salary less than the market price, so that the Office could somehow function, and in some way deliver service. This was the situation that confronted Commissioner Newton, a situation that arose from uncontrollable causes, external to the Office, and was precipitated without notice. It was his duty to make the best of this critical circumstance, and he did it with courage, unfailing purpose, and with exceptional poise and good nature.

11/21/2018

THOMAS EWING 1913-1917

The name Ewing has been connected with public life and governmental functions over a considerable period of years. Thomas Ewing, Commissioner Ewing's grandfather, was the first Secretary of the Interior Department, having been appointed by President Zachary Taylor in 1849 when the Department was formed. Secretary Ewing was an eminent lawyer and was twice in the Senate from Ohio, having been in that body at the time the Patent Act of 1836 was under consideration and when it was passed, and there is a family tradition that he was active in the preparation of the bill. Secretary Ewing was also Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of President William Henry Harrison.

11/15/2018

EDWARD BRUCE MOORE 1907-1913

Edward Bruce Moore was born at North Anson, Maine, December 25, 1851. At the age of fourteen he came to Washington, serving as a page in the Senate. In 1876 he became interested in newspaper work, becoming editor of the Washington Daily News and the Washington Daily Telegraph. He was admitted to the bar in 1881, and in 1883 entered the Patent Office as an Assistant Examiner in Division 1.

10/31/2018

FREDERICK INNES ALLEN 1901-1907

Born at Auburn, New York, January 19, 1859, Frederick Innes Allen came from a prominent family of that city. Graduating from Yale in 1879, he received a class prize in mineralogy. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1882, beginning the practice of law in Auburn, where he remained until appointed Commissioner of Patents by President McKinley in 1901.

10/24/2018

CHARLES HOLLAND DUELL 1898-1901

Charles Holland Duell, twenty-fifth Commissioner of Patents, was the illustrious son of Robert Holland Duell, the fifteenth Commissioner of Patents.

Charles was born in Cortland, New York, April 13, 1850. Being graduated in 1872 from the Law Department of Hamilton College, he was soon thereafter admitted to the bar, and began the practice of law in New York City. Here he continued until 1880, with the exception of a short term as examiner in the Patent Office in 1875-1876. In 1880 he removed to Syracuse and continued the practice of law there, making a specialty of patent law, until called to Washington in 1898 as Commissioner of Patents. He returned to New York in 1901 to resume private practice until 1904, when he again returned to Washington to accept an appointment at the hands of President Roosevelt as Associate Justice of the U. S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. He continued on the bench until 1906, returning again to New York as senior member of the firm of Duell, Warfield and Duell. His interest with this firm continued until his death on January 29, 1920.

10/02/2018

JOHN S. SEYMOUR 1893-1897

John Seymour was born on September 28, 1848, and came from Colonial stock, his earliest ancestors in this country being found among the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut. The first years of his life were spent at Whitney's Point, New York, his schooling being in the common schools and the Whitney's Point Academy. After graduating from Yale College and then studying law at the same institution, he returned to the place of his ancestors in Connecticut and there took up the practice of law in Norwalk. He held a number of prominent positions in that state before he was appointed Commissioner of Patents by President Cleveland during the latter's second administration.

09/27/2018

WILLIAM EDGAR SIMMONDS 1891-1893

Descended through his father from Daniel Webster, and through his mother from Roger de Coigneries, who came to England with William the Conqueror, it might well be expected that William Edgar Simmonds would make his mark in the world. Also he was another "Connecticut Yankee," being born at Canton, Connecticut, November 24, 1842.

His father having died when he was three years old, the mother succeeded in giving the children an excellent education. At the age of 16 William worked and contributed to the support of the family, saving enough besides to finance a normal school training for himself. From 1860 to 1862 he taught school, and then entered the Union army as a volunteer.

09/19/2018

CHARLES ELLIOTT MITCHELL 1889-1891

Born May 11, 1837, at Bristol, Connecticut, Charles Elliott Mitchell was of ancestry prominent in the history of New England, being descended on his father's side from William Mitchell, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, and on his mother's side from the Rev. Thomas Hooker, founder of the Connecticut colony, which, according to the historian John Fiske, "marked the beginnings of American democracy."

09/12/2018

BENTON J. HALL 1887-1889

As a young man, having received but a limited collegiate and academic training, Benton J. Hall was greatly stimulated and broadened by the potent influence of a class of men, newcomers into Iowa in the decade and a half preceding the Civil War, by whom he was soon to be accepted as an equal and afterwards recognized as a leader. The influence of this galaxy of luminaries colored Mr. Hall's whole life and included men destined to become Senators, Cabinet members, Federal judges, and Supreme Court Justices.

Benton J. Hall, another in the long list of the sons of Ohio who achieved promise, was born January 5, 1835, at Mt. Vernon in that state. The father took his family to Iowa in 1840 and became very prominent in governmental affairs of the state, being one of the first Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court. Young Hall followed in his father's footsteps, and the many eulogies bestowed upon the father were later merited and won in an equal or even greater degree by the son.

08/29/2018

M. V. B. MONTGOMERY 1885-1887

Martin Van Buren Montgomery—lawyer, legislator, jurist—was the 20th Commissioner of Patents.

He was born in the township of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, October 20, 1840. The early part of his life was spent on his father's farm, attendance at the district schools taking place only in the winter months, as was the case with other farm boys who later became Commissioners. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1865, and immediately began to practice. His talents were at once recognized, and he filled, successively, different public offices of increasing importance.

08/22/2018

BENJAMIN BUTTERWORTH 1883-1885 and 1897-1898

The 19th Commissioner of Patents was born near Maineville, Ohio, October 22, 1837, of Quaker ancestry, one of his maternal ancestors, John Linton having emigrated to Pennsylvania with Wm. Penn. His father emigrated to the Miami Valley from Virginia in 1814.

The boy, Benjamin, was the youngest son and worked on his father's farm until the age of 18. He was educated in the common schools of Warren County, Ohio, and in the academy at Maineville, taking his college work at the Ohio University at Athens. After that he studied law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1861 at the age of 24.

08/15/2018

EDGAR M. MARBLE 1880-1883

Rising from the ranks, Mr. Marble was appointed Commissioner of Patents on April 28, 1880, by President Hayes, and served until 1884.

It was a most interesting period. The reconstruction following the Civil War was just ending, and many of the great figures of the war were still on the stage. In the field of invention, electricity was just emerging. In the practice of patent law, routine was just established.

Edgar M. Marble's qualifications for the position of Commissioner of Patents were found in the record he had already established in the Interior Department, in the position he had occupied up to that time, for executive capacity, clearness and correctness of decision and a thorough grounding in general law.

08/08/2018

General Paine was another Civil War hero to become Commissioner of Patents. Born at Chardon, Ohio, February 4, 1826, he was the seventh in line of descent from Stephen Paine, who emigrated from Hingham, England, to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. He graduated from Western Reserve College at the age of 19, at the head of his class, taught school in Mississippi, and then took up the study and practice of law in Cleveland, Ohio. He married in 1850. 

08/01/2018

ELLIS SPEAR 1877-1878

One of the many who, after the Civil War, were anxiously looking about for civilian employment and means of making a livelihood for themselves and their families was a young officer but lately retired from the Army of the Potomac where he had achieved a reputation for courage and ability. At the age of 31 a Brevet Brigadier General, and having received from Congress on two occasions the supreme recognition of merit and valor on the field of battle, General Spear left the military service and entered upon his new duties in the Patent Office with enthusiasm and devotion.

07/25/2018

ROBERT HOLLAND DUELL 1875-1876

Robert Holland Duell was a native of the State of New York, born in Warren, on December 20, 1824. He studied in Syracuse Academy and took up the profession of law, being admitted to the bar in 1845. Three years later he removed to Cortland and established himself in law there, continuing to make this his home for the greater part of his later life, to the time of his death on February 11, 1891.

Mr. Duell early became interested in politics and became District Attorney of Cortland County in 1850, which office he held until 1855, when he became District Judge. After serving four years in this capacity he was elected as Republican representative to Congress. In all, he spent eight years in Congress, 1859-1863, and 1871-1875.

07/18/2018

JOHN MARSHALL THACHER 1874-1875

This Commissioner stands in a unique position in that he entered the Patent Office as a clerk and rose through the ranks to the top. He is an excellent representative of the average citizen who performs conscientiously and well the duties which come to him, and leaves upon the sands of time, footprints which are both few and faint. There is no evidence that Mr. Thacher took any active part in politics, and he seems to have received his appointment for merit.

He was born at Barre, Vermont, July 1, 1836, a son of the Rev. Joseph and Nancy A. Thacher. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1859 he taught school, and in the Civil War served as a captain in the Vermont Volunteers.

07/11/2018

MORTIMER D. LEGGETT 1871-1874

General Mortimer D. Leggett, the thirteenth Commissioner of Patents, while demonstrating unusual ability in several fields of activity, came into his greatest prominence in his military career, and it is as a soldier that he is most widely known.

He was a warm friend of Gen. U. S. Grant and it is said when Grant became president Gen. Leggett was offered several desirable positions, but stated that there was but one particular office which he would like to hold and if it became vacant he would be glad to be considered for it, and that was the office of Commissioner of Patents. When this office became vacant by the resignation of Mr. Fisher, Gen. Leggett was appointed, his term extending from January 16, 1871, until his resignation November 1, 1874.

07/03/2018

SAMUEL SPARKS FISHER 1869-1870

The occasion needed the man, and when it was announced that Col. Fisher was persuaded to take the Commissionership, satisfaction among the friends of the patent system was universal and heartfelt. His administration of the Patent Office marked a turning point in its history. He was instrumental in obtaining remedial legislation and instituting reforms in the processes and conduct of the Office that were not only essential to correct manifest abuses that had been gradually acquired, but which placed it upon a higher plane of usefulness and efficiency than it had ever attained before.

06/26/2018

ELISHA FOOTE 1868-1869

Elisha Foote, the eleventh Commissioner of Patents, may be regarded as being the last Commissioner of the "old regime", prior to the revised laws of 1870. His term of office covered the period from July 25, 1868, to April 25, 1869, the interval between his term and that of his predecessor, Commissioner Theaker, being supplied by the Chief Clerk of Theaker's administration, who held the office of Acting Commissioner from January 20 to July 24, 1868.

06/20/2018

THOMAS C. THEAKER 1865-1868

The Civil War having given an impetus to creative genius as applied to the useful arts, entirely without precedent, it was to the problems of this period that the tenth Commissioner of Patents turned his attention, his term of office being recognized as one of the most important, in one aspect, in the history of the Patent Office.

06/13/2018

DAVID P. HOLLOWAY 1861-1865

The war-time commissioner was David P. Holloway, the ninth incumbent of that office.

Holloway was born in Waynesville, Ohio, on December 6, 1809. With his parents he moved in 1813 to Cincinnati where he attended the common schools. He learned the printer's trade at Richmond, Indiana, and for four years worked on the Cincinnati "Gazette". In 1832 he established the Richmond "Palladium" and was its editor for several years.

President Lincoln appointed him Commissioner of Patents on March 28, 1861, which position he held until August 17, 1865. During his term a number of procedural changes occurred in the patent laws, due, no doubt, largely to the efforts of others who preceded him. The act of March 2, 1861, establishing a permanent board of Examiners-in-Chief, was passed just before his administration began. (It may be noted that the permanent board first appointed by Commissioner Holt and established by the act of 1861 was found satisfactory in many respects though Commissioner Holloway criticized it on the ground that it had increased the work of the Commissioner instead of decreasing it, and recommended that its decision should be made merely advisory, the Commissioner to adopt them or not as he should see fit, whereby there would be but two appeals, i.e., from the primary examiner to the Commissioner, and from him to the Court.) This permanent Board of Examiners-in-Chief found great favor with applicants and attorneys.

06/06/2018

PHILIP FRANCIS THOMAS 1860

Less than one year out of the long and colorful political career of Philip Francis Thomas was spent in the service of the Patent Office.

A native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he was born in Easton on September 12, 1810. Leaving the beaten political track of his Whig ancestors, he became a Democrat and was for half a century more or less active in Maryland politics. The son of a doctor, he studied law at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was admitted to the bar in 1831, and at the age of 24 plunged into Maryland politics, finally getting himself elected to the legislature.

05/23/2018

WILLIAM DARIUS BISHOP 1859-1860

The seventh Commissioner of Patents, William Darius Bishop, was descended from old New England stock, his original ancestor, Rev. John Bishop, having emigrated from England about 1640. Alfred Bishop, his father, was a native of Connecticut, where he followed his duties as an extensive canal and railroad contractor. Commissioner Bishop was born at Bloomfield, New Jersey, September 14, 1827, while his parents were temporary residents of that state; but he returned to Bridgeport, Connecticut, which became his permanent residence.

05/17/2018

JOSEPH HOLT 1857-1859

It is said that the incumbency of the office of Commissioner of Patents by Joseph Holt was a minor incident in a notable career. And it might well be added that the selection of Judge Holt was a chance of party politics, as a number of such selections have been in the history of the Patent Office. The events leading up to his appointment are controversial and steeped in politics.

05/09/2018

CHARLES MASON 1853-1857

Born at Pompey, New York, October 24, 1804, the Honorable Charles Mason was the son of Chauncey and Esther Mason, grandson of Jonathan Mason and a descendant of Capt. John Mason, 1635. He graduated first in his class in the U. S. Military Academy, having as a classmate Robert E. Lee. He was appointed Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1829, and served as Assistant Professor of Engineering at the Military Academy from 1829 to 1831. In 1831 he resigned from the army to study law in New York City, being admitted to the bar in 1832. He practiced law at Newbury, N. Y., from 1832 to 1834 and in New York City from 1834 to 1836. In 1835 and 1836 he was acting editor of the New York Evening Post.

05/02/2018

SILAS HENRY HODGES 1852-1853

Though he was commissioner for the brief space of only one year, Mr. Hodges was, for a considerable part of his life, actively connected with the Patent Office.

Silas Henry Hodges, lawyer, was born January 12, 1804, at Clarendon, Vermont. From 1845 to 1850 he was Auditor of Accounts of Vermont. He was appointed Commissioner of Patents in 1852 by President Fillmore. From 1861 to 1875 he was an Examiner-in-Chief in the Patent Office. He died in Washington, D. C., April 21, 1875.

04/25/2018

Thomas Ewbank 1849-1852

Thomas Ewbank, third Commissioner of Patents, was born of humble parentage in Durham, England, March 11, 1792. He was apprenticed in boyhood to the trade of sheet metal working; and from 1812 to 1817 was employed as a tin-smith in London. There he developed the belief that monarchical institutions limited ones capabilities, and so he emigrated to the United States in 1819 and settled in New York. He then engaged in the manufacture of copper, lead and tin tubing for sixteen years and obtained patents thereon. Having attained a modest competency from the business of tube making, he devoted his entire attention in the next few years to travel, science, literature, the history of invention, and its future development. In 1845-48, he visited South America, not merely as a pleasure seeking traveler, but with a mind alert to the lessons to be learned from a wider experience of natural phenomena and the industrial arts of remote races. He returned with a collection of objects from Brazil that became widely known as the "Ewbank Collection." The lessons of this voyage were subsequently published in a volume entitled "Life in Brazil: A Journal of a Visit to the Land of the Cocoa and the Palm."

04/18/2018

EDMUND BURKE 1845-1849

The second Commissioner of Patents was born at Westminster, Vermont, Jan. 23, 1809. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1829, practiced at Newport, New Hampshire, established the New Hampshire "Argus," and edited it for several years. From 1839 to 1845 he was a member of Congress. Appointed Commissioner of Patents, May 5, 1845 by President Polk, he served ably and faithfully in this office until May 9, 1849, after which he became for a brief period official editor for the "Union" in Washington, D. C., and later resumed the practice of law at Newport, New Hampshire, and Boston, Massachusetts.

04/11/2018

HENRY L. ELLSWORTH 1835-1845

When the Act of 1836 created the new office of Commissioner of Patents, the appointment of the then Superintendent of Patents, Henry L. Ellsworth, to the Commissionership proved both logical and wise. As Superintendent of Patents since his appointment in 1835, he had proved his ability by substituting order for chaos in the administration of a department which had never previously been conducted in a scientific and business-like manner. It is generally thought that the responsibility of initiating the policy under the new law, and new organization, was well placed.

04/04/2018

JAMES C. PICKETT 1835

James Chamberlayne Pickett was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on February 6, 1793. His family moved to Kentucky when he was a young boy. He attended the best schools, including the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. He served in the army during the War of 1812. 

Pickett practiced law in Kentucky and was editor of a newspaper. He married Ellen Desha, daughter of Kentucky’s governor. He was elected to the Kentucky legislature, after which he spent four years in South America as a U.S. diplomat. He was fluent in several languages and a prolific writer on scientific subjects and diplomatic history.

03/28/2018

JOHN D. CRAIG 1829-1835

John D. Craig was born in Ireland in 1766. He was a teacher at the Baltimore Union School and the master at an academy in Baltimore. In 1828 he led the founding of the Ohio Mechanics Institute of Cincinnati, which became the College of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of Cincinnati.

After Secretary of State Martin Van Buren transferred Patent Office Superintendent Thomas Jones to another position in the State Department, he appointed Craig superintendent the next day, June 11, 1829.

03/21/2018

THOMAS P. JONES 1828-1829

Thomas P. Jones was born in Herefordshire, England, in 1774. He immigrated to the United States after being trained as a physician and lived in Philadelphia as early as 1796.

He was a professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the College of William and Mary and held other academic positions. He returned to Philadelphia in 1825 to become a professor at the Franklin Institute and the editor of its journal.

03/12/2018

WILLIAM THORNTON 1802-1828

William Thornton, the first and longest serving head of the office, was born on May 20, 1759, in the British Virgin Islands. He was sent to England at the age of five for education. His many interests included architecture, painting, botany, and mechanics. He received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen and practiced briefly as a physician. 

He travelled widely in Europe and met Benjamin Franklin in Paris. In 1785 he returned to the family sugar plantation on the island of Tortola. The next year he moved to Philadelphia, which was an early seat of the U.S. government, and became a U.S. citizen.

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