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80 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y 155 (1998)
Inventing History: The Holder of the First U.S. Patent

handle is hein.journals/jpatos80 and id is 169 raw text is: Inventing History: The Holder of the
First U.S. Patent
David W. Maxey*
n     1989 the Rochester Patent Law         Association voted to confer its
inventor-of-the-year award on the holder of the first United States
patent-posthumously, of course. By common understanding, the
person entitled to that recognition was Samuel Hopkins, who, at the
time he obtained the patent in the summer of 1790, was a resident of
Pittsford, Vermont. In about 1810, this Samuel Hopkins and his family
moved from Vermont to New York and to the small village of North-
field, just a few miles to the southeast of Rochester; shortly afterwards,
because of the numerous relocated Hopkinses in its midst, Northfield
obligingly changed its name to Pittsford. Samuel Hopkins of the two
Pittsfords died in 1840 and was buried in the Pioneer Burying Ground
in Pittsford, New York.'
A prospective convergence of bicentennial celebrations made the
Association's decision seem an especially felicitous one. In 1789 both
the federal government and Northfield got off the ground, so to speak,
and in April, 1790, Congress enacted the first patent statute under
which, four months later, Hopkins was granted his patent.2 While no
* Mr. Maxey is a partner in the firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, a former chairman of the
board of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and a member of the board of directors of The
Library Company of Philadelphia.
This article is an annotated version of a paper presented on May 13, 1997, at the annual meeting
of the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association (formerly the Rochester Patent Law As-
sociation). The author remains grateful for the cordial reception provided by the officers and mem-
bers of the Association who had reason to be less than enthusiastic about the previously disclosed
results of their guest speaker's research.
I Background information and materials concerning the initiative taken by the Rochester Patent
Law Association and the subsequent ceremony in Pittsford, New York, were kindly supplied the
author by Audrey M. Johnson, Office of the Historian, Town and Village of Pittsford (hereinafter
Pittsford historian). Letter from Johnson to author, December 14, 1955.
2 It may have been the Pittsford Bicentennial Commission which persuaded the Rochester Patent
Law Association to step forward as the sponsor of the Pittsford Samuel Hopkins in these bicen-
tennial celebrations. Letter of Ronald F. Chapuran to the Members of RPLA Board (copy), No-
vember 4, 1988, Pittsford historian.

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