Have you ever wondered how it is that the United States became the
most advanced nation in all of history—in the very short period of 200
years? The United States Constitution created a limited national
government that gave individuals the freedom to make of their lives
whatever they wished. The result has been the creation of wealth
beyond measure and a standard of living that even the most opulent
French king would have envied.
Indeed, this unbounded freedom unleashed the inventive genius of the
American people. They were driven by the desire to make life better by
making things better, in a way unmatched in history. All one has to do
is read the various official reports of the United States Patent
Office to recognize the truth in all of this.
But along with this freedom of invention was the need to respect and
preserve private property. And that is why we have a Patent Office to
begin with: to protect the property rights of the inventor.
Recently, I had the wonderful experience of examining an Official
Gazette of the United States Patent Office: Volume 58, to be specific.
It contained inventions patented from January 5 to March 29,
1892—three short months. This huge volume of almost 2,000 pages
contained more than that number of inventions, beautifully illustrated
in detailed technical drawings.
There were patents for Saw-Sharpening Machines, Ball Bearings,
Electric Arc Lamps, Washing Machines, Pencils, Motor Cars, Ice Cream
Freezers, Submarine Boats, Concrete Mixing Machines, Methods of
Preserving Corpses, Book Sewing Machines, Wrenches, Seed Planters,
Type-Writing Machines, Paper Bag Machines, and just about anything
else you could dream of. And this volume covered only three months in
Indeed, this mammoth tome is full of great American dreams, based on
inventions that made many an inventor rich and lifted the country up
from its primitive agrarian roots to a full blown high-tech industrial
society. Everything we see around us is the product of that inventive
spirit that lifted the human race from the material poverty of
pre-industrial civilization to the wealth and comfort of 21st-century
But of course, as so many television sit-coms demonstrate, all of this
inventive genius has not spared many human beings the misery they
bring upon themselves. Material possessions have replaced God in many
lives, and that is why our great progress has not eliminated drug
addiction, crime, child abuse, and all of the other ills rampant in
That is why belief in God is as essential today as it was when the
country was first founded. The Ten Commandments are as relevant today
in high-tech America as they were in ancient Israel.
In any case, one of the most pleasant ways to study economic
development is to peruse these reports of the United States Patent
Office. You may be able to find some of them in antiquarian
bookstores. But you can also find them on Abebooks, or being auctioned
on eBay. You may want to become a collector of such reports, which
will increase in value with age.
As for all the new inventions in this digital age of computers and the
Internet, you will have to consult more recent reports of the Patent
Office. In fact, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is now
an agency of the Department of Commerce, and it has quite an elaborate
website. And if you are wondering if the number of inventors has
grown, here are some statistics that might amaze you:
In 1963 there were 90,982 applications for patents, of which 48,971
were granted. In 2008, there were 485,312 applications for patents, of
which 185,224 were granted.
Today there are more inventors than ever. Just about everyone has had
an idea about improving something to make life easier. And that may
include you, the homeschooler, who has the freedom to dream and who
may have an idea for an invention that you believe can make you rich
or famous. The Patent Office website will tell you how to go about
getting a patent for your invention.
Maybe this article will inspire you to start thinking like an
inventor. Just look around you. What can you make better?
Born and educated in New York City, Samuel Blumenfeld has written ten
books on education, including several that are considered homeschool
classics. His phonics program, Alpha-Phonics, and How to Tutor the
Three R’s are available from Ross House Books, 209-736-4365 ext. 12.