It is well known to many of our readers that there are located in the City of Washington a vast horde of self-styled " solicitors," who proless to undertake all kinds of professional business before the different departments of the Federal Government. This class of solicitors are for the most part shipwrecked politicians, who hang about the corridors of the public buildings, something after the style of the "Peter Funks" of this city,ready, with the most obsequious politeness, to undertake all kinds of jobs, and for very small fees. Of course, having once, perchance either by implication or in fact, been the suckers of government pappage, they are supposed to understand the " ropes," and of course have more influence in the proper direction than any other class of men. The apparent success of these professional gentlemen has had its influence upon many uninitiated into the mysteries of official life;" and as a consequence growing out of it, Washington has become a sort of Mecca for young men thirsting for renown and money, who imagine that they are there easily attainable and flow directly from the large annual appropriations made by Congress. The class of men we are now considering have really nothing but windy pretentions, which they display in long and tolerably ingenious circulars ol information to the public. It is quite notorious that worth and respectability in professional life suffer in character and business on account of these false pretenders. This is naked truth, and is apparent to all familiar with the peculiarities of Washington. There are also located near the Patent Office a class of men known as Patent Agents we are acquainted with several of the highest respectability, who are justly entitled to public confidence, yet, after all, they suffer in thei business and reputation by pretenders, who back their claims by professional circulars o " wondrous length and thundering sound," addressed to inventors and patentees, promis ing the most brilliant results. We feel called upon, as an act of justice to ourselves and other respectable Agents, to such characters,they are unreliable, anr1 like sharks, feed upon humanity, whose vital they search after, not only in the streets am public buildings of Washington, but through out the whole country. This nuisance becam so intolerable during the administration ofMr Burke, that he was compelled, to save the Pa tent Office from the disgrace of this besieging army, to post circulars of warning along th walls ol the Office. This checked their ope rations somewhat, so far as the Patent Ofric was concerned, and their theatre of operation then extended to the country, so that now al most every issue of the Scientific America] brings to us letters of inquiryillegitimat fruitin reference to some Agents who pie tend a desire to purchase rights in an inven tion, perhaps not patented, and who accompa ny the request] by enclosing a professions card, so obscure in its meaning as to lead some ot our clients into the belief that they are ou Washington Agents. These men derive thei information about inventions and patents from notices in the columns of the Scientific Ame rican, and to some inventors they are no bet ter than horse leeches. We wish our own clients distinctly to un derstand that we are our own Agents, and ac perfectly independent of any support in o around Washington. The horde of Agents who thrust their pretentions upon inventors and patentees, have infinitely more profession than real merit, and cannot, as a general thing be relied upon; they are also vastly increas ing, and now swarm like the locusts of Egypt the public must either steer clear of them or suffer themselves to be stung. Without wishing to create a false impression in regard to worthy Patent Agents near the Patent Office, we will state, that whenever any of our readers wish to employ reliable agents in Washington to transact any business with the Patent Office, we will, upon application, furnish them with the names o responsible men. We have very reluctantly thrust this subject into our columns. We have done it to caution the public against those who have no merits of their own, bui ndeavor to build themselves up at the expense t reliable and able men, and much to the cost f their clients.
This article was originally published with the title "Patent Agents—A Caution" in Scientific American 8, 40, 317 (June 1853)