Reports from the Court of Claims, submitted to the House of Representatives during the
First Session of the Thirty-fifth Congress, 1857-58.
Report C. C. No. 128
J. H. KING, ADMINISTRATOR OF JAMES GREER.
Report C. C. No. 128
J. H. KING, ADMINISTRATOR OF JAMES GREER.
DECEMBER 15, 1857. - Committed to a Committee of the Whole House, made the order of the day for to-morrow, and ordered to be printed.
The COURT OF CLAIMS submitted the following
To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:
The Court of Claims respectfully present the following documents as the report in the case of
1. The petition of the claimant and amendment.
2. James Greer's patent and other documents, referred to the Court of Claims by the House of Representatives, used as evidence on trial of the case, and returned to the House of Representatives.
3. Other documents referred by the House of Representatives, and returned to that House in a separate envelope.
4. Claimant's brief.
5. Opinion of the Court adverse to the claim.
By order of the Court of Claims.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said Court, at Washington, this seventh day of December, A. D. 1857.
SAM'L H. HUNTINGTON,
Chief Clerk Court of Claims.
To the Honorable the Judges of the Court of Claims:
Your petitioners, William Greer, Benjamin Stipes, and John H. King, respectfully represent, that they are the only. heirs of James Greer, deceased, late of Harper's Ferry, Va., who died intestate, in the year 1826; that their ancestor was an ingenious mechanic, in the gunmaking business, which he pursued for many years in Philadelphia, and afterwards at the armory at Harper's Ferry; that he was invited by the officer superintending that establishment to enter the service there, that he might bring with him and establish a method of boring gun barrels, invented by him in Philadelphia, which was considered important for the public interest, on account of its superior efficiency in the finish of the barrels; and that he accordingly removed to Harper's Ferry in 1803, where he remained for many years in public employment; that by the advice of friends, and from a sense of justice to himself and family, he was induced, after many years, to claim the benefit of the invention above named, and accordingly applied for a patent, which was granted; said patent bearing date the 8th of October, 1817; that on its reception he gave due notice to the superintendent of the armory that he must discontinue the use of the machine, unless compensation were made for it ; that the superintendent referred him to the Ordnance Bureau in Washington, to the head of which he applied, and was referred back again to the superintendent, and neither afforded the relief demanded. Finding nothing could be obtained from the department, Greer made application in 1820 to Congress; his memorial was referred to a committee, whose report was ordered to lie on the table; was again presented on the 2d of March, 1822 - an unfavorable report, and leave to withdraw; again presented 10th of January, 1843, and again in December, 1843 - referred to Military Committee; adverse report; ordered to lie. Again, December 16, 1851, referred to Committee on Claims, and no report; and again on December 13, 1853, and referred to Committee on Military Affairs, which committee reported favorably, its report being filed herewith, and containing a very fair statement of the claim and the evidence to sustain it. The necessary jurisdiction in the case, as we suppose, being granted to your honorable Court, we now bring the case before you.
The petitioners believe their ancestor was entitled to full compensation from the United States for the use of his invention during the existence of the patent, which was from the 8th of October, 1817, to the 8th of October, 1831, during which time it was the only machine for boring guns used at either of the public armories, or at the shops of private contractors, by which means the government enjoyed all the advantages resulting from it. To sustain these allegations, your petitioners refer to the proofs contained in the papers now on file in this Court, which show fully their truth.
Your petitioners hope that the principal question the Court will have to decide, will be the measure of damage for the trespass on the legal rights of Greer under his patent. Should such be the case, your petitioners suggest that they are willing to accept the same compensation which was allowed under precisely similar circumstances to Robert Blanchard, the inventor of the machine for turning gun-stocks, which was one-half the amount saved by the United States, by the use of the machine. This was regularly ascertained, and paid over to the inventor. Several other analagous agreements have been made and carried out by the government, and cannot be objected to for want of fairness.
All which is respectfully submitted.
JOHN M. McCALLA,
Attorney and counsel at Law.
JOHN H. KING.
Personally appeared the above named John M. McCalla, before me, who, being duly sworn, says that the facts set forth in the above petition are true to the best of his knowledge.
JAMES GREER'S HEIRS
To the honorable the Judges of the Court of Claims.
Your petitioner, John H. King, one of the heirs of said James Greer, deceased, respectfully represents that, since the filing of the petition to which this is an amendment, he has taken out letters of administration on the estate of said Greer, in the county court of Jefferson county, Virginia, in which county said Greer resided at the time of his decease, and has executed bond, with suitable security, for the due performance of his duties as such; and certified copies of the records in said case will be duly filed in your honorable Court.
Your petitioner prays that the claim be recognized hereafter in his name, as administrator, and he renews the allegations in said original petition. He alleges that the honorable Court has jurisdiction in this case by virtue of the act of Congress organizing it; and, also, that neither your petitioners ancestor, said Greer, nor any of his heirs, ever received any compensation from the United States, or any person for them, for the use of said nut-borer for the manufacture of guns.
JOHN H. KING, Administrator.
STATE OF MARYLAND,
Washington County, ss
This day personally appeared before me, the subscriber, a justice of the peace of the State and county aforesaid, John.H. King, and made oath on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, that the matters and facts set forth in the foregoing affidavit are true to the best of his knowledge and belief.
J. COOK, J. P.
Washington County, to wit:
I hereby certify that John Cook, esq., before whom the above and foregoing affidavit was made, and who hath thereunto subscribed his name, was, at the time of so doing, a justice of the peace in and for said county, duly elected, commissioned, and sworn, and that his signature thereto is genuine.
In testimony whereof, I hereunto subscribe my name and affix the seal of the circuit court for said county this 14th day of April, 1856.
ISAAC NESBITT, Clerk.
Whereas, James Greer, a citizen of the United States, hath alleged that he has invented a new and useful improvement, being a nut-boring bit, with the machine connected therewith, for boring musket, rifle, and pistol barrels, &c., which improvement, he states, has not been known or used before his application; hath made oath that he does verily believe that he is the true inventor or discoverer of the said improvement; hath paid into the treasury of the United States the sum of thirty dollars, delivered a receipt for the same, and presented a petition to the Secretary of State, signifying a desire of obtaining an exclusive property in the said improvement, and praying that a patent may be granted for that purpose:
These are therefore to grant, according to law, to the said James Greer, his heirs, administrators, or assigns, for the term of fourteen years, from the third day of October, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, the full and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using, and vending to others to be used, the said improvement; a description whereof is given in the words of the said James Greer himself in the schedule hereto annexed, and is made a part of these presents.
In testimony whereof, I have caused these letters to be made patent, and the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.
Given under my hand, at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, and of the independence of the United States of America the forty-second.
By the President:
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,
Secretary of State.
City of Washington, to wit:
I do hereby certify that the foregoing letters patent were delivered to me on the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, to be examined; that I have examined the same, and find them conformable to law; and I do hereby return the same to the Secretary of State, within fifteen days from the date aforesaid, to wit: on this third day of October, in the year aforesaid.
Attorney General of the United States.
The schedule referred to in these letters patent, and making part of the same, containing a description in the words of the said James Greer himself, of his improvement called the nut-boring bit, for the purpose of boring musket, rifle, pistol barrels, &c.
Specification of James Greer, machine maker, describing the appearance and manner of using the nut-boring bit, used for boring muskets, rifles, pistols, &c., by him invented and discovered in November, seventeen hundred and ninety seven, whilst employed as a workman by Mr. McCormick in his manufactory near Philadelphia, at the time and place aforesaid, it became manifest and evident that the usual method of boring them and there practiced was both too slow and tedious, and in no manner answered the views and wishes of Mr. McCormick, then engaged in a contract with the State of Pennsylvania, or the agents thereof, for the manufacture of certain arms. The method then in use was by a square bit pushing into the barrel, which Mr. Greer believed could be improved; in consequence thereof, and by the assistance of his knowledge acquired in that line of business, immediately undertook, and tried different methods; at length invented, as early as November, seventeen hundred and ninety seven, an entire new bit (to bore barrels) with grooves filed into the nut-boring bit of about three-fourths of an inch in length. This nut-boring bit was made of turned steel, and welded to a shank; two corners by filing were made in the nut-boring bit, also grooves for the purpose of boring and giving vent to the borings. It is also necessary to state that the nut-boring bit can be made with two, three, four, or more cutting edges; still the principle is the same, as it draws through the barrel and cleanses itself by leaving the borings behind[.] The barrel intended to be .bored was placed on a bank drawn by a crank in the first place; and in the course of a few days afterwards the endless screw was attached to draw the bank from the bit. The bit of Mr. Greer lies horizontally and revolves on its axis; the barrels, which are fastened on the bank die, draw over the cutters of the bit by the endless screw, which is attached to the bank; the borings pass through the grooves of the nut-boring bit, and come out behind the bit, which is the cause of the bits being never choked and clogged, and is the great excellence of this discovery. The barrel is immersed in water, in consequence of which the bit is never sufficiently heated to soften it. It will be understood that the principle of the nut-boring bit discovered by Mr. Greer is sometimes used in factories by twisting a flat piece of steel, and filing up the cutters, which form groves [sic], like the grooves of the nut-boring bit, and draws through the barrels in the same manner as the original, and by the same machinery, and is also called the nut-boring bit.
The old plan was to use a square bit, about four inches long - the barrel pushed on the bit by manual labor, which barrel could never be pushed on the bit so as to be bored more than three or four inches at a time before it choked, so that it was necessary to take the barrel from the bit and knock out the borings. By the aforesaid method of boring by a square bit a man by hard labor cannot bore more than two or three barrels a day. But by the invaluable invention of Mr. Greer a man can, with very little labor, nut-bore three barrels in fifteen minutes, and attend to straitening the barrels and repairing the bits.
JOHN C. MITCHELS,
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Jefferson County, ss
This day Chas. Jas. Faulkner personally appeared before me, a justice of the peace in and for the county aforesaid, and made oath, that some fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, the papers connected with a claim for compensation by Congress to the representatives of James Greer were placed in his hands. The compensation to be asked for was for some valuable invention which facilitated the manufacture of guns. This affiant cannot now recollect for what specific purpose the papers were placed in his hands; he received them from John Shuler, who resided near Harper's Ferry, and who was, the affiant thinks, the administrator of said Greer. He well recollects that during the time the papers were in his hands, some of the heirs of Greer, who resided at Harper's Ferry, were dissatisfied at the want of attention which Mr. Shuler bestowed upon their claim, and called upon this affiant for the papers, with a view to place them in the channel of a more vigorous prosecution. The affiant was not only willing but desirous that they should have them, and he brought them, he thinks, upon one occasion to Harper's Ferry, to deliver them to the said heirs of Greer; but he was on that occasion notified by said Shuler not to part with them, and the heirs of Greer also requested him not to return them to Shuler. And so they remained in the possession of the affiant and became mislaid, and although frequently called upon, after the death of Shuler, by the heirs of Greer for the papers, he was unable to lay his hands upon them until within the last few months, when he delivered them over to the heirs of said James Greer.
Given under my hand this 18th day of December, 1849.
F. BECKHAM, Justice of the Peace.
HARPER'S FERRY, VIRGINIA,
December 17, 1849.
Having been requested to express an opinion as well as to state facts relavant [sic] to the claim of James Greer, (now deceased,) for an invention of a new and improved mode of rough boring gun barrels, I respectfully make the following statements:
1. The method of rough boring gun barrels with nut augers was introduced into the Springfield armory between the years 1800 and 1804.
2. Previous to that period the gun barrels were rough bored with four square augers or bits, that required similar operations in the process of rough boring.
3. I am fully of the opinion that, with the said nut augers and suitable machinery, one hand can rough bore at least five barrels during the time that one gun barrel could be rough bored with the bits that were used previous to the introduction of the nut augers.
4. In view of all of the circumstances which have come under my notice, I am fully convinced that James Greer invented the nut auger for rough boring gun barrels.
5. The nut auger is an invaluable acquisition for rough boring gun barrels, and it has been for many years past, and still is, successfully used at each of the national armories, at both of which I have acted as master armorer. Also, as early as the year 1808 and 1809, the United States contractors rough bored their gun barrels with nut augers, and at several of those establishments I officiated as inspector of arms.
State of Virginia, to wit:
Personally appeared before me, the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for the said county aforesaid, Benjamin Moon, sen., and maketh oath on the Holy Evangely of Almighty God, and said that the foregoing statement, subscribed by himself, contained the truth to the best of his knowledge and belief. Given under my hand this 17th day of December, 1849.
F. BECKHAM, J. P.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Personally appeared before the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for the said county, Singleton Chambers, an armorer, of lawful age, who, being first duly sworn, deposeth and saith, that he has been employed at the Harper's Ferry armory for twenty-two or twenty-three years; for twelve or fourteen years of that time at the various operations of boring. The present plan of rough boring of barrels this affiant has always understood was the invention of Mr. James Greer, deceased. Under it a man, with a boy to help, can rough bore twenty-four or twenty-five barrels per day, and is paid seven cents for each barrel so rough bored. Although this affiant never worked at rough boring under any other plan than the one invented by Mr. James Greer, yet knowing the bit that was then used, he can safely say that that invention was a very important one, and that better and much cheaper work is done under it than could possibly have been done on the old fashion, and that government has saved considerably on every barrel made at its own establishments or purchased from contractors, owing to said invention.
Sworn to before me this 29th day of December, 1842.
G. B. WAYN, J. P.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Jefferson County, ss
Personally appeared before the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for said county, Edmund Chambers, an armorer, of lawful age, who, being first duly sworn, deposeth and saith, that he has been employed for perhaps eighteen years past and still is engaged at the boring of barrels. The plan of boring now in use this affiant has always heard was the invention of James Greer, deceased. Under it a man, with a boy as helper, can rough bore twenty-five barrels a day, and at the same time keep his tools in order. For the rough boring a man will receive seven cents for each barrel, and he pays his helper. From what affiant has heard he considers this invention of Mr. Greer a most important one. He has heard mechanics who had worked under the old plan say that a man could not do more than rough bore two barrels a day, the bits being very likely to break and choking up, and the work was not to compare with the plan now used, the barrels finished not being better than barrels are now that are rough bored only. Affiant has been for more than twenty years and still is employed in the armory at Harper's Ferry.
EDMUND H. CHAMBERS.
Sworn to before me this 29th December, 1842.
G. B. WAYN, J. P.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Jefferson County, ss
Personally appeared before the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for the county aforesaid, Jacob Engels, an armorer employed at Harper's Ferry armory, who, being first duly sworn on the Holy Evangely of Almighty God, deposeth and saith as follows: That he has been engaged in the Harper's Ferry armory for more than forty years; that he was so engaged in and prior to the year 1803, when Mr. James Greer, since deceased, introduced into it an improvement for the rough boring of gun barrels, for which he afterwards obtained a patent; that this affiant has worked at the rough boring of barrels, both on the plan now used, (that introduced here by Mr. Greer,) and that used before that time; that on the old plan a man could not rough bore more than three or four barrels in a day ; indeed, he does not know that so many as four barrels could be bored in a day; now many more can be bored in the same time. The work done by Mr. Greer's plan is also infinitely better than it could formerly be done. The barrel is left in a far cleaner and better state for smooth boring. The facility of boring was not only greatly increased by the use of Mr. Greer's invention, but the cost to government of each gun barrel has been greatly diminished. This affiant thinks that, when boring under the old plan, he was paid by the month. Now the men engaged on it are paid for each barrel made by them. Mr. Greer came to Harper's Ferry in 1803. He had been employed in McCormick's gunsmith establishment in Philadelphia just before. Almost immediately after his coming to Harper's Ferry he introduced into the government workshops his plan of rough boring, and so advantageous was it found that it has been in use ever since.
Sworn to before me this 28th day of December, 1842.
G. B. WAYN, J. P.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Jefferson County, ss
Personally appeared before the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for the said county, George Zorger, who, being first duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows: That he, affiant, is now seventy-one years of age, and has been employed, until within, the last few months, at the gunsmithing business from his seventeenth year; that he was employed at the Harper's Ferry armory for the last thirty-four or thirty-five years, for the last twelve years of which time he was an inspector. Prior to his coming to Harper's Ferry he bored barrels on the old system. He forged, bored and ground the barrel, and by close work could complete but one barrel every day, and he was paid one dollar per day. Affiant has never bored barrels on the present plan, which he knows was the invention of Mr. James Greer, since deceased. He, however, knows that improvement very well, and considers it a most valuable one, and that it has been a saving of great expense to the United States in the fabrication and purchase of small arms. The work is now done far more rapidly and in much better manner than it could be done formerly. This invention of Mr. James Greer, affiant states, was in use in the Harper's Ferry armory when he was first employed in it, and it has been ever since in use therein. Affiant adds, that from his experience in the fabrication of arms he should say that a man could not, under the old plan used until Mr. Greer's invention, have rough bored alone more than three or four barrels a day.
Sworn to before me, a justice of the peace as aforesaid, this 28th day of December, 1842.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Jefferson County, to wit:
Before me, a duly qualified and commissioned justice of the peace in and for the county and State aforesaid, personally appeared Colonel James Stubblefield, and made oath, according to law, to the following statement of facts, to wit:
That this affiant was superintendent of the United States armory at Harper's Ferry from the year 1807 to the year 1829. That a certain James Greer, who was employed in the armory, had invented an important and valuable machine for boring gun barrels, known as the "nut-boring bit," for which he obtained from the government, in or about the year 1817, a regular patent.
That said machine was used in the said armory from the time of his obtaining said patent up to the period when affiant left the armory, in 1829; and as affiant is informed and believes, they have continued to use it both at Harper's Ferry and Springfield up to the preseat time.
Affiant further states that said invention and machine was of very great value to the government; saving, as he verily believes, to the government many thousand dollars every year. That as superintendent of the armory, according to best of his recollection, he was notified by said Greer, shortly after obtaining his patent, that he must be paid a fair compensation for the use of said patent, or that the armory must cease to use it. That affiant, having no power as superintendent to make such allowance, he referred him to the government at Washington, and continued to use it as above mentioned; it being indispensable to the operations of the armory.
Affiant further states, that said Greer was, unfortunately, an intemperate man, and very neglectful of his interests; and, as affiant is fully satisfied, never received from the government any compensation for the use of said patent right; and, finally, affiant further states that, in his opinion, his heirs or representatives are justly entitled to a liberal compensation from the government for the use of said patent right.
Given under my hand and seal this 19th day of December, 1849.
S. W. SACKLAND, J. P.
I hereby certify that Thomas Humes personally appeared before me, one of the justices of the peace for the county of Henrico, in the State of Virginia, and being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposeth and saith that he, the said Humes, entered into the employ of Robert McCormick, gunmaker, of Philadelphia, early in the year of our Lord 1798; that about the month of November of said year he commenced boring of gun barrels, in company with another workman of said McCormick, by the name of James Greer; that for some time after they began boring of gun barrels he labored under considerable inconvenience, resulting from an injudicious (as afterwards appeared) construction of the boring bits, neither of us being professional borers at that time; that after repeated trials with boring bits of different construction, none of which answered the desired end, my shop-mate (James Greer) suggested the idea and immediately set about making one of the following description, which, when completed, to our great satisfaction, answered our most sanguine expectations. The figure of the improved hit was that of a cylinder of three-fourths of an inch long, and after being nicely turned in a lathe to something less in diameter than that of the intended bore of the gun, it was then welded on the end of an iron rod, which became the boring rod. The said cylinder had, at first trial, three, and afterwards two parallel grooves cut in it, at equal distances from each other; but said grooves, though parallel to each other, were not parallel to the axis of the cylinder, but formed spirals round said cylinder similar to that of a triple threaded screw; but the length of the cylinder and obliquity of the spirals underwent some alteration afterwards. I ought further to observe that the inner ends or edges of those spirals became the cutters of the bit.
Henrico County, ss
This day Thomas Humes came before me, a justice for said county, and made oath to the within.
Given under my hand this 14th day of July, 1817.
STATE OF VIRGINIA,
Henrico County, ss.
I, Izard Bacon Whitlocke, clerk of the court of said county, do hereby certify that Samuel Brown, whose name is subscribed above, was at the time of signing the same, and is now, an acting justice of the peace in and for the said county of Henrico. Given under my hand this 15th day of July, 1817.
I. B. WHITLOCKE,
Clerk of Henrico County.
HARPER'S FERRY, October 10, 1823.
I hereby certify that I, having viewed the boring machine constructed by James Greer, at McCormick's factory, near Philadelphia, made a drawing of the plan of said machine for Mr. Joseph Perkins, then one of the officers of the armory at this place, from which a machine was constructed and put into operation in some short time after this armory was established. DENNIS O'BYRNE.
State of Virginia, to wit:
This day personally appeared before me, the subscriber, a justice of the peace in and for said county aforesaid, James B. Wayn and Philip Coons, both of lawful age, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangely of of Almighty God, deposeth and says that the above signature attached to the above certificate is in the handwriting of Dennis O'Byrne, (who is now deceased;) they both state that they were well acquainted with the handwriting of said Dennis O'Byrne, having had considerable business transactions with him.
Given under my hand this 24th day of December, 1849.
F. BECKHAM, J. P.
I am intimately acquainted with James B. Wayn and Philip Coons, the two gentlemen making oath to the above fact, and unhesitatingly say that they are both gentlemen of respectability and standing, and that full reliance can be placed in their oaths as such.
Given under my hand this 24th day of December, 1849.
F. BECKHAM, J. P.
JNO. H. KING, Adm'r of JAMES GREER, deceased, vs. UNITED STATES.
The claimants intestate invented a machine for boring gun barrels, for which he took out a patent, dated October 3, 1817. It was called the nut-borer. It was used by the United States, during the whole term of the patent, in the public armories, and private contractors' shops, and they have paid nothing therefor. It was to recover compensation for that use this case was brought.
Parallel cases are on record where the defendants purchased from patentees the right to use their inventions. Blanchard's stock turning machine is a case in point. One-half of what was saved in the making of stocks by the use of the machine was paid the inventor. That amount was ascertained officially in the Ordnance Office. To come at a knowledge of the same fact in this case, a call was made on the Secretary of War, whose answers and exhibits are in the papers.
The only statement in the case, which is unfavorable to the claim, is the above report, and accompanying documents. But for them, I should submit the case to the Court. They require some comments.
The colonel of ordnance avows that he has no information in his office upon the point called for, nor can he obtain any from Harper's Ferry nor Springfield. Although there is a confession therein of a great deficiency in the records of that office, yet if he had stopped there, it would have better comported with the justice and propriety of the case. Instead of that, he goes on and sends to the Court, a letter containing comments adverse to the claim, based upon letters of Col. Wadsworth - and upon the adverse proceedings in Congress against it, and fails to send the final action of the Com. of House of Representatives, in its favor. They are both in the case, and will speak for themselves. - (Doc. No. 104, 1st. session, 28th Congress, House of Representatives, and Mr. Faulkner's report.)
Colonel .Wadsworth's letters were written upon calls from committees of House of Representatives, upon the claims of Pettibone in the first place, and of Greer in the second place. Pettibone it appears claimed for an improved mode of making the nut auger. Colonel Wadsworth, opposed it because he had seen the auger in 1798 at McCormick's, in Philadelphia. McCormick said he had not invented it. The colonel gives the opinion it came from Europe; think she saw a description of it in some book; name not given! It was introduced into the armories from McCormick's.
Greer's case being before a committee, in answer to a call for information, a copy of letter A is sent, and an assertion added, without proof, that there is unquestionable evidence of the instrument having been used prior to 1796! Had he said prior to 1798, he would have been right.
Colonel Wadsworth saw it nowhere but at McCormick's and at the armories, into which it was carried thence. - (See letter of Thomas Smith, (10) dated 1821.)
As no proof is furnished by either of the ordnance officers to support their vague opinions, we will turn to such proof as the claimants have been able to produce. I rely on the proof in the case to make the following points:
1. That James Greer was the original inventor.
2. That the United States are bound by their patent to him.
3. That he has been diligent in demanding compensation of the United States, and that they have failed to pay.
4. The value of the invention to government.
On 1st point, see (1) Thomas Humes' deposition. He and Greer worked at McCormick's shop in 1798, (it should have been 1797;) they complained of the defects in the square bits. Greer undertook to make a new tool, and invented the "nut borer." Also (2) Dennis O'Byrne saw Greer's nut borer at McCormick's; made a drawing of it; sent it to Joseph Perkins, an officer at Harper's Ferry. Colonel Wadsworth first saw it at McCormick's shop in 1798, (No. 9.) Engles says he was at work at Harper's Ferry in 1803, when Greer came there and introduced his nut-borer. (6) Benjamin Moore and all the old workmen whose depositions are on file in the case, refer back to Greer as the inventor, no other person being named as a rival in the invention.
Upon the second point, the patent shows a grant by the United States to Greer, of the exclusive use of the instrument for 14 years, without reservation in favor of the government, and is an estoppel to a plea of prior invention in another, or of prior use by itself.
Curtis on patents, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, and notes; 3 Black. 308, 7 Peters, 292, &c., 2 Peters, 19.
On the third point, Colonel Stubblefield and Captain Morton prove demand of compensation on the Ordnance Office, and a failure to pay, and the proceedings in Congress prove persevering efforts before the legislature, and their failure.
On the question of value, Col. Stubblefield, superintendent at Harper's Ferry, and Benjamin Moore, master armorer, declared the invention to be indispensable to the armories.
The workmen who had used the old plan and then the Greer auger, estimate a difference of about five to one in favor of the latter. A workman using the square hits, could bore but 1 to 4 barrels per day, and much inferior in finish, with much greater expense in keeping up the tools, while with the auger, 25 barrels per day could be bored of superior finish, and but little if any expense in repairing tools.
If it is desired to ascertain what the United States saved in actual expense by the use of the auger; it can be learned by comparing the cost of boring 1 to 4 barrels per day - $1[.]50 to $2 - with expense on tools added, equal to about 50 cents per barrel - with the cost of boring with the auger, 7 cents per barrel, which is the amount allowed at the armory, being a difference 43 cents on each barrel. But the increased rapidity in the making and the superior quality of the guns when made, are elements of value, and should be estimated in the price to be paid.
See affidavitt of Greer, showing cause of delayed application for patent. William Thorntorn's letter of 1817; affidavit of Jno. M. McCalla on record of suit at Philadelphia.
See depositions Nos. 5, 6, 9, and others relating to value of instrument and cost of boring.
See original patent, A.
See official report from Ordnance Office of number of arms made during the continuance of the patent.
The amount saved in cost of boring barrels can be estimated from the above data. The amount which should be allowed the inventor I submit to the judgment of the Court.
JNO. M. McCALLA,
Attorney for Claimant.
Judge BLACKFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a suit brought by the administrator of James Greer against the United States. The object of the suit is to recover damages from the government for the alleged infringement of a patent granted to Greer in 1817. The patent is as follows:
"THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - To all to whom these letters patent shall come:
"Whereas James Greer, a citizen of the United States, hath alleged that he has invented a new and useful improvement, being a nut-boring bit, with the machine connected therewith, for boring musket, rifle, and pistol barrels, &c., which improvement he states has not been known or used before his application, hath made oath that he does verily believe that he is the true inventor or discoverer of the said improvement, hath paid into the treasury of the United States the sum of thirty dollars, delivered a receipt for the same, and presented a petition to the Secretary of State, signifying a desire of obtaining an exclusive property in the said improvement, and praying that a patent may be granted for that purpose: These are therefore to grant, according to law, to the said James Greer, his heirs, administrators, or assigns, for the term of fourteen years, from the third day of October, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, the full and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using, and vending to others to be used, the said improvement, a description whereof is given in the words of the said James Greer himself, in the schedule hereto annexed, and is made a part of these presents.
"In testimony," &c.
The complaint is, that the government has violated Greer's patent right, by using the patented instrument during the existence of the patent; that is, from the 3d of October, 1817, to the 3d of October, 1831.
There is no plea filed, nor does the practice of the Court require any. The claimant is obliged, of course, to prove every material allegation in his petition, and the defendant has the right to prove any proper defence he may have to the suit.
In this case the alleged breach of the patent is clearly proved. The affidavits of Jacob Engles and George Zorger show that the nut-borer in question was in use in the national armory at Harper's Ferry, in Virginia, before the date of the patent; and that it continued to be used there during the whole time embraced by the patent. It also appears by the affidavit of James Stubblefield, a superintendent of the armory, that soon after the patent was obtained, the patentee, Greer, notified him that he, Greer, must be paid a fair compensation for the use of the patent, or that the armory must cease to use it. This affiant also proves the use of the instrument in the armory for many years during the existence of the patent.
It must be considered, therefore, that the patent, if valid, has been infringed by the government.
The Solicitor makes two objections to the validity of the patent:
First, that the patented instrument was not a new invention by Greer; secondly, that it was in public use before the application for the patent.
We will first inquire whether Greer was the first and true inventor of the instrument in question. He states in his specification, that he invented and discovered the instrument in November, 1797, whilst employed as a workman by Mr. McCormick, in his manufactory near Philadelphia; but there is no evidence whatever of Greer's making the discovery so early as 1797. His only positive evidence relative to the discovery is the affidavit of one Thomas Hume, made on the 14th of July, 1817. This affiant states that he entered into the employment of McCormick, gun maker, of Philadelphia, early in the year 1798; that, about the month of November of said year, he commenced boring gun barrels with another workman of McCormick's, by the name of James Greer; that for some time after they began boring gun barrels, he labored under considerable inconvenience from an injudicious construction of the boring bits, (neither of these men professional borers;) that after repeated trials with boring bits of different construction, none of which answered the desired end, his shop-mate, James Greer, suggested the idea and immediately set about making one of the following description, which, when completed, to their great satisfaction answered their most sanguine expectation.
The affiant then describes the instrument, which is probably the same for which Greer afterwards obtained a patent.
Byrne's certificate, which we shall refer to again, speaks of the machine constructed by Greer at McCormick's factory.
S. Chambers, in his affidavit, made in 1842, says that he had been employed in the Harper's Ferry armory for 22 or 23 years, and that the present plan of rough boring barrels, he had always understood, was the invention of James Greer. He says further, that though he never worked at rough boring on any other plan than the one invented by Greer, he could safely say that the invention was a very important one.
There is an affidavit of E. H. Chambers, very similar to that of S. Chambers.
The affidavit of J. Engles says that Greer, in 1803, introduced into the armory at Harper's Ferry, an improvement for the rough boring of gun barrels, for which he afterwards obtained a patent. The affiant also says that the facility of boring was greatly increased by Greer's invention.
G. Zorger, in an affidavit made in 1842, says that he knew the then plan of boring gun barrels at Harper's Ferry, where he had been employed for 34 or 35 years, was the invention of Greer.
B. Moore's affidavit states that the affiant had acted as master armorer at both the national armories; and that in view of all the circumstances which had come under his notice, he was fully convinced that Greer invented the instrument aforesaid.
J. Stubblefield, in his affidavit, states that he was superintendent of the armory at Harper's Ferry from 1807 to 1829; and that Greer, who was employed in the armory, had invented an important machine for boring gun barrels, for which he obtained a patent.
Mr. Wadsworth, colonel of ordnance, in a report made in January, 1817, relative to a claim of one Pettibone, states as follows:
"I have a perfect conviction, and perhaps I may say knowledge, that the screw auger or nut auger, used in boring barrels, was not invented by Mr. Pettibone. That tool I saw in use at the Globe Mills, near Philadelphia, in the year 1798; and its properties were particularly described to me by Mr. McCormick, who had introduced it there. McCormick was an Irishman, and I believe is since dead. He did not pretend it was his own, nor even a new invention at that time; and I believe it was introduced into this country from Europe. In a printed book, to which I cannot now particularly refer, I remember to have seen, many years since, an allusion to that tool, and its peculiar advantage represented to consist in its leaving the cuttings behind in the operation of boring, which implied that the tool was drawn and not propelled through the barrel. I entertain not a shadow of doubt the invention was of a date many years anterior to the year 1798."
There is another report of Col. Wadsworth, dated Ordnance Office, 19th February, 1820. The writer, in this report, says: "The present petitioner, Greer, goes a little further back, pretending to have invented the tool or instrument in 1797. But the truth is, there is unquestionable evidence of its having been in common use anterior to the year 1796; and it is reasonable to believe the invention is of considerably older date. I am entirely convinced the merit of this invention is due neither to Pettibone nor the present petitioner, Greer."
We believe that the foregoing are all the material facts before us relative to the question whether or not Mr. Greer was the first and true inventor of the boring machine aforesaid. The question is by no means a clear one; and as a decision of it is not, in our opinion, necessary to the determination of the case, we pass it by without further comment.
The other question, as to the validity of the patent, namely, whether the said instrument was in public use previously to the application for a patent? we shall now proceed to consider.
Colonel Wadsworth saw the instrument in use in the Globe Mills, near Philadelphia, as early as 1798, when its properties were described to him by Mr. McCormick, who had introduced it there, and who did not pretend that it was a new invention. Colonel Wadsworth says, also, that from Mr. McCormick's works the use of the instrument was extended, about the year 1799, to Springfield and the other places where the business was carried on.
Mr. Byrne's certificate states that he made a drawing of the plan of the machine, for an officer of the Harper's Ferry armory, from which a machine was constructed and put in operation a short time after the armory was established.
Mr. Engel's affidavit says that Greer introduced the machine into the armory at Harper's Ferry, in 1803, where it had been in use ever since.
The affidavit of Mr. Zorger, made in 1842, states that he had been employed in the Harper's Ferry armory for the thirty-four or thirty- five years then past, and that the machine was in use in that armory when he was first employed in it, and has ever since been in use there.
Mr. Moore's affidavit says, that the method of rough boring gun barrels with nut augers was introduced into the Sprinfield [sic] armory, between the years 1800 and 1808. This affidavit says further, that as early as 1808 or 1709 [sic], the United States contractors rough bored their gun barrels with nut augers.
The above is the evidence in regard to the question, whether the aforesaid boring bit was in public use or not before the patent was applied for; and it is very clear that that question must be answered in the affirmative. The instrument was in public use, that is, it was used publicly at McCormick's factory, near Philadelphia, in 1798. It was introduced into the national armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1799, according to one witness, and between 1800 and 1808, according to another. Greer himself introduced the instrument into the national armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in 1803, where it has continued ever since to be publicly used.
We are now to inquire what the law is relative to the effect of the prior use of the instrument on the question as to the validity of the patent.
The patent was granted under the act of Congress of 1793, which act was in force during the time for which the grant was made. There are other statutes relative to patents, passed since the act of 1793, but they have not altered the law as respects this case. The act of 1793 is repealed by the act of 1836; but still the case must be decided as if the former act remained in force. - (McClurg vs. Kingsland, 1 How., 202, 206.)
The act of 1793, which governs this case, commences as follows:
"That when any person or persons, being a citizen or citizens of the United States, shall allege that he or they have invented any new and useful art, machine," &c., "not known or used before the application, and shall present a petition to the Secretary of State," &c., "it shall and may be lawful for the said Secretary of State to cause letters patent to be made out," &c. - (1 Stat. at Large, 318, sec. l.)
The applicant, therefore, in order to procure the patent, was obliged to allege, among other things, that the instrument in question was not known or used before his application. He made the allegation, and obtained the patent. It now appears that the allegation was not true. That there was no prior use was a precedent condition to the grant; and as that condition did not exist, the grant was void. This principle has been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Story, in delivering the opinion of the court, says:
"If an invention is used by the public with the consent of the inventor at the time of his application for a patent, how can the court say that his case is, nevertheless, such as the act was intended to protect? If such a public use is not a use within the meaning of the statute, how can the court extract the case from its operation, and support a patent where the suggestions of the patentee are not true, and the conditions on which alone the grant was authorized to be made, do not exist? In such a case, if the court could perceive no reason for the restrictions, the will of the legislature must still be obeyed. It cannot and ought not to be disregarded where it plainly applies to the case. But if the restriction may be perceived to have a foundation in sound policy, and be an effectual means of accomplishing the legislative objects, by bringing inventions early into public and unrestricted use; and, above all, if such policy has been avowed and acted upon in like cases in laws having similar objects, there is very urgent reason to suppose that the act, in those terms, embodies the real legislative intent and ought to receive that construction." - (Pennock vs. Dialogue, 2 Peters, 1, 21.)
That opinion has been confirmed by several others of the same court. - (Grant vs. Raymond, 6 Peters, 218; Shaw vs. Cooper, 7 Peters, 292 ; McClurg vs. Kingsland, 1 Howard, 202.)
The English statute of James I, of Monopolies, is very similar, as to the question before us, to our act of 1793. By the English statute the grant is to the inventor of such manufactures "which others, at the time of making such letters patent and grants, shall not use." - (Webster on Patents, 29.) The decisions of the English courts under that statute are, that if the manufacturer was, at the date of the patent, in use in public so as to come to the knowledge of other persons than the inventor, the patent is void, as being contrary to the condition on which patents are granted. - (Carpenter, vs. Smith, 9, Meeson & Welsby, 300; Heath vs. Smith, 3 Ellis & Blackburn, 256.)
The claimant contends that the government is estopped by the patent from denying its validity; but in that he is mistaken. It is true, that if an individual grantor affirms in the deed of conveyance that he is seised of a particular estate, or asserts in the deed any other fact, he is estopped from afterwards denying the fact thus asserted. But that rule does not prevent the grantor from showing that the deed never had any legal existence. It is decided that such grantor is not estopped from showing that the conveyance is void in law. (Doe d. Preece vs. Howells, 2 Barn. & Adol., 744.) The rule must be the same in the case of a patent. In the present suit, which is for the infringement of a patent right, the defence relied on is, that the patent was void from the beginning; and, as we have already shown, that defence is established by the testimony. The patent was granted, not absolutely, but upon certain conditions annexed to it by law; one of which conditions was, that before the time of the application for the patent, the instrument was not known or used by others. That condition was a precedent one. And as the government has proved that the instrument was, before the application, known and publicly used by persons other than the patentee, the right mentioned in the patent never vested in the patentee. The patent was a nullity, and the patentee was, of course, entitled to no benefit under it.
This view of the subject renders it unnecessary for us to examine the question whether the doctrine of estopples applies in any case to the government.
It may be proper to mention that no objection was made to the competency of any of the evidence referred to in this opinion.
Our opinion is, that the claimant has no cause of action.
Memorial of the heirs of James Greer, deceased, claiming compensation for the use of a patent machine for boring gun barrels, at the national armory, at Harper's Ferry, and which invention of their ancestor has teen used for many years by the United States.
To the honorable Congress of the United Slates:
Your memorialists represent that they are the heirs of James Greer, deceased, who invented an improved mode of boring gun barrels, and took out a patent for the same on the 3d October, 1817, which accompanies the memorial, marked A. He invented his improvement while working in the gun shop of Robert McCormick, at Philadelphia, in the year 179-, as appears by the statement of his fellow-laborer, Hame. (1.) After the election of the armory at Harper's Ferry, very soon after that time, Dennis O'Byrne furnished a description of the plan to Joseph Perkins, an officer at Harper's Ferry, and in consequence Greer was induced to remove there and put his plan in operation, in 1803 or 1804. (2.) It appears by the statement of Colonel Stubblefield, (3,) superintendent of Harper's Ferry from 1807 to 1829, that the new mode was in force there during that time, and was considered as indispensable. And although he received a regular notice from Greer after his patent was issued, not to use it unless he would pay for it, yet he continued its use as before, and referred Greer to the department at Washington.
Greer then applied to the Ordnance Office by letter, dated 9th March, 1818, and received an answer 19th March, 1818, referring him back again to the superintendent. (13.) He then, in 1820, presented a memorial to Congress for redress, which was renewed in 1822. (14.) He also employed John Strider, esq., to prosecute his claim. Being, however, an intemperate man, and not so capable of attending successfully to his interests, although a man of high character for integrity, as well as of uncommon mechanical skill, he allowed the case to linger until he died, in 1826. His patent expired in October, 1831. During the time he was employed in the armory he invented several important improvements in the various machines there, for none of which he took out patents, and which are now enjoyed by the government at that armory. The reasons given by himself why he delayed so long in applying for a patent for his great invention, the "nut-borer for guns," were, that he wished, if possible, to improve it, and to ascertain if it had been ever known before either in this country or elsewhere. (4.) Although it has now taken the place of all other modes, both in this country and Europe, yet it was not known in England till 1821, as appears by the statement of an English workman, (10,) and who, on arriving here in that year from England, found the improved mode of work in operation here.
It is impossible to estimate fully the value of this improvement to the United States. It came at a critical moment, in aid of the system for creating a national arm which should equal or excel all other arms. In the war of 1812 it is known by those who participated in it, that Harper's Ferry and Springfield arms were the best in the field on either side. The agency which Greer's invention had in the rapid manufacture and improved quality of the arms is clearly proved by the superintendent, the inspectors, the armorers and workmen who were engaged in those works. (3, 5, 6, 9.) But the United States not only enjoyed the benefit of the improvement at the public armories, but in the contractors' shops, where large numbers of superior arms were made by its use, (No. 6,) as shown by Mr. Moor, who inspected them. The value of it was not only felt in the quality but more so in the price. All the witnesses prove that the number which a borer and his help could make under the old mode varied from two to four in a day, while under Greer's plan he could make twenty-five per day; and when rough bored with Greer's "nut-borer" the barrel was in as good condition as usually after being smooth bored under the old plan. The cost of boring a barrel under the latter plan was from forty to fifty cents each, for the wages were $1[.]50 per day, and from two to four the number usually bored. Under no state of case could it fall short of thirty cents on each barrel. By the new mode the barrel is bored at seven cents, that being the sum allowed for that work, making a clear saving of twenty-three cents on each barrel.
Your memorialists now appeal to Congress to make them a just compensation, too long withheld, for the use of the property of their ancestor. They respectfully suggest the propriety and justice of making the amount saved by the United States in the arms made for them during the continuance of the patent the basis of their claim. The government has already in many cases done justice to inventors in this line of mechanical improvement. Captain Hall, the inventor of an improved rifle, and more especially in the case of Thomas Blanchard, inventor of the stock turning machine, received ample remuneration. In Blanchard's case he was allowed one-half the amount saved in the expense of the stocks thus made, as is shown by Colonel Talcott's letter of 21st May, 1839, and the contract with the inventor, approved by the Secretary of War, enclosed. (12.) This ratio they think is fair, and are willing to abide by it, and they suppose that Congress will not offer less.
By the official report from the Ordnance Office, (11,) of 23d January, 1849, it appears that within the period embraced in the patent of Greer, the following arms were made for the government:
Muskets, 502,390; rifles, 39,845; total, 542,235. In that number the total amount saved, at the ratio of twenty-three cents on each barrel, is $124,713; the half of that sum is $62,356. This amount, could it have been received by the ingenious and good man who wrought such important benefits to the country by his genius, would have saved him from much misery, and enabled him to close his days in ease and comfort.
They have thus shown, they trust to the satisfaction of Congress, the novelty and value of the invention of Greer; that he appropriated it to himself under the law by a patent; that he claimed the benefit of his patent in due form, and of the proper departments; that he never received one dollar, while the government has been annually saving thousands by its use; that the claim has every merit in itself, and is within the just rules already established by the government in various other cases. Having thus done all that they can do or ought to be expected to do, they throw themselves on the justice of Congress, and respectfully implore as speedy a decision as may comport with the just rules of proceeding in your honorable bodies.
To account for the delay which existed in renewing the claim after the death of Greer, they refer to the letter of the Hon. Charles J. Faulkner (No. 7) and of Hon. R. W. Barton, (8,) which will show they have not slept on their rights.
JOHN H. KING.
WASHINGTON, December 1, 1851.
Number of muskets and rifles made at the national armories from 1817 to 1831, inclusive.
|Whole number of muskets purchased within the years by the United States from private armories ..............................................................||135,310|
|Whole number of rifles purchased within the years by the United States from private armories ................................................................||29,052|
There is no way of getting (at Washington) at the cost of the boring of a musket or rifle barrel for these years.
ORDNANCE OFFICE, January 23, 1849.
The within statement is made up from the books and files of this office.
G. BENDER, Chief Clerk.
Mr. FAULKNER, from the Committee on Military Affairs, reported the following bill:
A BILL for the relief of the heirs of James Greer, deceased.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized to settle and adjust with the heirs of James Greer, deceased, their claim to compensation for the use by the United States of the nut-boring bit, with the machine connected therewith, of which the said James Greer was the inventor and patentee, upon the terms upon which the government adjusted, a similar claim of Robert Blanchard, in eighteen hundred and thirty- nine; and the Secretary of War shall proceed to ascertain, in such manner as shall be most satisfactory to himself, the net amount saved in the manufacture of arms at the national armories by the use of this improvement, from the third of October, eighteen hundred and seventeen, to the third of October, eighteen hundred and thirty-one, during which time the patent was in force; and having, upon the principle adopted in said Blanchard's case, ascertained the said net amount, that he pay one-half of said amount to the heirs of James Greer, from any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated: Provided, however, The amount thus paid to the said heirs shall not exceed the sum of fifty thousand dollars.
DEAR SIR: With a design to aid you in forming an opinion upon Mr. Greer's case, which has been resting for a long time under your consideration, I have reduced to writing my ideas of the utility of his invention, of the testimony which proves the fact of the discovery, and of the sections of the Constitution and law upon which every true inventor must necessarily found his claim. I have also made a calculation, which will exhibit the annual saving (and the aggregate of fourteen years) to the general government from the operation of the machine. Mr. Greer's claim against the United States is certainly but fair, and in every particular in which it can be viewed, by referring to the papers, it will be found that no doubt can possibly exist in relation to the identity of the inventor or the importance of the invention. The patentee has obtained his letters patent strictly according to the letter of the law which authorized the grant, and the fact that the United States are now using and have been using upwards of twenty years said invention in both of their armories at Harper's Ferry and Springfield needs no proof in the Ordnance Department.
To prove the fact that Mr. Greer is the true and original inventor of the nut-boring bit, &c., I do not rely wholly upon his oath, which was necessarily made before the patent could be granted to him; and the circumstance that no information can be obtained either in books or otherwise that such a machine was ever put into operation anterior to November, 1797, the date to which Mr. Greer has affixed his invention, the fact is sustained by strong additional testimony. The affidavit of Thomas Humes proves pointedly the fact of the invention, and describes the nut-boring bit with very great accuracy. The variance of one year with respect to time between Mr. Greer and Mr. Humes may readily be admitted as the consequent of the lapse of twenty years which had intervened. That this idea of the variance be correct no one will doubt, upon recollecting that the deponents agree in every other particular: the place, employment, and the exact description of the machine invented. The testimony does not end here. The subject arising from the fact of original invention has been the topic of two legal investigations: Daniel Pettibone vs. Henry Deringer, of Philadelphia, and Holmes vs. Col. Lee, of Springfield In the first of these cases, Deringer proved most clearly that Mr. Greer was the true inventor of the new plan of boring gun barrels, and a verdict was recorded for the defendant. In the second, a variety of depositions, which were taken in behalf of Col. Lee, afford a strong corroboration of Mr. Greer's schedule annexed to his letters patent and the affidavit of Thomas Humes. Those deponents state that Robert McCormick, of Philadelphia, (who had made a contract to manufacture a considerable quantity of arms, and in whose employment Mr. Greer made his discovery,) was requested by the Secretary of the War Department to visit the armory at Springfield, to review the same, and report its condition. This occurred in 1798 or 1799, when McCormick communicated information of the new method of boring to the superintendent of the armory, who directed one of the artizans to accompany McCormick on his return to Philadelphia, where the artizan received a model of the machine and some of the nut-boring bits already made. So much of those depositions as relate to the introduction of the new method of boring from McCormick's factory, near Philadelphia, into the United States armory at Springfield, and the time of the introduction, give strong corroborative evidence of Mr. Greer's claim to the invention. After those depositions were taken, Holmes, I believe, abandoned his cause. Let me here observe (for the purpose of showing that it was highly probable that nothing of this method of boring was known either in England or Ireland at the time Mr. Greer made the discovery) that McCormick was a very intelligent man, an excellent mechanic, and one of the united men of Ireland, who had frequently been in England for the purpose of buying materials for the use of his individual concerns, and arms already made, which he separated into parts, as stocks, locks and barrels, to be shipped in those component parts to Ireland on account of the united men. I mention the fact of his being an united man because his emigration to this country was forced by some information which had been filed against him, and shows that it is probable, nay highly probable, that he was a very distinguished mechanic. McCormick, we may presume, had general and correct information of all the important manufactories of arms either in England or Ireland, and when he arrived at Philadelphia, the circumstance of his directing his men to bore barrels on the old pushing plan was positive proof that he had never heard of the new drawing method, and good circumstantial evidence that it was totally unknown both in England and Ireland. It is further to be observed that the old plan of boring was used at Harper's Ferry until Mr. Dennis O'Byrne, at the request of Mr. Joseph Perkins, superintendent, went to McCormick's manufactory while Mr. Greer was still working for McCormick, to view and make a draught of the new machine, which O'Byrne brought to Harper's Ferry, and by which a machine was constructed and put into operation a short time after the armory was established; yet the operation was not complete until Mr. Greer arrived at that place himself, and regulated the motion of every part by reducing the band wheels, &c. You now have before you a statement of the testimony upon which I rely to identify the time and place of the invention, and the person of the inventor. The same testimony proves incontestibly [sic] that models of the machine were taken from the identified place of discovery to Harper's Ferry and Springfield, from which machines were constructed and put into successful operation. Nothing more on these topics seems to be necessary; I therefore proceed to make the calculation which will illustrate the importance of the invention, and will exhibit the annual saving, &c., to the United States by its operation; and that calculation must rest upon the authority of a single document which is supported by six respectable names; names which will give the facts contained in the document general and unquestionable credibility in the town of Harper's Ferry, relative to the qualifications and standing of the gentlemen who have furnished the document to which I have alluded, and which must be the basis of the computation, the cardinal rule for determining the measure or latitude of Mr. Greer's claim against the United States, reference can be easily made to the officers of the armory at Harper's Ferry or to any other gentlemen who are conversant with their reputation. I am very much included to believe, from the circumstance of the extreme caution which was exercised by those six gentlemen in making their estimates, that they have underrated the performance of the machine, and consequently the saving which it yields to the government. Under this impression, I shall, however, make the computation according to the opinion contained in the paper, which is in the follow[ing] words: That five barrels may be bored on the present plan to one on the old; that the boring of five barrels on the old, would be a common day's work for one man, and the expenditure for bits, &c., and keeping them in repair for boring the five would be greater than that for boring the twenty-five. Thus it will be perceived that the machine in boring twenty-five barrels will save the labor of four men - one day each. Suppose a mechanic to receive $1[.]50 per day, this multiplied by four will give the saving in labor on boring twenty-five barrels, $6. Suppose the expense of making augers, bits &c., and repairing them for boring five barrels on the old plan is fifty cents, that multiplied by four will give the saving in augers, bits, repairing and materials, $2.
Total saving on 25 barrels ..........................................$8[.]00
Total saving on 100 barrels ........................................32[.]00
Total saving on 12,000 barrels ..............................3,840[.]00
Total saving on 24,000 barrels ..............................7,680[.]00
Total saving on 336,000 barrels ........................107,520[.]00
Thus it is manifest that, upon 336,000, the number of arms which the United States manufactured at Harper's Ferry and Springfield, in the course of fourteen years, there is a saving to the government of $107,520 by the use of Mr. Greer's machine.
The saving on the boring of each barrel is 32 cents, according to the foregoing calculation, which I seriously think is far short of the actual saving. I now ask for the patentee one-third of the amount which the use of his machine in the public armories will save to the government in the course of fourteen years, beginning with the date of the patent and ending with the time specified therein, which will be 10 2/3 cents on each gun which has been and may be manufactured by the United States from the 3d of October, 1817, to the termination of the letters patent. In making this demand, I consider the contract made with Mr. Blanchard, for the use of his gun stock turning machine, as a precedent or strict rule for regulating the amount of the demand. From all the information which I have been able to collect on the subject, it appears that he receives about one-third of the saving which the operation of his machine yields to the government. Therefore I cannot suppose that the equity of my demand will meet with any hostility from you on the part of the United States. The making of this application was predicated on the idea that the honorable Secretary of War and the officers under his control have the power to contract for the use of machines, &c., which will curtail the expenses of any one of the operations which may fall within the administration of the duties of that department.
In the course of my observations on the patent laws, I shall occasionally be compelled to pass animadversions upon Judge Van Ness' opinion, extracts of which were put into my hands by my friend, Captain Wade. Judge Van Ness contends that the first section of the act of Congress, passed in February, 1793, to promote the progress of useful arts, prohibits an inventor from obtaining, or destroys his right to obtain, a legal patent, unless he applies for it before the invention is put into practical operation. The part of the act upon which he relies to support his doctrine is, that when any person or persons, being a citizen or citizens of the United States, shall allege that he or they have invented any new and useful art, machine, &c., not known or used before the application, and shall present a petition to the Secretary of State, &c. The Judge refers the epithet new to the time of applying for the patent. He makes the same use of the words not known or used. This reference I conceive to be totally wrong. It certainly was the intention of the legislature to say that the invention should be new and useful when invented - not known or used before the application of the principles of the invention. Not before the application for a patent, because that application commences with the act of presenting a petition to the Secretary of State, to which neither the word application, nor the idea arising from it, can be fairly referred. There is nothing more common in the English language than the use of ellipsis, and whatever is omitted in a sentence must have a retrospective relation to some antecedent matter or proposition; therefore the word application in the law must refer directly to art, machine, &c.; and if that is the fact, what becomes of Judge Van Ness' construction, or what is more plain and evident than that the law only requires the art or machine to be new, and not known or used at the time of the discovery. In support of this construction of the first section I refer you to the third section, for the purpose of seeing the word application used strictly in conformity with my doctrine. And, in the case of any machine, he shall fully explain the principle and the several modes in which he has contemplated the application of that principle or character by which it maybe distinguished from other inventions. A similar use of the word application is made in the letters patent: Whereas, James Greer, a citizen of the United States, hath alleged that he has invented, a new and useful improvement, being a nut-boring bit, &c., which improvement he states has not been known or used before his application. Application of what? The nut-boring bit, in the peculiar way described in his schedule. This expression in the letters patent comports precisely with the construction which I have given to the first section of the law.
If Congress had intended the law to operate as Judge Van Ness has expounded it, it would have been necessary and very easy to have inserted after the word application the words for a patent, and to have made that part of the first section read, not known or used before the application for a patent; and the omission of those words makes the point entirely clear that Congress intended the word application to refer, according to the ordinary structure of our language, to art, machine, &c. All epithets are comparative, and when new is applied in the law to art, machine, &c., the obvious meaning is that the art or machine shall be new when compared with other arts and machines of the same kind. Now, with respect to Mr. Greer's boring machine, the moment it was completed it was a new machine, new by being compared with the one which had been in use for many years before; and at the same moment, by the same rule, the boring machine used before Mr. Greer's was an old machine. It is upon the principle of this rule that, in speaking of the method of boring used before Mr. Greer made his discovery and Mr. Greer's method, we involuntarily apply old to the one and new to the other. It is impossible to use the word new in any case so as to confine the idea which it represents to any particular point of time, such as a day, month, or year; therefore the same difficulty will be found in limiting the idea to ten or twenty years; the idea must always conform to the nature of the subject to which it is applied. In order to apply the principle, pluck a rose from a bush, and how long can you call it new? Not one hour or day at furthest; but suppose a rose painted upon canvas, could not the painting be called new at the end of a year, nay, at the end often years? Test the principle further by the use of the epithet old, which has, in the construction of our language, all the common properties of the adjective new, and you will see its effect with greater force. A horse that lives twenty years is very old; a man at that age is immature, and cannot be called old until he attains sixty or more. Our republic, although forty-seven years in existence, is and will be new one thousand years hence, if compared with the Grecian republics. Thus it appears that the adjective new is not only comparative but variable, and variable to a sufficient extent to embrace an invention the discovery of which took place less than twenty years before the patent was obtained. New is a very vague, indefinite term, which may be varied to embrace one or one thousand years, according to the subjects to which it may be applied, and as such I shall dismiss it for your consideration. But the words not known or used are of a different character; no expression can be more definite, and they refer as direct to the application of the principles of the invention. It is obvious, indeed, that those words in the law were not intended to obstruct the constitutional right of a true inventor, but to interpose barriers to fraud and imposition. The legislature might have supposed that ingenious men of limited reading would, in the course of time, really invent arts, principles, and machines, which have been in use for one or two thousand years. A case of this kind would be peculiarly hard on the individual who had expended his time, money, and labor to no effect; but it would be infinitely more hard and injurious to subject the community to never ending demands for enormous patent fees by unprincipled men, who would obtain patents by perjury, and in most cases there would be no possible means of counteracting perjury. If Congress had opened the door for honest men who might have really invented arts and machines which had been many years in operation before the second discovery, thieves would have broken through and stolen; therefore, for the prevention of such frauds and perjuries, the words not known or used were introduced into the law. When any section or clause of a law is obscure in its phraseology, the only means that we have of arriving at the true intent and meaning of the section, &c., are references to other clauses of the law, which involve the general object of the makers of the law; and, with a view to show that the legislature did not intend to say, by the language of the first section, that a true inventor, &c., should be debarred from obtaining a patent after his invention was known or used, or that his patent thus obtained should be invalidated by such knowledge or use, I shall refer you to the sixth section, which permits the defendant to plead the general issue, and give in evidence, in addition to other things, that the thing thus secured by patent was not originally discovered by the patentee, but had been in use or had been described in some public work anterior to the supposed discovery of the patentee, and in that case judgment shall be rendered for the defendant, with costs, and the patent shall be declared void. Every part of this section is clearly intended to operate against the frauds and impositions of men who never made inventions, and it contains an enumeration of the pleas which a defendant may make in his defence against a fraudulent patentee, and if the framers of the law had have intended to say in the first section that no patent should issue to any inventor whose invention had been known or used before the time of the application for a patent, and if the patent had issued it was null and void by such knowledge or use, such intention would have been included in said enumeration, and would certainly, in point of proof, be attended with less difficulty than either of the enumerated pleas. As it was not included as a plea in the sixth section it could have had no such meaning in the first, and as a defendant derives his power of making those pleas from an act of Congress, and Congress have enumerated the pleas which he shall make, it appears very clear to me that he, in his defence, cannot travel beyond the boundaries of the enumeration.
This section cannot be misunderstood. It states that a defendant shall be permitted to give in evidence any special matter tending to prove the truth of any one of the allegations which the law allows him to use in his defence, and fully implies that he shall give no other evidence, and says to him, thus far shalt thou go and no further.
It has been said if the first section does not refer to the time of granting the patent, but to the time of the discovery, how can the explanations and descriptions, required in the 3d section to be filed in the office of the Secretary of State, be necessary? Surely, says Judge Van Ness, they are not required to enable a skillful person to practice an art already known and in use, or to make a machine which may be seen on the highway. Certainly not; it was never expected that any person who wished to obtain information of a new art, machine, &c., for which a patent had been granted would go to the office of the Secretary of State for such information. The inventor's schedule was not deposited in that office for the dissemination of knowledge relative to his machine. It is the business of an inventor to give publicity to the principles and utility of his invention, and not that of the Secretary of State. It is his duty under the act of Congress to have the art or machine, &c., accurately described for the purpose of contradistinguishing its principles from those of all other arts, machines, &c., in existence, and for the purpose of detecting any fraudulent assumption of such principles which might thereafter be attempted to be made.
I have taken a cursory view of the testimony and law upon which Mr. Greer's claim is founded, and nothing can be more positive than the testimony; nothing more clear than the law in his favor. Without pretending to have any claim to philological information, I have commented freely on the law, and animadverted as freely on its expositions by Judge Van Ness. I cannot conclude without making a short recapitulation of my observations on the law; and in the first place I repeat that an invention must be new, as well as useful, at the time of the discovery, to entitle an inventor to a patent, or the patent to validity; but for my present purpose I would as lief refer those qualities of the invention to the time of obtaining the patent, as to that of the discovery; if the invention was useful at the time the application for a patent was made, there could be but little doubt of its utility when the discovery was made; and if the invention was an improvement upon an art or machine, and no improvement had been made afterward, the invention would be more than new, no matter what time had elapsed it would be the newest invention on the improvement of that particular art or machine. Those distinctions, are, however, unimportant, but the reference of the words, not known or used before the application, is infinitely more important to the equitable and legal rights of true inventors; if those words are referred to the time of demanding a patent no original inventor could test the principles of his invention before he must subject himself, however poor, to the cost of obtaining a patent; because, if he constructed a machine and put it into operation, it would be both known and used; known by every person in the neighborhood where the machine was constructed, and used by the man for whom it was constructed; and if thus known or used his constitutional right to obtain a patent would be barred for ever; the testing of the principles of an invention of full magnitude and with full power, must be important to an inventor before he applies for a patent; if parts of his original plan were defective, those parts might be perfected by practical observation, and subsequently embraced in the body of his letters patent.
I cannot see the necessity, if any exists, of pursuing this subject one stride further; notwithstanding, I beg to be permitted to complete my recapitulation. That part of the first section of the act of 1793, which contains the words not known or used before the application, is cleared elliptical, and so it is used by those who think (if anybody can be sincere in the thought) that those words refer to the time of applying for a patent, but in such use a principle is introduced which cannot exist in composition; a reference of that which is understood in a sentence to that which is not previously expressed in the sentence. Nothing is said in this section about obtaining a patent previous to the words not known or used before the application; therefore they cannot apply to the time of obtaining a patent, but must refer to the time of making the application of the principles of the invention. Every plea enumerated in the sixth section of the act is not only sufficient to obtain judgment for the defendant, but to render the patent void; and in that section there is no right granted to defendants to plead that a patent was not obtained before the invention was known or used; therefore a patent thus obtained cannot be declared void, and if it cannot be declared void it must for its own duration remain in full force and virtue. What does the Constitution of the United States say on the subject? That "Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The power contained in this grant is modified, and Congress has no right to exercise it without strict reference to the modification; the manner in which the power shall be exercised is clearly prescribed. Congress can pass a law securing to an inventor for a limited time the exclusive right to his invention, and any laws which may be necessary on the subject to prevent frauds and impositions, but they can pass no law which will preclude a true inventor from his exclusive right for a limited time; and if Congress had referred the words not known or used before the application, in the first section of the act of 1793, to the time of applying for a patent instead of the time of making the application of the principles of the invention, it would have been a flagrant abuse of the power granted, and the judiciary department would have declared that part of the law unconstitutional.
I hope that every position is fully supported which may be necessary to establish Mr. Greer's claim against the government. That he is the true and original inventor; that the United States have been and are now using his invention; that the operation of this machine saves in labor and materials thirty-two cents in the manufacture of every gun; that the act of Congress passed in 1793 does not affect the validity of his patent, notwithstanding it was granted nineteen years after the date of the discovery and after the machine had been known and used; and, further, that Congress have only the power of securing for a limited time to inventors the exclusive use of their inventions, and not of withholding that exclusive use no matter when the inventor may make his demand. If these facts are all admitted, and I cannot discover by what figure of reasoning any one of them can be denied, I demand the sum which has been proposed, not as a charitable donation but as a positive right; and although Mr. Greer is a poor, old, and infirm man, who still labors to advance the prosperity of his country, he calls upon you, not in the character of an humble petitioner, not in the character of a man who has no right, or who has lost the remedy to obtain his right, but in an independent tone, demanding the benefit of a right which is founded in the Constitution and sustained by the laws of his country.
I am your obedient servant,
JOHN STRIDER, Attorney,
For JAMES GREER.
Col. GEO. BOMFORD.
Washington, May 21,1839.
SIR : I have authorized Mr. Robb to proceed to Harper's Ferry, and, conjointly with yourself, to ascertain and decide what amount should be paid to Mr. Blanchard, under his agreement dated 29th January last, a copy of which is enclosed herewith.
It appears that Colonel Bomford has agreed that there shall be allowed Mr. B. one-half the saving effected by the use of all his inventions during the full period of fourteen years, when the machines were in full operation.
Taking the average number of muskets made during any series of years, say seven, and applying it to the whole time you will have the basis, as regards number.
I have communicated to Mr. Robb such views as appeared to pertain to this case, which, of course, he will spread out; and on making up your opinion you will be pleased to state the data on which it is founded.
Respectfully, I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Colonel Ordnance.
Colonel E. LUCAS,
Superintendent Harper's Ferry Armory.
A copy. Teste:
A. M. KITZMILLER, Clerk.
Washington, January 29,1839.
In consideration of the amount received by me from the United States for the use of my patented machines for the manufacture of arms in the national armories, I hereby license, grant, and convey to the United States a full and unreserved right to the use of the improvements, as described in letters patent granted to me by the President of the United States, dated 20th June, 1820, and renewed by act of Congress for a further term of fourteen years from the 12th day of January, 1834; and also the right and benefit to any other of my improvements that is now, or has been, in operation in the armories of the United States; it being, however, understood and agreed that I am to receive any balance which, upon a full and just examination, may be found due to me upon the original agreement with the War Department, viz: that I should be paid the one-half of the clear profits or saving that should accrue to the United States from the use of' my improvements during the full period of fourteen years.
In presence of:
It appears to me that this agreement and relinquishment will sufficiently secure the rights of the United States, and will obviate the objections urged by me against the passage of the bill now under consideration.
J. R. POINSETT.
A copy. Teste:
A. M. KITZMILLER, Clerk.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States the petition of James Greer, armorer, respectfully shows:
That your petitioner has been engaged in his occupation, in the United States service, for more than twenty-one years; that in 1797, being then engaged in the manufacture of arms for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, at the Globe Mill, in the Northern Liberties of the city of Philadelphia, he discovered and invented a method of boring gun barrels for muskets, rifles, pistols, &c., most applicable, as he believes, to that formerly tedious and difficult operation in the manufacture of barrels for all kinds of firearms, which renders the calibre more uniform and true, saves greatly in the expense, increases the expedition of the manufacture, and enables a single artist to effect the manufacture of a much larger quantity of arms in a given period, with the aid of common laborers and suitable mechanical instruments.
Your petitioner is willing to transfer this important and useful invention to the United States, as their property, to be employed by them at all their present and future public armories or otherwise. For this purpose, he respectfully requests the reference of this petition to such committee or department as Congress, in their wisdom, may think proper, in order that he may exhibit his invention with his proofs and estimates, so as to enable such committee or department to examine and consider them, and to report to Congress on the merits and value of the invention, and the consideration in money which public interest and justice may appear to them to suggest should be allowed him for the same.
And your petitioner will ever pray, &c.
Know all men by these presents, that I, James Greer, of Jefferson county, and State of Virginia, do hereby constitute and appoint John Strider, of the county and State aforesaid, my sole and lawful attorney to ask, demand, settle, compromise, sue for, recover, and receive all sums, claims, or benefits to which I may be entitled under my patent granted for the invention of the nut-boring bit for boring gun and pistol barrels, and also to compound, settle, obtain and receive from the proper authorities of the government of the United States any sum or sums of money to which I may properly lay claim for the use of my said invention of the nut-boring bit at their armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry, and upon payment of such sums, claims, &c., or any part thereof, for me and in my name to give and grant acquittances and discharges for the same; and further, to do and execute all and every other lawful act and acts needful for recovering, receiving and obtaining all said sums and claims which are now due or may hereafter become due to me as aforesaid, as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as if I were personally present, hereby ratifying and confirming whatsoever my said attorney shall lawfully do or cause to be done in relation to said invention.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 13th day of September, 1823.
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of -
JAMES B. WAGER.
JAMES GREER [L.S.]
Article of agreement made and concluded this l3th day of September, 1823, between James Greer, of Jefferson county and State of Virginia, of the one part, and John Strider, of the county and State aforesaid, of the other:
Witnesseth, that the said James Greer, in consideration of one dollar lawful money of the United States in hand paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, and for the further considerations hereafter mentioned in said Strider's covenants, hath bargained and sold, and doth by these presents bargain, sell and convey unto the said John Strider, his heirs, &c., one half of the profits and proceeds of my patented invention of the nut-boring bit for boring gun and pistol barrels, and doth hereby covenant and agree to execute to the said John Strider, on demand, a legal deed constituting and appointing him, the said John Strider, his sole attorney for compromising and settling all claims with persons or associations of persons who have heretofore used the said boring bit, or those who may hereafter use it, with full power to receive the said claims or the amount thereof, and grant discharges.
The said John Strider, on his part, covenants and agrees to perform all the duties of attorney for said Greer, to use his utmost endeavors to obtain from the United States a due compensation for the use of said bit at their armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry, either by applications to the Ordnance department or Congress; also, to obtain from individuals such compensation or patent fees, to sue for the same, if necessary and expedient, at his own expense; and when he shall obtain any sums of money as attorney aforesaid, for the use of the bit aforesaid, he shall be bound to pay over to the said James Greer, his heirs, &c., one-half the amount of said sums. This contract is to continue in full force during the term for which the patent was granted to the said James Greer for said nut-boring bit.
In testimony of the foregoing, the parties to these presents have hereunto affixed their hands and seals.
JAMES GREER. [L. S.]
JOHN STRIDER. [L. S]
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of -
JAMES B. WAGER.
To the honorable the Congress of the United States:
The petition of William Greer, Benjamin Stipes, and John H. King, of Harper's Ferry, State of Virginia, respectfully represents: That in the year 1797 or 1798 James Greer, then residing in Philadelphia, invented a new and improved mode of rough-boring the barrels of small arms. That he soon after introduced that mode into use at the Harper's Ferry armory (in which he had been employed as a machinist,) whence it was adopted at the armory at Springfield, and also into all the chief establishments in the Union for the fabrication of such arms. That on the 3d day of October,1817, the said James Greer obtained from the Patent Office a patent for his said invention. He died in the year 1826, leaving a son, William Greer, your petitioner, and two daughters, Isabella, who intermarried with your petitioner, Benjamin Stipes, and Mary, who intermarried with your petitioner, John H. King. Isabella has since died, leaving her said husband surviving her, and one child, viz, Benjamin Walker Stipes, who is now 18 years of age.
Your petitioners further show unto the honorable Congress that, although the above mentioned invention has been in the constant use of the United States at their two national armories for a period now of nearly forty years, and although the United States have derived a further advantage from it in the reduced price and improved condition of all the small arms which, since its discovery, they have purchased from contractors, still neither James Greer in his lifetime, either before or during the existence of his patent right, nor have his heirs or his personal representative since his death, received one farthing from the United States or from individuals, in any shape or form whatever, for the use of said invention. James Greer (like your petitioners) was a practical mechanic, and in the employment of the United States at their armory at Harper's Ferry from 1803 until his death. The constant daily labor to which he was compelled for a livelihood, and an indisposition (which was very natural to one in his circumstances) to engage in the controversies of the courts to defend his right, may be reasons why he permitted his patent right to be invaded by individuals; but whatever those reasons were, the fact is that he never received any profit from an invention which has proved very lucrative to others.
Your petitioners further show that the said invention has proved itself of the highest importance in the fabrication of small arms; and this, not only in reducing the cost of those arms to the United States, but in the very improved character which such arms have attained from the adoption and use of this invention. The cost of rough-boring a musket barrel by means of the said invention has been reduced from thirty (30) and more cents to seven (7) cents, and the barrel as rough-bored by this plan is in nearly if not quite as good a condition as it could previously have been brought to by many subsequent operations.
A fair compensation, as your petitioners think, to the heirs of James Greer, would be the amount thus saved to the United States during the existence of James Greer's patent right. The number of muskets and other small arms fabricated at their two armories, as well as the number purchased of contractors during that time, as also the saving on each owing to said invention, can very readily be ascertained, and shown to the honorable Congress.
Your petitioners, therefore, pray the honorable Congress to grant them this or such other relief as may seem proper in the estimation of the representatives of a just and liberal government. And your petitioners will ever pray, &c.
JOHN H. KING.
HARPER'S FERRY, January 5, 1842.
We, the undersigned, who have been engaged for many years in the business of boring musket and rifle barrels, have, at the request of John Strider, attorney for James Greer, made up our opinions upon the old and present methods of boring. It is our unanimous opinion that five barrels may be bored on the present plan to one on the old; that the boring of five barrels on the old would be a common day's work for one man, and the expenditure for augers and keeping them in repair for boring the five would be greater than that for boring the twenty-five. Given under our hands this 27th of January, 1824.
I certify that I was personally acquainted with all the signers of the within written opinion in favor of James Greer's plan of boring barrels - all dead, except myself. Three of the signers were barrel borers, viz: D. Hinkel, A. McClelland, G. Randall; J. Resor, inspector; J. Keller, stocker.
PHILIP HOFFMAN, Inspector.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, to wit.
Personally appeared before me, the subscriber, a justice of the peace for said county, Philip Hoffman, and, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangely of Almighty God, deposes and says that the above or within statement is true, to the best of his knowledge and belief. Given under my hand this l7th day of December, 1849.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, to wit.
This day personally appeared James Greer before the subscriber, D. Long, a justice of the peace for the county aforesaid, who says, upon oath, that he delayed his application to obtain letters patent for his boring machine with a view of making further improvement in the said machine; also to find if any machine of a similar kind was in operation in any country previous to this invention.
The above was duly taken and acknowledged before me, March 26, 1824.
Justice of the Peace.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, June 13, 1842.
GENTLEMEN: I received your letter in due time relative to the claim of the representatives of James Greer, deceased, for certain inventions. There being so little disposition for the allowance of these claims this session, owing to the greatness of business, I have delayed answering, unless I could give you some encouragement; but satisfied now that you could not get such a claim through the present session, it becomes my duty to advise any action till the next session, when you can bring it up by petition; and be assured I shall give it every attention.
R. W. BARTON.
Messrs. JOHN H. KING.
PHILADELPHIA, June 4,1825.
DEAR SIR: I received your letter by Mr. Haines, in which you expressed a desire to know the mode of boring gun barrels in England. I have worked at boring for thirty years, and always worked with square bits, and I never saw nor knew any other way; my father likewise worked at boring all his lifetime, and always worked with square bits. I never saw the nut boring till I came to the United States, which happened in 1821. I never saw it, and I feel confident it is not used in England, either in a public or private establishment, nor has not been either in my time or my father's.
I am, with the greatest respect, yours, &c.,
MR. JOHN STRIDER.
ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT, March 19, 1818.
SIR: Your letter of the 7th instant, to Lieutenant Colonel Bomford, has been received, and I am instructed by him to inform you that your communication on the subject and use of your patent should be made through the superintendent of the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, to whom everything of that nature more properly belongs. His report thereon, made to this office, would be some guide as to any measures which might, in consequence, be taken.
Respectfully, I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Captain of Ordnance.
Mr. JAS. GREER, Harper's Ferry.
ORDNANCE OFFICE, January 17, 1817.
SIR: I have examined the memorial of Mr. Daniel Pettibone, claiming compensation for the use of the nut auger or screw augur used in boring gun barrels, which memorial has been referred by the Committee of Claims to the War Department, and on which I have been directed to report.
I have a perfect conviction, and, perhaps, I may say, knowledge that the screw auger or nut auger, used in boring gun barrels, was not invented by Mr. Pettibone. That tool I saw in use at the Globe Mills, near Philadelphia, in the year 1798, and its properties were particularly described to me by Mr. McCormick, who had introduced it there. Mr. McCormick was an Irishman, and I believe is since dead. He did not pretend it was his own, nor even a new invention at that time, and I believe it was introduced into this country from Europe. In a printed book, to which I cannot now particularly refer, I remember to have seen, many years since, an allusion to that tool, and its peculiar advantage represented to consist in its leaving the cuttings behind in the operation of boring, which implied that the tool was drawn and not propelled through the barrel. I entertain not a shadow of doubt the invention was of a date many years anterior to the year 1798.
The use of the endless screw to produce a slow progressive motion is of great antiquity in mechanics. The application of it in a particular case can by no means be considered a new invention.
From McCormick's Works, near Philadelphia, the use of the nut auger in boring gun barrels was extended about the year 1799 to Springfield, and the other places where that business was carried on.
Mr. Pettibone's claim originally extended only, I believe, to the invention of a particular method to be used in fabricating that tool - a thing in itself of very little importance, and which method is now, I believe, generally dispensed with.
His petition to obtain a patent bears date 31st March, 1812, about thirteen years after the date of the invention, according to his own statement - a fact of no small importance.
Without venturing positively to accuse him of plagiarism, I shall content myself with stating, he has in more than one instance claimed, as inventions of his own, things known in principle and published to the world long before.
On a full consideration of the subject, I am of opinion Mr. Pettibone has no claim to any particular favor for his inventions from this government, and that he ought to be referred to such remedies as the law provides to obtain the compensation he asks for.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Colonel of Ordnance.
The honorable the SECRETARY OF WAR.
ORDNANCE OFFICE, February 19, 1820,
SIR: In relation to the petition of James Greer, laying claim to the invention of the nut auger or screw auger, used in boring musket barrels, I have the honor to state, that about three years ago Mr. Daniel Pettibone presented a petition to Congress for remuneration on account of the same invention, which he pretended to have made in the year 1799. My report in his case was dated on the 17th January, 1817, to which it may not be improper to refer in relation to the present claim.
The present petitioner, Greer, goes a little further back, pretending to have invented the tool or instrument in 1797; but the truth is, there is unquestionable evidence of its having been in common use anterior to the year 1796, and it is reasonable to believe the invention is of considerably older date. I am entirely convinced the merit of this invention is due neither to Pettibone nor the present petitioner, Greer.
Under this impression, I would recommend that he should be left to seek such relief, if any, as he may obtain under the patent law.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,
Colonel of Ordnance.
Hon. J. C. CALHOUN.
To the honorable the Judges of the Court of Claims:
Your petitioners, William Greer, Benjamin Stipes, and John H. King, respectfully represent, that they are the only heirs of James Greer, deceased, late of Harper's Ferry, Virginia, who died intestate in the year 1826; that their ancestor was an ingenious mechanic, in the gun making business, which he pursued for many years in Philadelphia, and afterwards at the armory at Harper's Ferry; that he was invited by the officer superintending that establishment to enter the service there, that he might bring with him and establish a method of boring gun barrels, invented by him in Philadelphia, which was considered important for the public interest, on account of its superior efficiency in the finish of the barrels; and that he accordingly removed to Harper's Ferry in 180-, where he remained for many years in public employment; that by the advice of friends, and from a sense of justice to himself and family, he was induced, after many years, to claim the benefit of the invention above named, and accordingly applied for a patent, which was granted, said patent bearing date the 8th of October, 1817; that on its reception he gave due notice to the superintendent of the armory that he must discontinue the use of the machine, unless compensation were made for it; that the superintendent referred him to the Ordnance bureau in Washington, to the head of which he applied, and was referred back again to the superintendent, and neither afforded the relief demanded. Finding nothing could be obtained from the department, Greer made application in 1820 to Congress; his memorial was referred to a committee whose report was ordered to lie on the table; was again presented on the 2d of March, 1822 - an unfavorable report, and leave to withdraw; again presented 10th of January, 1843, and again in December, 1843 - referred to Military Committee, adverse report, ordered to lie. Again, December 16, 1851, referred to Committee of Claims, and no report; and again on December 13, 1853, and referred to Committee on Military Affairs, which committee reported favorably, its report being filed herewith, and containing a very fair statement of the claim and the evidence to sustain it. The necessary jurisdiction in the case, as we suppose, being granted to your honorable court, we now bring the case before you.
The petitioners believe their ancestor was entitled to full compensation from the United States for the use of his invention during the existence of the patent, which was from the 8th of October, 1817, to the 8th of October, 1831, during which time it was the only machine for boring guns used at either of the public armories, or at the shops of private contractors, by which means the government enjoyed all the advantages resulting from it. To sustain these allegations, your petitioners refer to the proofs contained in the papers now on file in this court, which show fully their truth.
Your petitioners hope that the principal question the court will have to decide, will be the measure of damage for the trespass on the legal rights of Greer under his patent. Should such be the case, your petitioners suggest that they are willing to accept the same compensation which was allowed under precisely similar circumstances to Robert Blanchard, the inventor of the machine for turning gun stocks, which was one-half the amount saved by the United States by the use of the machine. This was regularly ascertained, and paid over to the inventor. Several other analogous agreements have been made and carried out by the government, and cannot be objected to for want of fairness.
All which is respectfully submitted.
JOHN H. KING.
By JOHN M. McCALLA,
Attorney and Counsellor at Law.
Personally appeared the above named John M. McCalla before me, who, being duly sworn, says that the facts set forth in the above petition are true, to the best of his knowledge.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Patent Office, June 16, 1807.
SIR: I received your letter concerning the improvement made by your friend, Mr. James Greer, in the boring of gun barrels. I have had an examination made of the patents, and also of the caveats, of Mr. Daniel Pettibone, but I do not find any on this subject; yet I well remember that he has long laid claim to modes of boring gun barrels which he asserted were in general use at this time in the United States. If Mr. Greer wishes a patent, he has only to apply for one in the manner directed by the enclosed paper, and it will be granted without delay.
I have made the entry, as you desired, in his favor.
I am, with every good wish, yours, &c.,
Mr. WM. McKEE.
John M. McCalla states: That on the 10th of January last he applied to see the record of the suit of Pettibone vs. Deringer, in the United States circuit court at Philadelphia, referred to in the letter of Edward Lucas, esq., to the committee of the Senate, (marked C.) The suit was for damages for violating his patent right for a nut-borer like that patented to Greer. No depositions or proof of any kind were on file, as the clerk certifies; and, as he stated, parties were at liberty to withdraw such papers after trial. A certified copy of the docket is annexed, which shows that commissions for depositions were taken by both parties, and returned; and that on a trial of the cause, a verdict for the defendant was rendered, and judgment accordingly, with six cents costs.
He then saw the defendant, Henry Deringer, in person, who stated to him that he worked in Philadelphia himself when Greer invented the nut-borer, and used it in the gun making business in contracts with the United States during the war of 1812 and since; that knowing the origin of the nut-borer, when sued by Pettibone, he plead Greer's prior invention, and proved it, and thereby succeeded in his defence. He was unwilling to allow the use of the proofs to Greer's heirs without a heavy compensation, which this declarant was not authorized, to give.
JOHN M. McCALLA.
Sworn to before me, this 27th February, 1854.
J. H. GODDARD, J. P.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA, IN THE THIRD CIRCUIT. - Of April Session, 1816, No. 10.
Summons case. - Exit, Dec. 30, 1815.
April 11, 1816. - Returned "served."
October 7, 1816. - Narr. filed.
March 6, 1817. - Rule to plead in one month, or judgment.
April 1, 1817. - Defendant pleads non cul, with leave to give the special matter in evidence, and issue and rule for trial by special jury.
April 30, 1817. - Continued by defendant on account of the absence of a material witness, and on payment of the costs of the session.
June 5, 1817. - Exit joint commission to Albany.
October 2, 1817. - Commission returned and filed.
July 14, 1817. - Defendant's interrogatories filed, and rule for commission to Springfield.
August 9, 1817. - Exit commission to Springfield, ex parte defendant, according to rule.
January 28, 1818. - Commission to Springfield returned and filed.
May 20, 1818. - And now a jury being called, come, to wit: Daniel Sammet, Lewis Lay, Isaac Lea, Henry Lentz, Isaac c. Elfirth, John Greiner, Joseph Johns, Emanuel Spangler, John Sperry, Thomas Mahon, Isaac McCauley, Augustus Whiting, who are, respectively, sworn or affirmed, &c.
May 23, 1818. - And now the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths and affirmations aforesaid, respectively, do say that they find for the defendant, with six cents costs. Judgment nisi.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Eastern District of Pennsylvania,
I, George Plitt, clerk of the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, in the third circuit, do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true and faithful copy of the docket entries in the above entitled cause. I also certify that the commissions mentioned in said docket entries have been mislaid, and, after diligent search, cannot be found.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of the said circuit court, at Philadelphia, this tenth day of January, A. D. 1854, and in the seventy-eighth year of the independence of the said United States.
Clerk Circuit Court.
HARPER'S FERRY ARMORY,
December 8, 1851.
GENTLEMEN: Having some years ago, at the request of the heirs and legal representatives of James Greer, deceased, investigated his claim against the United States for compensation for the use of his patented invention "for rough or nut boring gun and pistol barrels," (see rough copy of letter to Wm. Lucas, 1844,) and having recently again examined the evidence and papers (including part of those which had been withheld by the attorney, John Strider, esq.,) sustaining his claim, I respectfully beg leave to call your attention to the matter, and to the following statement in relation thereto:
First. That James Greer (whose heirs and legal representatives are now petitioning Congress) did, about the year 1797, whilst employed in Robert McCormick's gun factory, Philadelphia, invent and put into successful operation "the bit or auger now used for rough or nut boring gun and pistol barrels," by which a saving of about four-fifths of the labor and expense was effected, equal to at least twenty (20) cents on each barrel, according to the calculation formerly made by me, which is one-third less than others made it. - (See the said James Greer's own statement and affidavit of respectable witnesses.)
Secondly. That the said James Greer's invention was introduced and used in the national armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry, by direction of the Secretary of War, about the years 1798 to 1803, and is still in use in both establishments, as well as throughout the world, the principle never having been superseded to this hour. - (See affidavits of highly respectable and intelligent gentlemen personally known to me.)
Thirdly. That the said James Greer having afterwards, in the year 1817, obtained and taken out letters patent from the President of the United States for his said invention, was consequently legally entitled to demand and receive compensation from the United States government for the use of the same.
Fourthly. That neither the said James Greer, nor any person for him, either during his lifetime or since, received any compensation from the United States for the use of his said patented invention, except possibly some of the private contractors may have received an indirect benefit, whilst permitted to use it, in the manufacture of arms for government. Consequently, his heirs and legal representatives, who, as before stated, are now petitioning Congress, ought to be placed upon a footing with Thomas Blanchard, Captain John H. Hall and others, and receive just compensation, by being allowed at least twenty-eight thousand dollars ($28,000,) which is not a third part of what others have computed it to amount to. - (See extracts of correspondence and report in Blanchard's case.)
Fifthly. That, although the said James Greer was poor and dissipated, and neglected to press his claims against the United States and individuals, and take care of his own interests, as he should have done, yet he was a man of probity, as well as of extraordinary mechanical genius. I speak from personal knowledge; and applications were made both to the Ordnance and War Departments and to Congress for compensation for the use of his "patented invention," but was never allowed, notwithstanding the solemn decisions of the United States courts confirming the validity of his said "patented invention" and vested rights, and the precedents set by the War Department of compensating others similarly situated, for the use of their inventions and improvements, secured by letters patent, and this, too, after their patents had expired. - (See decisions United States court, Dan'1 Pettibone vs. H. Deringer, Phila., and Holmes vs. Col. Lee, Springfield, Mass., the defendant being agent of said Greer; also, see extracts and report, Blanchard's case.)
Sixthly. That the circumstance of the prayer of the petitioners having been reported against by a committee of Congress in 1844, in the absence of the patent and other evidence then withheld, was not unexpected, and tended to strengthen their claim rather than weaken it, by showing that, if the evidence and documents alluded to then, and now produced, had been before the committee, a favorable report would very probably have been made.
For, in fact, the petitioners themselves alleged that they had not been able to get possession of the original papers, including the patent and cotemporary [sic] affidavits, exhibits and schedule, to sustain and make out a clear and perfect case, though those proofs were still extant and in possession of John Strider, esq., attorney for the said James Greer, deceased, and should, of course, have been before the committee of Congress. - (See former references and report of committee of Congress, 1844, and statement of the Hon. C. J. Faulkner, of Ho. of Reps.)
Seventhly and lastly. That the petitioners have now, as I think, conclusively made out their claim against the United States, by the production of the original patent and documentary evidence, fortified, as I understand, by recent affidavits of gentlemen of the first respectability, among them those of Major Benjamin Moor and Col. James Stubblefield, formerly master armorer and superintendent of the Harper's Ferry armory, and of the present representative, Hon. Chas. J. Faulkner, going to prove the material facts hereinbefore stated, as well as to explain the causes of delay and consequent unfavorable inferences growing out of it, and the great length of time that has elapsed, which appears to have influenced the honorable committee of Congress, and but for which this claim could have been recovered in a court of justice, and probably still could be. But surely the lapse of time will not be permitted by the representatives of the people to operate as a bar to the allowance of this just though long standing claim, if it be made to appear, as I think it doubtless will, that the fault was not so much with them or their ancestor, James Greer, deceased, as with the government officers.
I need scarcely say that my sole object in troubling you with this long communication is to promote justice.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect and esteem, your most obedient servant, EDWARD LUCAS, Jr.
Hons. WM. R. KING, E. M. T. HUNTER, and JAS. M. MASON,
United States Senate.
A copy: - Test, A. M. KITZMILLER, Clerk.
WINCHESTER, June 20,1822.
DEAR SIR: I beg leave to make known to you Mr. Enoch Breedin, of Harper's Ferry, who goes to Washington, I believe, to lay before your department the claims of Mr. Greer for some improvement made by him in the manufactory of arms. The subject having been submitted to me some time since, it appeared to me to fall fully within the scope of executive powers under the act establishing the United States factories, and that the War Department was as adequate to make allowances for the future use of an improvement in which an individual may have a private property, as to contract with one man for his iron, or with another for his labor. Not perceiving the necessity of the intervention of the legislative body on such an occasion, I have suggested the propriety of an application directly to yourself.
Permit me to avail myself of the present occasion of renewing the assurance of the great personal regard with which I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,
H. S. G. TUCKER.
Hon. JOHN C. CALHOUN,
Secretary of War.
HARPER'S FERRY ARMORY, VA.,
DEAR SIR: At the request of some of your constituents, I have written to the honorable Senators Wm. B. King, R. M. T. Hunter, and James M. Mason, and take the liberty of sending you a copy of my communication to them. I need not trouble you with any further statements, as you are more competent to the task of investigating the law and rights appertaining to the case. I allude to the claim of James Greer and heirs.
Any assistance that I can render in the way of aiding the parties here, in hunting up evidence to sustain their case, I will cheerfully give, and I hope you will command me if necessary.
Very respectfully, your most obedient, servant,
EDWARD LUCAS, JR.
Hon. C. J. FAULKNER,
House of Representatives.
Estimate of amount saved by the United States in the expense of making gun barrels for fourteen years, from October 3, 1817, to October 3, 1831.
Number of guns made and purchased of private contractors, all of whom used the nut-borer:
The price of boring by the old plan, as proved, by the statements of the borers at Harper's Ferry, was as follows :
Number bored in a day, 1 to 3, 4 or 5, for which, at day's pay, was from $1 to $l[.]50.
Take an average to 2 each day, at $l[.]25 or $l ........................................... 50 cents.
The average cost of boring, added to which is the expense of keeping the bits in order, which the workmen say was considerable, estimated at............................................................................. 5 "
Cost of boring, old plan .............................................................................. 55 "
Cost under the new plan, paid for by the piece.............................................. 7 "
Amount saved.............................................................................................. 48 "
Engels, in his deposition, says he was paid about $1 each barrel under the old plan.
Amount saved on the whole number, $260,272[.]80.
The barrel was bored in so perfect a manner by this process, that it was in as good order as it had been formerly, alter undergoing the operation of smooth boring, which was a second process, and the final one.
Mr. TIPTON made the following report, with Senate bill No. 124:
The Committee on Military Affairs, to whom was referred the petition of John H. Hall, report:
That, on an examination into the case of the petitioner, it appears his improvements in the construction of fire-arms, and particularly of the rifle, have been subjected to the test of a rigid and scientific comparison with other small arms used in the military service of the United States, by officers well qualified to form correct estimates of their relative efficiency in the public service; and that such comparison has resulted in the conviction, on their part, of the superior qualities of the rifle invented by the petitioner over the other arms in use; and it also appears that this arm has undergone the additional test of a long course of experiment and practical use in the hands of the appropriate corps of the army, in all which it has been found well suited to the purposes for which it was intended. These facts being established, and the invention being of a nature calculated, if not exclusively, certainly in a material degree, for the public service alone, and not likely, from any probable application to private use, to remunerate the individual for the cost and merit of its discovery, the committee deem it but just that a suitable pecuniary reward should be extended to him by the government on his relinquishing to the United States his patent right for this and other important discoveries in the fabrication of fire-arms which he has heretofore made, or which he may hereafter, for the space of twenty years, make, in the construction of fire-arms as proposed by him; and inasmuch as the services of the petitioner are found to be important in attending, personally, to the manufacture of arms at the public armories, it is deemed advisable to make suitable provision for his future employment.
In conformity with these views, the committee report a bill for the benefit of the petitioner, and submit the report made at the last session of Congress, by the military committee of the House of Representatives, with the documents attached thereto, that the whole may be printed together, to present a full view of the subject.
The Committee on Military Affairs, to whom were referred the petition and documents of John H. Hall, of Harper's Ferry, in the State of Virginia, submit the following report:
The committee find that very great improvements in relation to our national arms, and the fabrication of them, have been effected by the petitioner at great expense, and that such are the merits and importance of those improvements, that it is in contemplation by the War Department to adopt them generally, and apply them to all the different kinds of our small fire-arms.
For a detailed account of the properties of these improvements and the progress of them, the committee would refer to the documents above alluded to, and which are annexed, viz :
1. Extracts from the report of the Colonel of Ordnance to the Secretary of War, in January, 1827.
2. Extracts from the report of a board of officers assembled at Greenleaf's Point in 1819, of whom Colonel N. Towson was president, made to the Secretary of War in that year.
3. Extracts from the report of a board of officers at Fortress Monroe to the Secretary of War in 1826.
4. Extracts from the report of a board of commissioners to the Colonel of Ordnance in 1827.
5. A report from the chief of the Ordnance Department, in reply to questions by the Hon. James J. McKay, of the "Committee on Military Affairs," in February, 1836.
The inventor of these very great improvements, it appears, has expended about twenty-five years of his life, and a large amount of his property, in the first instance, in accomplishing them; and the whole amount received by him during that period, of which, during eighteen years, he has been most actively and indefatigably engaged at Harper's Ferry, in Virginia, has not been sufficient, beside the economical support of himself and family, to pay off the debts contracted in effecting those improvements, the most difficult, in all probability, that ever have been accomplished in the mechanic arts by one man. The consequence is, he is now not so well off in his pecuniary concerns, after nearly twenty-five years of incessant exertion, as when he commenced. He has been impoverished by it, although he has been "eminently successful" in effecting the great objects alluded to. - (See report from the Ordnance Office in 1827.)
Having successfully, for his country, accomplished those objects, and rendered the system of fabrication invented by him, and which he terms identical, more perfect than any other extensive manufacturing process in existence elsewhere, by. the most energetic devotion of great and peculiar talents for mechanical invention, and for exerting which to the best advantage he withheld his attention from all other pursuits, by means of which he might have accumulated property for himself and family; and for nearly one-quarter of a century, induced to it by strong desires to benefit his country, and also induced by a confidence, strengthened by assurances from public functionaries, of ultimately receiving such a recompense as his success and the importance and utility of its results might entitle him to; he now requests, as a reward for his successful exertions and their beneficial effect on the national defence, to be permitted to receive the amount of the savings that the machinery invented by him for the fabrication of the rifles known by his name proves to effect, in each future year, during a period of twenty years, while he is engaged in manufacturing them at Harper's Ferry, at the rate of about three thousand rifles per year, without any deduction for rent or for interest on capital employed.
It appears to the committee that it would neither comport with justice, nor with the reputation of our country, nor with its welfare, to withhold an adequate compensation from one who has effected, and at such sacrifices, objects of such great importance and great utility, and which conduce so much to its defence and security, and, it may well be added, to its high character for practical invention. They therefore recommend, unanimously, that the sum of ten thousand dollars be paid to John H. Hall for his valuable services rendered to the "United States in the invention of the Hall's rifle, and in the invention of the means for fabricating it advantageously, and also identically; and that the Secretary of War be authorized to enter into an arrangement with him for his continued employment at the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, in Virginia, in fabricating the Hall's rifles, at the rate of twenty-six hundred dollars per year for each year in future, and with the former privileges for quarters and fuel, and land for cultivation, beginning on 1st January, 1836.
With a view to these objects they have prepared a bill.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:
The petition of John H. Hall, of Harper's Ferry, in the State of Virginia, respectfully represents:
Your petitioner has now nearly brought to the highest perfection of which they are susceptible certain improvements made by him in the construction of fire-arms, and in the fabrication of them for the United States service, by means of which, among other objects of magnitude, the disideratum has been effected of the fabrication of small fire-arms identically, or in such perfection as to admit of the mutual interchanging of all their component parts.
These improvements, including the rifle that bears his name, and which has been adopted for the United States service, were begun in 1811, from which time to the present he has devoted himself to perfecting them with an intensity of application which the subjects absolutely required, and which was indispensable to their accomplishment. His exertions have been incessant for nearly one-quarter of a century. He, in the first place, applied a large amount from his private property to effecting them, and, withholding his attention from all other pursuits, devoted it exclusively to these, engaging in the public service at the national armory at Harper's Ferry, for the purpose of prosecuting them to perfection, in full reliance, strengthened by assurances from public functionaries, of ultimately receiving from his country such a compensation as his success and the importance of the results might entitle him to; and that bis efforts have proved highly successful and important to our country is evinced by the reports relative to them made by gentlemen of high respectability and intelligence, extracts from which are annexed, and are herewith presented.
The great advantages derivable from such an improvement in the rifle as would obviate the delays and difficulties attendant on loading it induced many attempts, in different nations, at different times, to effect it, but, contrary to expectation, always without success. Such great and, apparently, insurmountable obstacles occurred in every instance as to prevent its accomplishment, and, it is believed, it was at length abandoned as hopeless by every nation that had attempted it.
The yet more difficult object of effecting the fabrication of small arms, with such accuracy as to have all their component parts mutually interchangeable, was considered of so much importance as to induce great and repeated efforts by different nations to effect it, and at great expense, but all their attempts proved ineffectual, and at length that object came to be considered as hopeless, and was abandoned as impracticable also.
Your petitioner was, as before stated, induced to attempt effecting these important and most difficult objects for our country, and has accomplished both, and so as to render them adapted to common hands, and applicable to all our national arms; but in doing it he has expended a large portion of a common life, and all the property that might otherwise have remained to him for the support of his family and of his advanced age. He would, therefore, request of your honorable body, in consideration of having successfully effected these important objects at such sacrifices, the privilege of being allowed for a limited period (twenty years) annually the amount which the application of his invention, under his direction, will save to the United States in the identical fabrication of the arms known by his name, to the extent that the machinery constructed for them by him at the United States rifle works at Harper's Ferry will produce in each year of that period, and such other reward as may appear to your honorable body commensurate to their utility and importance.
WASHINGTON, January 5,1836.
NOTE. - Among the advantages to be derived from the identical fabrication, is that of enabling our country to have all its arms made exactly, in all their dimensions and the relative positions of their various component parts, like to any models established for the national service, however perfect those models may be, thereby securing to each kind of arm respectively the important property of mutual interchangeability in all its parts, and, in consequence of that property, the ability to reconstruct good and complete arms from the uninjured parts of damaged ones of the same kind whenever they get injured in service, and to do it without much loss of time, or the intervention of workshops.
The system of the identical fabrication also furnishes a complete security against that deterioration in manufacturing our firearms to which all manufactured productions are liable, and to which they so constantly tend, after they have once arrived at a certain degree of perfection in their construction.
The great exertions made in Europe, at different periods, as well as those made in this country, to effect such a degree of perfection in manufacturing small firearms, but always unsuccessfully, have fully proved the immense difficulty of effecting it; and the great amounts expended and offered for effecting it, show the very high opinion entertained of its value and importance by different nations.
Extracts from the report of the Colonel of Ordnance to the Secretary of War, in January, 1827, on the subject of the Hall's rifles, and the fabrication of them.
This description of arms was first presented to the notice of the government in 1813, by Mr. Hall, the inventor. The Secretary of War (then General Armstrong) ordered a few of them to be procured for trial. In 1816 samples were again, presented, and in 1817 (January) a contract for one hundred of them was made by direction of the Secretary of War, with a view to arming a company of riflemen with them by way of experiment; these were completed in that year, and the officer who received and inspected them made a favorable report of them. Mr. Hall was then desired to repair to one of the national armories and attend to the construction of a few of the rifles, with a view of improving their model, and to further experiment with them. Four arms were made and tried at the armory, the officers of which made a report of them in favorable terms. After these trials at the armory, the arms were submitted for examination and trial to a board of military officers then assembled at Greenleaf's point.
The result of this examination proving the durability and superior efficacy of this description of arms, in a satisfactory manner, arrangements were soon after made for fabricating a larger number of them.
The arms referred to were completed in the early part of the year 1825 and in September of that year orders were given for a portion of them being sent to Fortress Monroe, in order that they might, in the hands of the troops at that station, be more effectually tested.
Two of the companies at Fortress Monroe were armed with. these rifles in July last, which have continued to use them ever since. A great number of trials have been made with them, a fall account of which is contained in the report of the staff of the school of practice.
This report, made by experienced officers, after a constant practice wite [sic] the arms for five months, exhibits a very full view of the subject, and clearly demonstrates the great superiority of these arms over all others heretofore used in the public service.
The convenience, safety, and celerity, with which these arms are loaded and fired, and the accuracy and effect of their fire, and the durability of the arms, have been most effectually tested, and have proved to be not inferior in any of these respects to the common arms, but generally superior in all of them, and particularly so in all that relates to celerity and effect.
As a general result, obtained by comparing Hall's rifles with the common rifles, and with muskets, it may be stated that, with an equal number of men, firing for an equal length of time, the effective shots made from each description of arms will be in the following proportions, viz: Hall's rifles, 100; common rifles, 43; muskets, 37; being an advantage in favor of Hall's over the common rifle as 9 to 4, and over the musket as 8 to 3; being more than two to one in both cases.
In conclusion, I would observe that it is now thirteen years since this description of arms was first presented to the notice of the government, and that for nine years past, measures have been in operation for perfecting the model, and for determining the effectiveness of the arms. Two thousand stands have been nearly completed, and the recent trials with them at Fortress Monroe, which were designed to test them in the severest manner, have conclusively established their superiority.
It is but an act of justice to Mr. Hall, the inventor, to state that, during the whole of this period he has devoted himself, with the greatest zeal and assiduity, to the perfecting of this arm, and of the means for fabricating it, and that, in both, he has been eminently successful; and to him is due the credit of effecting so great an improvement in firearms.
The machinery used in the fabrication of these rifles has been constructed upon a new and improved plan, by which a very important improvement in the fabrication of firearms has been effected. By the use of this machinery, each of the various separate parts which, when united, forms one arm, are constructed in that perfectly accurate and. uniform manner, that every one of the parts of one arm will fit exactly the corresponding parts of any other arm of similar model.
This degree of perfection in the fabrication of small arms has ever been considered an object of the highest importance in all national armories, and has been frequently attempted in the armories of Europe, but hitherto without success, and the attempt has been generally abandoned, from the belief that the object was unattainable.
The machinery constructed for and used in fabricating the Hall's rifles executes the work with such exactness that the component parts of one hundred rifles, made some years past, have been joined to other parts made recently, without the least difficulty, all. the parts fitting us exactly as if each had been separately adjusted to the particular rifle thus formed from the scattered members.
This subject was considered of so great importance, that a board, consisting of practical armorers and intelligent gentlemen, was appointed to inspect the machinery, and the work performed by it.
Brevet Colonel, on ordnance service.
Extracts from the report of a board of officers assembled at Greenleaf's Point, 1818-19, of which Colonel N. Towson, the present Paymaster General of the United States, was president.
On the 3d November last, at Greenleaf's point, in the city of Washington, commenced the firing of a musket and rifle of Mr. Hall's construction, and also that of a musket and a rifle of the manufactory of Harper's Ferry, model 1817. The object the board had in view was to ascertain -
1st. The relative accuracy.
2d. The force of projection.
3d. The celerty [sic] of loading, and
4th. The durability of these respective arms.
On the first subject of inquiry, they perceive no difference between the rifles, but a manifest one in favor of the new over the common musket.
On the second, no difference whatever between the two muskets and between the two rifles.
On the third, the advantage in favor of the new over the common rifle is as two to one.
It was thought proper to dispense with the firing of the common arms after 475 rounds, and the foregoing comparisons had been made. The firing of these new arms was continued from time to time, until the musket had been discharged 7,061 times, and the rifle 7,186 times, this appearing to the board a fatigue at least equal to what these pieces would be exposed to in 14 or 15 campaigns, and probably more than they would be required to undergo.
The advantages of these guns over the common ones now in use are, 1st, the celerity and ease with which they may be loaded in all situations; it is of great consequence in the rifle, the difficulty of loading is the greatest objection to its more general introduction into service.
2d. Greater accuracy and less recoil (in the musket.)
3d. Less weight (in the rifle.)
Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery, President.
Extracts from a report by a board of officers at Fortress Monroe, in 1826, to the Secretary of War, relative to the Hall's rifles, (December.)
The officers composing the staff of the artillery school of practice, to whom was confided, by general order No. 43, dated July 7, 1836, the duty of testing the principle of construction, the merits and demerits of Hall's rifle, by a series of actual experiments, and of contrasting their advantages and disadvantages with other arms now in use; to determine the convenience, and safety, and celerity, with which each kind may be loaded and fired; the accuracy and effect of each, and their respective durability, have now the honor to report that, on the 21st July, 1826, eighty-seven of Hall's rifles were placed in the hands of the two light companies of this school, and that since that time they have been in constant use for guards, parades, drill, and practice, subject to all the casualties of service in garrison; that on the 28th July, these two companies commenced a course of practice in opposition to an equal number of men armed with the Springfield muskets, and that this practice, with some necessary and unavoidable intermissions, has continued until the present time, (December, 1826.)
The common Harper's Ferry rifle having been subsequently issued to one company, a full course of expriments [sic] with that arm has likewise been had. From these experiments, varied as suggested in a letter from Colonel Bomford to Captain Baker, ordnance officer at the school, the following results have been obtained:
1st. The convenience in loading and firing.
The convenience attending the loading and firing of Hall's rifle, as compared with the common Harper's Ferry rifle, or musket, may be appreciated by a reference to the great superiority which it possesses over both in the celerity of its service. The labor of loading this arm is less arduous, and in constrained positions, such as will frequently occur, particularly with light troops, its convenient use renders its effect much more powerful than that of any other kind of small arm which is known in any service.
2d. Celerity in loading and firing.
The advantage in favor of Hall's rifle, in the celerity with which it may be loaded and fired, over the common musket, has been found to be as 36 to 49; that is, the same number of discharges were made from it in 36 minutes as were made from the musket in 49 minutes; and over the Harper's Ferry rifle it has the advantage in proportion of 5 1/2 to 12, and this, too, when loading Hall's rifle with two bullets. In firing at random, 77 discharges were made from five Hall's rifles in 4 1/2 minutes; from five muskets 54; and from five Harper's Ferry rifles 37 discharges in the same time. In constrained positions, such as sitting on the ground, &c., the advantage in favor of Hall's rifle is still greater, the same number of discharges having been made from it in 2 1/2 minutes as were made from the muskets in 4 1/2 minutes, and from the common rifle in 9 minutes.
3d. The safety in loading and firing.
In point of safety, it is believed that the exemption of Hall's rifle from the possibility of being overloaded during the confusion and hurry of action, to which inconvenience other arms are liable, gives it a character for safety which adds to its general merit.
In muskets, the consequence of overloading, by producing intimidation, and by inflicting wounds, by rendering the bearer unfit for service, and damaging the arm itself, are too serious not to render important to obviate them; and from the peculiar construction of the Hall's rifle, it is believed that this objection, which holds with respect to other arms, is completely removed in this.
4th. The accuracy and effect of the arms.
In the accuracy of their fire no important difference has been found to exist between the two kinds of rifles at short range; but in a course of experiments with the same number of Hall's rifles and common muskets, it was found that from an equal number of discharges made by either party, at equal distances from the object fired at, and always under similar circumstances, the former arm placed 7,501 bullets and the musket 5,346 bullets in the same sized target; a difference of execution in the ratio of more than 7 to 5 in favor of the accuracy of Hall's rifle. This difference of execution added to the advantages possessed by Hall's rifle in point of celerity of firing, it being as 3 to 2 over the common musket, and as 2 to 1 over the (common) rifle gives to this arm an immense superiority over both the musket and the common rifle in the effect produced.
In long ranges of 408 yards, although the rifles were fired with their usual charge of powder, which is about two-eighths the weight of their bullet, and the musket with the greater charge of two-fifths the weight of the ball, the relative execution was found to be yet more favorable to the power of the Hall's rifle.
The Hall's rifle, after having sustained 8,710 discharges, appears in a fit condition for service. Considering the number of discharges which had been made to equal the service that would be required of the arm in sixteen active campaigns, this practice was discontinued.
The relative force of projection which the three kinds of arms possess (common rifle, or Harper's Ferry rifle, musket, and Hall's rifle,) has been determined by firing them at short distances into seasoned white oak planks, with charges of powder of equal strength, and equally proportioned to the weight of the ball which is used in each. The charge of powder weighed two-fifths the weight of the bullet. In this experiment no important difference was found in the force with which the ball was projected from the different guns, the depth which they penetrated sometimes varying, in consequence of greater or less obstructions, (from the different degrees of compactness of the plank into which they were fired,) in favor of one and sometimes another, producing so near an equality in the experiments, that to neither arm can a preference, in this respect, be awarded; but, at a range of 408 yards, and with the reduced proportion of two-eighths the weight of its bullet the penetration of the shot from the Hall's rifle, as appears by the table of that practice, was found to be equal to that of the musket with its charge of two-fifths; and at all the medium distances its force has been found not inferior to either the Harper's Ferry rifle or the musket.
In reporting its opinion of the general utility of Hall's rifle, the staff of the school expresses its perfect conviction of the superiority of this arm over every other kind of small arm now in use; and this opinion has been formed after having seen two companies armed with them for five months, performing all the duties to which troops are liable in garrison, and contrasting them in a variety of ways with the common rifle and musket, in all which trials their great and general superiority has been manifest.
The uniformity which appears to exist in the dimensions of all its component parts is peculiar to this arm, and it is considered a great improvement in their construction that the several parts are so exactly similar as to suit equally well when applied to any of the rifles.
A. EUSTIS, Lt. Col. Commandant.
J. B. CRANE, Major 4th Artillery.
J. F. HIELEMAN, Major U. S. Army.
R. L. BAKER, Capt. and Director of Art.
FORTRESS MONROE, December, 1826.
Extracts from a report of a board of commissioners in January, 1827, consisting of practical armorers and intelligent gentlemen, appointed by the United States Ordnance Department to examine the machinery invented for fabricating the Hall's rifles.
In making this examination our attention was directed, in the first place, for several days, to viewing the operations of the numerous machines which were exhibited to us by the inventor, John H. Hall. Captain Hall has formed and adopted a system in the manufacture of small arms entirely novel, and which, no doubt, may be attended with the most beneficial results to the country, especially if carried into effect on a large scale.
His machines for this purpose are of several distinct classes, and are used for cutting iron and steel, and for executing wood work, all of which are essentially different from each other, and differ materially from any other machines we have ever seen in any other establishment.
Their general merits and demerits, when contrasted with the several machines hitherto in general use for the manufacture of small arms, will, perhaps, be better understood by pointing out the difference of the results produced by them, than by any very accurate description of the machines themselves.
It is well known, we believe, that arms have never yet been made so exactly similar to each other by any other process as to require no marking of their several parts, and so that those parts, on being changed, would suit equally well when applied to every other arm, (of the same kind;) but the machines we have examined effect this with a certainty and precision we should not have believed till we witnessed their operations.
To determine this point, and test their uniformity beyond all controversy, we requested Colonel Lee, (acting) superintendent of the United States armory at this place, to send to Hall's armory five boxes, containing 100 rifles, manufactured by him in 1824, and which had been in the arsenal (United States arsenal) since that period. We then directed two of his workmen to strip off the work from the stocks of the whole hundred, and also take to pieces the several parts of the receivers, so called, and scattered them promiscuously over a long joiner's work bench. One hundred stocks were then brought from Hall's armory, which had been just finished, and on which no work or mounting had ever been put. The workmen then commenced putting the work taken from off the stocks brought from the United States arsenal on to the 100 new stocks, the work having been repeatedly mixed and changed by us and the workmen also; all this was done in our presence, and the arms, as fast as they were put together, were handed to us and minutely examined. We were unable to discover any inaccuracy in any of their parts fitting each other, and we were fully persuaded that the parts fitted, after all the changes they must have undergone by the workmen, as well as those made designedly by us in the course of two or three days, with as much accuracy and correctness as they did when on the stocks to which they originally belonged.
If the uniformity, therefore, in the component parts of small arms is an important desideratum, which, we presume, will not be doubted by any one the least conversant with the subject, it is, in our opinion, completely accomplished by the plan which Captain Hall has carried into effect. By no other process known to us (and we have seen most, if not all, that are in use in the United States) could arms be made so exactly alike as to interchange and require no marks on the different parts; and we very much doubt whether the best workmen that may be selected from any armory, with the aid of the best machines in use, elsewhere, could, in a whole life, make a hundred rifles or muskets that would, after being promiscuously mixed together, fit each other with the exact nicety that is to be found in those manufactured by Captain Hall.
The quality of the work performed. - We have already remarked on this point when speaking of the uniformity of the arms; we will, however, further observe, that, in point of accuracy, the quality of the work is greatly superior to anything we have ever seen or expect to see, in the manufacture of small arms, and cannot, with any degree of propriety, be compared with work executed by the usual methods, and it fully demonstrates the practicability of what has been considered almost or totally impossible by those engaged making arms, viz: of their perfect uniformity.
It appears equally evident to us that ten thousand arms, in one parcel, may be made by the new machinery, and all so accurately that all their parts will suit equally well when interchanged.
As a brief description of the several machines, embracing the material peculiarities which distinguish them is desired, the following is offered as conveying as correct ideas on the most material points as we are able to give at this time. In the first place they possess the important properties of great stability and accuracy of construction in all their parts where these properties are necessary, and in the second place great durability.
The system which Captain Hall has carried into complete effect, of making all the component parts of his arms alike, renders it impossible for the workmen to deviate from the established models without being detected.
It also effectually secures the faithfulness of the inspectors of those parts, and it will enable them to proceed in the discharge of their duties with the utmost security in everything relating to the forms and dimensions and relative proportions of the arms and their component parts.
Questions proposed by the honorable James J. McKay, of the Committee on Military Affairs, to the chief of the Ordnance Department, viz:
Question 1. How long has Captain Hall been in the public service, and the amount of compensation paid him, and for what objects?
Answer. Captain Hall has been in the public service from the 19th of March, 1819, up to the present time. He received as a compensation for his personal services, from March 19, 1819, to March 8, 1827, at the rate of $60 per month; and during the same period he received, as a fee for the invention of his rifle, the sum of one dollar for each rifle manufactured, amounting to $2,000. He received from March 8, 1827, to October 1, 1834, at the rate of $1,450 per annum, for his personal services, and $9,000 as a fee for the invention of his "labor-saving" machinery, being $1 on each rifle manufactured during that time. In addition to which he was allowed quarters free of rent, and the usual allowance of fuel during the period above named. He has also received during the year 1835, the sum of $2,600, being $1,600 for his invention, and $1,000 for his personal services, making the total amount he has received for personal services, the invention of his rifle, and the invention of "labor-saving" machinery, from March 19, 1819, to December 31, 1835, $29,683[.]90.
Question 2. Have any contracts been made by the War Department with Captain Hall respecting his rifles? How many have been made, and how much money has been paid him therefor, in execution of said contracts, and if the same were in writing, copies of them?
Answer. There have been three contracts entered into by the Ordnance Department with Captain Hall respecting his rifles, (copies of which are enclosed,) and he has been paid for the execution of said contracts the sum of $26,983[.]90, which, added to the sum of $2,600 paid him during the year 1835, makes the total amount he has received $29,583[.]90. The number of rifles made at the government armories is 11,002.
Question 3. How many of Captain Hall's rifles will the public service probably require during the next twenty years?
Answer. The number of Hall's patent arms that will probably be required during the next twenty years, would, at the rate at which they are now manufactured, amount to about 80,000 stands: that is to say, 3,000 to be made annually by government at the Harper's Ferry armory, and 1,000 at the private armories. But should Hall's patent be adopted as a substitute for the musket and ordinary rifle and ordinary carbine, as its great advantages fully justify, then the number to be manufactured during the next twenty years would be nearly 820,000 stands. Yet, as it might be hazardous to introduce so great a change into the principal weapon of the country, (though in all human reason it would be accompanied with signal advantage,) its adoption, therefore, it is believed, should be gradual; and it is thought that at least one-fourth of the small arms to be made daring the next twenty years should be of that construction. On this supposition, the number to be manufactured during the next twenty years would be nearly 205,000 stands. In this estimate, no allowance is made for the gradual increase of the population, or for the additional number that might be required in the event of a war during that period.
Question 4. Has the department any established usage in making compensation to inventors for the use of their inventions, and what is it?
Answer. The department has no established usage in making compensation to inventors. The usual method has been to enter into contract on the best terms that could be agreed on; though it seems to have been a rule very generally established (and adopted in some cases by the Ordnance Department) to grant inventors one-third or one-half the saving produced by the invention.
Question 5. Was the machinery at Harper's Ferry and elsewhere used in the fabrication of Hall's invented rifle, put up by the government, and if so, the cost and saving effected in the fabrication of said arms?
Answer. The whole of the machinery used at Harper's Ferry, in the fabrication of Hall's rifle, was put up at the expense of the United States. By the report of the superintendent of the Harper's Ferry armory, of October 12, 1835, it appears that the sum of $149,410[.]79 had been expended upon machinery and tools from 1819 to 31st December, 1834. It is proper to remark that no separate account has been kept in this office of tools made from that of machinery; and that that sum must be regarded as including both tools and machinery.
The machinery used "elsewhere," that is at the private armories, was put up by private individuals.
The saving alluded to in this question refers, it is thought, to the difference between the smallest cost of the arm as made by Mr. Hall in the government armories, and its smallest cost as made by private armories at the present time. In this view of the subject the "saving effected" would be the excess of the cost at the private armories above that at the national armories, and this last is ascertained as follows:
|To amount of component parts of arms and flasks on hand 1st January 1834...............||$44,637[.]34|
|To value of unwrought materials on hand Jan. 1, 1834...............||13,980[.]64|
|To amount of payments made by the paymaster for the rifle factory...............||28,088[.]61|
|To value of articles received from the storekeeper...............||11,911[.]39|
|To value of powder received from the Washington arsenal...............||$420[.]00|
|To interest on capital employed for the year 1834, estimated at $190,000, at 5 per cent...............||9,500[.]00|
|By amount expended in permanent improvements...............||$5,640[.]19|
|By arms and appendages made, viz: 970 rifles, at $21[.]13...............||20,503[.]85|
|By bayonets, screw-drivers, wipers, &c................||14,048[.]82|
|By component parts of rifles and flasks on hand 31st December, 1834...............||53,214[.]02|
|By unwrought materials on hand 31st December, 1834...............||15,131[.]12|
Thus the 970 rifles cost $20,503[.]85, or $21[.]13 per stand, and the contract price with Colonel North being now $17[.]20, there appears, thus far to have been no saving.
But with regard to the saving effected at different periods at the national armories, from the machinery erected by Mr. Hall for the government, the following statement will show that between 1817 and 1833; the cost of the arm has been reduced in the ratio of $25 to 14[.]50, nearly one-half. As the interest of capital employed was not considered in making up the following statement, it shows less than the absolute cost; but it suffices to exhibit the successive reductions of price made by successive improvements in machinery.