Art & Design Magazine

A Special American Art July 4th Anniversary

By Americanart

Patent Office from 19th century

Theodore R. Davis, Patent-Office, Washington, DC— Examiners at Work, 1869, hand-colored wood engraving on paper, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

This Independence Day we not only celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our country, but another July 4th event as well. On July 4, 1836, President Andrew Jackson authorized the construction of a patent office, the historic landmark building that is now home to the American Art Museum. Construction began later that year. The original patent office, also known as "The Temple of Invention", housed drawings and models submitted by budding inventors, both amateur and professional. By the 1850s, more than one hundred thousand people visited each year to walk through the temple of invention and gaze at objects which may have improved their lives, including Eli Whitney's cotton gin.

Keeping with the spirit of invention, American Art's newest exhibition, The Great American Hall of Wonders: Art, Science and Invention in the Nineteenth Century opens on July 15. It takes a closer look at the American spirit of invention in the 19th century, a critical time in the nation's history, with the death of the founding fathers (Thomas Jefferson died in 1826), and the country's future a bit uncertain.

During the course of the exhibition, which runs through January 8, 2012, we'll be checking in to look at different inventions and ideas examined. In fact, I'm planning to talk about The Great Incognitum in an upcoming post. Any ideas?

Isn't curiosity a wonderful invention?

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