George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James B. Pleasants, 5 May 1790

From James B. Pleasants

Baltimore [Md.] May 5th 1790

As soon as the power of Granting Patents is vested by Law in the President, Angelheart Cruse intends to make application for Exclusive rights to a machine invented by me some years since, and for which he has my leave to take a Patent in his own name, The object in ⟨view⟩ is to apply Liquid force, as is apprehended, ⟨wi⟩th more simplicity, and superior power, ⟨tha⟩n has hitherto been done; particularly ⟨S⟩team, Water, and Air.1 A perpetual Cylinder, mooving on the exterior of a piston ⟨w⟩ith equal and Continual force, constitute ⟨o⟩ne of the Essential principles of this machine; and one of its great advantages, arises from the immidiate Communication of force (without the intervention of Cogg’s, Rounds or any ⟨o⟩ther Machinery) to millstones or wheels of any kind whatever. In communicating the force of Stea[m], this machine will appear in the most superior point of view in which it probably can be plac’d; the Cylinder revolv⟨in⟩g round its axis, which is also the axis of the millstones or wheels employ’d to apply the force: in a Common Steam Engine the force is communicated by the recuring movem⟨ent⟩ of a Piston; in the this, the continual revolution of the Cylinder itself around ⟨its⟩ axis, the piston being stationary; the Cy⟨linder⟩ in this Machine mooves with the same force that the piston in a common Engine does, multiplied by any number that we please under 25; the difficulty arising from the complexity of machinery necessary in ap⟨ply⟩ing a recuring force to Wheels is remoov’d: This difficulty is Threefold. 1. Expence 2. friction, 3. the loss of force apply’d to a Cra⟨illegible⟩.

I k⟨n⟩ow no better appology for this let⟨ter⟩ than the cause—I have observ’d an application (mention’d by the publishers of the debates of Congress) made to that bod⟨y⟩ for an exclusive right to the use of perpetual steam if it is the same with mine, the priority, and superiority, will be Questions that appear to ⟨me⟩ to justify the foregoing explanation of the prin⟨ciples⟩ my machine acts upon. I have confined my⟨self⟩ in the foregoing Explanation to general princip⟨les;⟩ the particular machine will be best Explain’d by a model that will be presented by the appl⟨icant⟩ for a Patent—I am with the highest sentiments of Respect

James B. Pleasants

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Pleasants was prompted to write to GW by the passage of the Patents Act on 10 April 1790 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 6:1620–42). He sent an identical letter to Jefferson, who as secretary of state was principally responsible for patent applications (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 16:412–13).

Angelhart (Englehart, Englebert) Cruse (Cruze) was a Baltimore mechanic; in a letter to Jefferson of 18 April 1791, James McHenry described him as “an ingenious mechanician of this town who has made certain improvements in steam engines for which he is desirous to get a patent. His scientific attainments are not many, but his natural powers very considerable” (ibid., 413). In 1788 Cruse had published The Projector Detected; or, Some Strictures, on the Plan of Mr. James Rumsey’s Steamboat (Baltimore, 1788). Pleasants wrote to GW again in August 1790: “I have this moment reed information that induces me to believe that some mistake has arisen on the subject on which I wrote you some time since the application of steam by means of a perpetual Cylinder the name I mentioned is not Evans, the name is Cruce, if Evans has imposed himself by the name of Cruse the Imposition appears to me to be so gross as not to admit of a doubt of detection—If there is any mistake in the business I have no doubt of its being rectified” (James B. Pleasants to GW, 6 Aug. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Pleasants apparently was alarmed by the efforts of Oliver Evans (1755–1819), a Philadelphia inventor and millwright, to secure patents for his inventions. Evans was engaged in experiments with stationary steam engines for use in milling and had obtained exclusive rights to his improvements from the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware in 1787. He applied for a patent from the new national government in 1790 (Bathe, Oliver Evans, description begins Greville Bathe. Oliver Evans: A Chronicle of Early American Engineering. Philadelphia, 1935. description ends 14–20). Subsequent to Pleasants’s two letters, Cruse wrote to GW: “As the Patronage of Arts has ever been your Excellency’s desire—Induces me to make so free as to lay the Inclosed plan of a Steam Engine before your Excellency—The great Utility of this Contrivance your Excellency must be too well accquaintd with to Riquire any Comment from me.

“The Plan I take the liberty to lay before your Excellnys consideration is now complete—and its performance I have exibited before many Respectfull Characters in this Town—and I believe has met with their approbation—Should your Excellcys Time permits to view its performance—which in a very little time could be put in Motion And should it meet with your Excellnys approbation I should think my Time happily bestow’d—in forming an Institution —that your Excellcy might approve of—and what I should hope in my time might be of useful Utility—I hope your Excellny will Pardon this Freedom” (Cruse to GW, 1 Sept. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Cruse enclosed a series of drawings of the invention; these drawings are reproduced in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 16: facing p. 53. He may also have included an explanation of the engine or key to the numbered figures in the drawings, but no such enclosure has been found. Cruse was issued a patent for the device on 30 Aug. 1791 (Lear to Jefferson, 30 Aug. 1791, DLC:GW).

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