Hagley Museum Reinvents Itself With New Exhibition, ‘Nation of Inventors’

After setbacks, Hagley is ready to debut new exhibition celebrating everyday inventors

Museum of Models Inside 'Nation of Inventors'

A glass display case holding 19-century patent models is part of a new exhibition at Hagley Museum
A glass display case holding 19-century patent models is part of a new exhibition at Hagley Museum

A Baking Powder Caddy Patent Model Featured in 'Nation of Inventors'

An 1878 patent model from inventor Edwin Norton was for storing baking powder
An 1878 patent model from inventor Edwin Norton was for storing baking powder

Wilmington, Delaware, Oct. 05, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hagley Museum Reinvents Itself With New Exhibition, ‘Nation of Inventors

For Immediate Release

Wilmington, Del. – Hagley Museum and Library’s highly anticipated “Nation of Inventors” exhibition opens on Saturday, Oct. 8. The exhibition shares stories of a diverse group of men and women, all with unique circumstances and life experiences, who embodied the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States. Much like the inventors featured in the exhibition, Hagley had to persevere through setbacks – including the flooding of the Brandywine River from Hurricane Ida in September 2021 – to make this opening a reality.

Throughout our history, the vast majority of American inventors have been ordinary people who have gone unrecognized. They followed a series of steps to develop, document, design and test their inventions, with countless iterations and alterations along the way. Many sought to protect their ideas with a patent from the U.S. government. From 1790-1880, early inventors also had to include a small-scale model of their invention along with their application.

These three-dimensional patent models are rare artifacts that visually represent 19th-century innovation, often in response to the nation’s rapid urbanization and industrialization. They demonstrated the key components, usefulness and novelty of inventions. Hagley’s collection of nearly 5,000 patent models and “Nation of Inventors” exhibition follows Hagley’s mission to inspire people to be innovative in their own lives.

For example, Catherine R. Mott’s 1878 “Improvement in Fire-Escapes” (Patent No. 202,115) was designed with women and children in mind. One hazard of living in New York City was the high concentration of multistory apartment buildings without means of safe evacuation. Mott’s invention consisted of “a cage-ladder against the wall of a building, and in connecting the same with balconies or platforms” so its inhabitants could safely descend a burning building inside the ladder while firefighters could simultaneously ascend the outside of the ladder to extinguish the fire.

Innovation rarely happens on the first try. A feature patent model in “Nation of Inventors is an 1881 “Carbonizer” (Patent No. 248,423) from Thomas A. Edison. Edison tested 6,000 different fibers before he found that his incandescent bulb required a filament of carbonized cotton thread to make it long-lasting.

Just as innovation follows hard work and perseverance, Hagley had to be resilient in finding new ways to move forward. Flooding from Hurricane Ida in the Visitor Center, where the exhibition is located, resulted in Hagley’s collection team moving 120 one-of-a-kind patent models to safety. During the year-long reconstruction of the Visitor Center, parts were delayed by supply chain issues, and contractors faced the same labor market challenges as other employers. The opening of the exhibition was delayed several times as challenges beyond Hagley’s control slowed recovery efforts.

Despite these setbacks, Hagley found new ways to share the stories of the patent models across the U.S. In November 2021, a selection of Hagley’s models headed west to the new Design and Innovation building at the University of California, San Diego, to inspire the inventors of tomorrow. Then in May 2022, food- and travel-related patent models from Hagley’s collection were added to the Philadelphia International Airport’s Exhibitions Program.

Now, the patent models will finally be on display at their home base at Hagley Museum beginning Oct. 8. Visitors are invited to learn the stories of everyday people and their extraordinary ideas.Nation of Inventors is included with regular Hagley Museum admission. Admission is free for Hagley members, children 5 and younger and active military members. More information can be found at www.hagley.org/inventors.

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Images

Available at www.hagley.org/media

About Hagley

Hagley Museum and Library seeks to inspire all people to be innovative in their own lives through investigation and exploration of our historical collections, original DuPont powder yards and online resources.

Learn more at www.hagley.org

Acknowledgement

Nation of Inventors was made possible by the following:

Brookeville Fund • Anne Carter & Walter R. Robbins Jr. Foundation • CSC • E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation • Elmon B. Duff Charitable Lead Annuity Trust • IDG Capital Partners • InterDigital Inc. • Longwood Foundation • National Christian Foundation • Peachtree House Foundation •Welfare Foundation

Attachments

CONTACT: Laura Jury, Marketing Manager Hagley Museum and Library 302-658-2400, ext. 238 ljury@hagley.org