Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Petition of Jonathan Williams, Jr., to the Patent Board, 20 November 1792

Petition of Jonathan Williams, Jr., to the Patent Board

Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, 20 Nov. 1792. Having been “formerly engaged in the business of refining and claying Sugar” in London, he requests a patent for a new multiaperture mold he has invented for claying and whitening refined sugar, as explained by the annexed memoir and figures. Maple sugar manufacture would benefit much by claying or whitening on the spot, which would greatly reduce the expense of transportation and enable the molasses produced by refining to remain at its point of origin, “where it is much wanted for consumption or distillation.” To promote this infant manufacture, he offers to exempt from the patent the claying of sugar at the places of its growth, albeit restricting this exception to the inland country to avoid frauds involving the claying of foreign sugar, a distinction that will “operate like a bounty on american sugar” and increase its production by making it more competitive.

MS (InU: Jonathan Williams Papers); 3 p.; in Williams’s hand; at head of text: “To The Honorable The Secretary of State for the Department of foreign affairs. The Secretary of State for the Department of War and The Attorney General of The United States”; endorsed by George Taylor, Jr., as received 21 Nov. 1792 and read 5 Jan. 1793, but subsequently returned to Williams for revision in light of the 23 Feb. 1793 patent act. 2d Dft (same); undated and unsigned. Dft (same); undated and unsigned. Enclosure: Williams’s “Memoir,” comparing the effectiveness of the existing single-aperture mold for whitening refined sugar with his multivent mold, which yields 28 ounces of additional sugar for every 98 produced under the current system at no additional expense, and presenting models in glass and clay (MS in same; undated; endorsed by Taylor as a “Specification” received 21 Nov. 1792). Enclosed drawings not found, but earlier versions are in same.

Williams announced this invention, based in part on his observations in 1784 at a sugar refinery at Bercy, near Paris, in a 17 July 1792 paper read three days later at a meeting of the American Philosophical Society (InU: Jonathan Williams Papers; see also APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, xxii, pt. 3 [1885], 206). He was issued a patent for improving “Moulds or Vessels for the purpose of claying or whitening refined Sugar” on 23 Mch. 1793 (MS in PPAmP: Penn Letters and Ancient Documents; see illustration in Appendix III; with attached copy of Williams’s short description of the process, which closely follows the language of the “Memoir” described above, the verso bearing his 29 Apr. 1801 assignment of the patent to the American Philosophical Society for $ 1).

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