Great Inventions from 1864 [Slide Show]

A brief look at some good ideas (and some not so good) from the Scientific American Archives of 150 years ago

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The patent system in the United States is one of the most important foundations for progress and innovation and was one of the driving forces for industrial expansion in the 19th century. The system gives inventors legal protection for their ideas and empowers innovators to innovate. Some of these inventions from 1864 might seem laughable now, but all of them tried to answer a need or want of some kind, needs that we still have 150 years later. Some were ridiculed back then as well: Sylvester Marsh’s cog railway up a mountain for tourists was considered ridiculous at the time, and one New Hampshire legislator thought that Marsh would be as likely to build a railway “to the moon.” But sometimes inventors can, as the saying goes, “laugh all the way to the bank.”


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Read about more great inventions as far back as 1845 in the Scientific American Archives at

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