The Great Emancipator as great inventor. In addition to his other accomplishments, Abraham Lincoln was the only U.S. president to hold a registered patent. In "Lincoln the Inventor" Jason Emerson offers the first treatment of Lincoln's invention of a device to buoy vessels over shoals and its subsequent patent in May 1849 as more than mere historical footnote. As Emerson demonstrates, Lincoln's scientific curiosity helped drive his lifelong intellectual development and influenced his treatment of inventors and innovators both as a lawyer and as president. In this fresh contribution to the field of Lincoln studies, Emerson shows how, when, where, and why Lincoln created his invention and demonstrates how his penchant for inventions and discoveries informed his political belief in internal improvements and free-labor principles. Lincoln's interest in the topic led him to try his hand at scholarly lecturing; later, as president, Lincoln encouraged and occasionally contributed to the creation of new weapons for the Union.
The story of Lincoln's invention extends beyond a boat journey, the whittling of some wood, and a trip to the Patent Office; the invention had ramifications for Lincoln's life from the day his flatboat became stuck on a milldam in 1831 until the day he died in 1865. In addition to giving a complete examination of this important yet little-known aspect of Lincoln's life, Emerson delves into Lincoln's intellectual curiosity and creativity, both as a civilian and as president, and considers how those traits contributed to his greatness and allow new insight into his character. By learning to understand Lincoln the inventor, readers will better understand Lincoln the man.
Jason Emerson, the author of The Madness of Mary Lincoln, is an independent historian and free-lance writer whose articles have appeared in American Heritage, American History, and Civil War Times magazines, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Lincoln Herald, and Lincoln Forum Bulletin. He is writing a biography of Robert T. Lincoln, to be published by Southern Illinois University Press.
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