For a generation that has grown up with new inventions such as iPads, Snuggies, Kindles and ShamWow, the Fullerton Museum will present a new exhibit that takes you back to a time when inventors were required to submit working, scale models when applying for a patent. Visitors to the Fullerton Museum Center will get a unique look back in time when the museum unveils its new exhibit, “The Curious World of Patent Models” which opens Saturday, Jan. 19 and closes on March 31, 2013.

“The Curious World of Patent Models” features over 50 original working models, including everything from the first patented rocking chair to the first burglar alarm. The exhibition includes patent models representing inventions and improvements from farmers, schoolteachers, carpenters, bankers and a house wife-all of whom by their everyday experiences envisioned and developed new and life-improving ideas.


From the time the U.S. Patent office was founded in 1790 and throughout the industrial revolution, inventors were required to apply for a patent.  In order to obtain a patent, an application had to be accompanied by a working model of the invention.  These were called “patent models,” and were generally no larger than 12 inches square.  The models were made for the patent examiners, who compared similar inventions side by side, to see if the patents were new and different.  It was a unique system because no other patent system anywhere in the world required models – then or now.  The Patent Act of 1870 rescinded the model requirement, although models continued to be submitted and accepted through the early 20th Century.

Today, there are more than 7 million patents, but applicants now submit only written specifications and diagrams of their inventions.  Most of the early patent models have been destroyed or lost, purchased by collectors, or donated to museums, including the Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibition at the Fullerton Museum is part of a 14 city national tour over a three-year period.  The tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Exhibit Opening Reception was held from 6 p.m – 9 p.m. on Jan. 19.  Opening receptions are held four times during the year and are free for museum members and $10 for all guests.

The Fullerton Museum Center is located at 301 N. Pomona Avenue. For more information on exhibits, other museum programs or membership call 714.738.6545 or go to

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