How Inventive Was Abraham Lincoln?

In 1849, Abraham Lincoln became the first (and, to date, only) U.S. president to obtain a patent. He invented a device for lifting boats over shoals.
In 1849, Abraham Lincoln became the first (and, to date, only) U.S. president to obtain a patent. He invented a device for lifting boats over shoals.

Abraham Lincoln's list of accomplishments seems to have no end, but while everyone knows about the Emancipation Proclamation and his leadership during the Civil War, some of his other impressive feats are frequently overlooked. A great example: On May 22, 1849, Lincoln became the first (and, to date, the only) U.S. president to be granted a patent.

His creation was a bellows-like flotation device that could lift riverboats if they became stuck on sandbars. The impetus for his idea was Lincoln's early work on ferries that traveled on the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, transporting people and produce. He quickly learned how frequently boats became mired, and realized that there was no easy solution. Ultimately, patent No. 6,469 was never put to use, but Lincoln's original patent model is held at the Smithsonian Institution, which also crafted a replica in 1978 for long-term display.

Patently surprising:

  • Along with an illustrious film career, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr received a 1942 patent for an early frequency-hopping anti-jamming system for torpedoes.

  • Thomas Edison obtained 1,093 U.S. utility and design patents for his inventions.

  • "1-Click" buying was patented by Amazon from 1999 until the patent expired 2017. Apple initially had to pay Amazon for its use.

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    • In 1849, Abraham Lincoln became the first (and, to date, only) U.S. president to obtain a patent. He invented a device for lifting boats over shoals.
      In 1849, Abraham Lincoln became the first (and, to date, only) U.S. president to obtain a patent. He invented a device for lifting boats over shoals.