Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Barnes, 2 July 1790

From Joseph Barnes

Philada. July 2d. 1790


Notwithstanding all my assiduity since having Mr. Rumseys interest much at heart, and also being sensable of the evil consequences of delays by unprincipled men availing them selves of Mr. Rumseys inventions in those States in which there are no existing Laws in his favor, Yet having so many models to make of his several inventions, which from their different principles and construction necessarily require a number of different mechanicks imployed in executing them, all of whom require almost my constant Superintendency or they cannot go on, and as some part of my time has been unavoidably taken off by other necessary engagements have therefore as yet not got the models in such forwardness as fully to authorize me to fix a period at which I can positively be in Newyork with them; But hope however a few days more will put them in such forwardness as will justify me in naming the time, when I shall do it with much pleasure. I am very respectfully sir your obedt. humbl. Servt.,

Joseph Barnes

P.S. The last advices from Mr. Rumsey dated London April the 7th Last, informs he then had in possession the patent for his Mills &c. and that he some time before had tried the operation of the engine on his Steam Vessel, when it made from eighteen to twenty Strokes per minute, the Boiler at the same time evaporating at the rate of fifty gallons of water per hour. But as he found some of the valves &c. incomplete, did not mean to draw anchor until he had the whole perfect, with which he was then engaged. He further adds that he then had just began to erect a Mill in the vicinity of London, on his improvement of Dr. Barkers Mill.

J. Barnes

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); endorsed as received 6 July 1790 and so recorded in SJL.

Barnes had evidently called in New York early in June, bearing a letter from William Bingham to TJ, 28 May 1790, reading: “On application of many Members of the Rumseian Society, I have taken the liberty of addressing a Letter to you by Mr. Barnes, and of recommending him to your Attention, as a very ingenious Artist.—As Attorney to Mr. Rumsey, he has made Application for various Patents to entitle him, for a limited Period, to the exclusive Advantage of his Discoveries.—Mr. Barnes has been informed that a Person from New England has Sued for a Patent for a Boiler (to generate Steam) of the Same Construction with that of Mr. Rumsey, and to which the latter has an undoubted Right, from Priority of Invention. He therefore intends to enter a Caveat against granting a Patent to this Claimant, in order to have a hearing, for the purpose of determining the Right” (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; endorsed as received 2 June 1790 and so recorded in SJL). See TJ to Vaughan, 27 June 1790. On 23 July 1790 Barnes wrote TJ that an engagement “to take a tour in the Country on indispensable business from whence casualties renders uncertain” his return, he would have to postpone his trip to New York still further, adding: “Having read with much pleasure the late Act of Congress which authorizes that August body to adjourn to meet next at this City … I therefore beg Leave to suggest, that, should Congress shortly adjourn, and the Board for granting Letters patent think expedient soon after to remove, to this City, whether there would be a propriety in bringing forward the models of Mr. Rumseys inventions, as in that case it would occasion unnecessary expense, as well to the public, as my self. Should an early removal however be the case, shall be extremely obliged if Mr. Jefferson will please direct his clark to give me the earliest advice thereof. … Nothing since from Mr. Rumsey” (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; endorsed as received 27 July 1790 and so recorded in SJL).

Index Entries