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Confederate Invention: The Story of the Confederate States Patent Office and Its Inventors

H. Jackson Knight; LSU Press

Registered patent agent H. Jackson Knight stumbled across the Confederate States Patent Office’s annual summary reports gathering dust at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Most of those records disappeared during the fire that followed the evacuation of the Southern city, but Knight’s years of sleuthing through archives, scientific journals, newspaper morgues, census records and online resources has produced a fascinating account of Rebel inventers and their gadgets.

As one might expect, more patents were issued for firearms and weapons than for any other class of patent. Two exceptions involved women: Virginian Louise Grady patented a “washing machine,” and Louisiana Boykin of Alabama patented a “mode of preserving meat.”

Overall, Knight challenges the idea of a technologically backward South and offers insights into Confederate life beyond the battlefield.


Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.