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Add to My Citations To Mortimer D. Leggett
with an affidavit by John Hooker
6 October 1871 • Hartford, Conn.
(MS: DNA, UCCL 00656)
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caretCONCERNING “MARK TWAIN’S ELASTIC STRAP.”caret

Hartford, Conn. Oct. 6. 1871.
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem space

—————

Hon. M. D. Leggett
em spaceem spaceCom’r of Patents, Washington

In response to an official notification of interference dated Washington Sept. 30, & in compliance with the instructions accompanying the same, I make the following statement under oath—to-wit:1

The idea of contriving an improved vest strap, is old with me; but the actual accomplishment of the idea is no older than the 13th of August last. caret, (to the best of my memory.)caret caretThis remark is added after comparing notes with my brother.caret 2

For four or five years I turned the idea of such a contrivance over in my mind at times, without a successful conclusion;3 but on the 13th of August last, as I lay in bed, I thought of it again, & then I said I would ease my mind & invent that strap before I got up—probably the only [ ph prophecy] I ever made that was worth its face. [ Am An] elastic strap suggested itself & I got up satisfied. While I dressed, it occurred to me that in order to be efficient, the strap must be adjustable & rem detachable., when the wearer did not wish it to be permanent. So I devised the plan of having two or three caretbutton-caretholes in each end of the strap, & buttoning it to the garment—whereby it could be shortened or removed at pleasure. So I sat down & drew the first of the accompanying diagrams (they are the original ones.) While washing (these details seem a little trivial, I grant, but they are history & therefore in some degree respect-worthy,) it occurred to me that the strap would do for pantaloons also, & I drew diagram No. 2.

After breakfast I called on my brother, caretOrion Clemens,caret the editor of the “American Publisher,” showed him my diagrams & explained them, & asked him to note the date & the circumstance in his note-book for future reference. {I shall get that note of his & enclose it, so that it may make a part of this sworn evidence.} While talking with him it occurred to me that this invention would apply to ladies’ stays, & I then sketched diagram No. 3.

In succeeding days I devised the applying of the strap to shirts, drawers, &c., & when about to repair to Washington to apply for a patent, was peremptorily called home by sickness in my family. The moment I could be spared however, I went to Washington & made application—about the 10th or 12th of September, ult.,4 I think. I believe these comprise all the facts in the case.5

Respectfully

Sam. L. Clemens

Hartford Connecticut

October 6th 1871

There personally appeared [bef] Samuel L. Clemens, whose name is subscribed to the foregoing statement, and made solemn oath that the statement so by him subscribed is true, before me

John Hooker
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceCommissioner at the
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceSuperior Court for
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceHartford County &
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceempowered to
em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceadminister oaths.
6


[enclosures:]

figure
[in pencil:]

caretFrom O. Clemens’s Memorandum book.caret

[Orion Clemens, in ink:]

Sam’s strap==Drawing shown to me and explanation made at Hartford this (Friday) 8th day of August, 1871.

Note.—The above date is erroneous. It should have been 11th day of August, 1871. This memorandum made Augst 14th, 1871. (Monday)

Orion Clemens.

[on the back, in pencil:] A

Bem spaceC

[and in ink:]

Aug 30/71.

Wrote to Brown & Bros., caretBrass Mfrs,caret Waterbury, Conn., for about 200 square inches of spring sheet brass, No. 26 7 —to be sent by express C.O.D.

altalt

Hon. M. D. Leggett ǀ Commissioner of Patents ǀ Washington ǀ D.C. [return address:] if not delivered within 10 days, to be returned to Mark Twain, Hartford, Conn. [postmarked:] [hartford ct.] oct 6em space8 pm [docketed:] Lockwood vs Clemens [and] Preliminary Statement of S. L. Clemens

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 According to the Journal of the Patent Office Society:

When the same invention is made by two or more inventors who attempt to obtain patents at about the same time, the Patent Office must find out who made the inven[t]ion first. The proceeding instituted for this purpose is called an “interference” and has the reputation of being one of the most complicated legal contests in existence. The first step is for each inventor to file a paper, called a “preliminary statement,” in which he gives the essential dates and facts relating to his activities. This is to commit himself before he knows the story of the other inventor. Then each inventor presents the testimony of his witnesses, and his exhibits; and the Patent Office eventually decides which inventor was first and should receive the patent. (Federico, 225)

The present letter constitutes Clemens’s “preliminary statement” in the interference

case; his opponent, Henry C. Lockwood of Baltimore, whose stated occupation was “operating machinery for renovating coffee,” filed a much briefer account with Leggett on 3 October 1871 (Lockwood 1871 [bib11962], 1871 [bib11963]).

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2 But see Orion Clemens’s memorandum, enclosed with this letter.

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3 Interviewed in Washington soon after applying for his patent, Clemens claimed that the idea resulted from his first meeting with Horace Greeley, in December 1870: “the extraordinary set of [Greeley’s] trowsers, half in and half out of his boots, attracted his attention, and he at once set to work to see if he could not devise some plan of making them hang more gracefully” (“Mark Twain Takes Out a Patent—Why He Did It,” Washington National Republican, 21 Sept 71, 2; RI 1993, 825).

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4 Clemens was called from Hartford to Elmira on 29 or 30 August, when Langdon Clemens became ill. He made his patent application on 9 September.

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5 Clemens had retained the services of patent solicitors Alexander and Mason, of Washington, D.C., when he filed his patent application, and he now sent them a copy of his preliminary statement. They replied on 9 October:

We have this day written to [Henry C. Lockwood] with a view to settle the case by compromise & allowing your patent to issue. . . . We feel quite certain that he goes back of you, inasmuch as your invention is of so recent a date, hence we think it policy to get out of the matter as best as we can.—With your consent we will make the best arrangement with him in our power. If there are any States you prefer to hold alone name them in answer so we can be prepared for him.—He ought to give way in consideration of your nom-de-plume reputation & we shall impress this upon him. (CU-MARK)

Alexander and Mason apparently prevailed with Lockwood, who had conceived of his “elastic waist strap” in 1869 and made a model of it in July 1871, thus antedating Clemens in the invention of the device (Lockwood 1871 [bib11962], 1871 [bib11963]). On 25 November Lockwood’s attorneys signed a stipulation that his previous testimony regarding his invention “be withdrawn, cancelled or expunged from the records” and that the interference case, which had been assigned a hearing date of 29 December, be decided without “further testimony or appeal.” Accordingly, on 27 November, the patent office’s examiner of interferences decided the case “on the record,” ruling that

Clemens filed his application for a patent September 9″ 1871. Lockwood filed his September 15″ of the same year.

In accordance with Office rule 57 priority of invention is awarded to the earlier applicant, Samuel L. Clemens. (Adams)

On 19 December Clemens was assigned patent number 121,992 for an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” (SLC 1871). Lockwood was granted patent number 122,038 on the same date for a similar device, which was more specifically constructed “to provide an efficient elastic waist-strap in which the strain on the elastic pieces will be uniform at all points, so that it may wear evenly and endure as long as the pantaloons themselves.” In an accompanying statement Lockwood declared: “I do not claim any right of invention to the strap for supporting pantaloons secured to Samuel L. Clemens by his patent bearing even date herewith” (Lockwood 1871 [bib11964]). Nevertheless, Clemens agreed to manufacture his device and allow Lockwood to share in the profits. He did not manufacture it, however, and in early 1877 Lockwood sued him in the Hartford courts for $10,000, for breach of contract, but was awarded only $300 (Hartford Courant: “The Courts,” 10 Feb 77, 2, 17 Mar 77, 2; 23 Mar 77 to Howells, MH-H, in MTHL, 1:173).

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6 John Hooker, now Clemens’s landlord, was an attorney, and the reporter of the Connecticut Supreme Court (Hooker, 10).

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7 For a prototype of the garment strap’s flexible metallic hinge (16 Sept 71 to OC). That would have been necessary in manufacturing the device, but was not required for the patent: on 9 September Alexander and Mason had requested and received permission to dispense with a model (Alexander and Mason to the commissioner of patents, 9 Sept 71; S. S. Fahnestock, assistant patent examiner, to Alexander and Mason, 9 Sept 71, both in the records of the United States Patent Office, Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.).



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, United States National Archives and Records Service, National Archives Library, Washington, D.C. (DNA).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 462–466; Federico, 226–29; “Patent Files Hold Mark Twain Story,” New York Times, 12 Mar 1939, sec. 3:4; Brownell 1944, 2–3; and “Twain, the Patent Poet,” American Heritage 29 (June–July 1978): 36, excerpts.

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