San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

NARA: Equity Files 1855-1863

By Martha Wallace and Cath Trindle

Cases in this record set include land claims and sales, mining claims, mortgages, felling trees, ferries and more, but we decided to focus on patents. The variety of patent infringement cases provided us with enough interesting material for a two part blog.....


On 9 Jul 1855 the case of Lewis Teese and Lewis Teese, Jr. vs. J. V. Hunt was entered in docket book 1, case #3.  The Teese's had invented an improved fork for use by gold diggers when removing rocks from sluice boxes.  They were granted US Patent #12453 on 27 Feb 1855 for a fork with 8 triangular shaped tines.  They claimed that Hunt was infringing on their patent by manufacturing a fork of the same type.

Hunt denied that the Teeses had invented the fork.  He claimed that miners had been using manure forks all along and had settled on 8 tine models usually with diamond tines long before this patent was issued.

The cause was discontinued on 2 Jun 1857... the reason was not noted in the judgement book.



Henry Jones of Bristol, Great Britain, invented an improvement in the preparation of flour.  His self-rising flour used alkalines, acids, sugar and salt rather than yeast for bread making.  He patented the process in Great Britain in 1845.  He assigned the rights to his process for use in United States to John Fowler of New York who patented it on 1 May 1849 (Patent #6418) in Jones' name in the United States. In a series of cases Fowler and then his assignee for the West Coast, Emery T Pease, sued businesses that they claimed were making flour using the patented process.

The two cases in the series were filed by John Fowler through representative Emery Pease against Austin Walrath, RB French and AA Newfelder. (17 Jan 1856 Docket Book #1 Case #9) and against Edward Figg (6 Feb 1856 Docket Book #1 case #10).  Figg in his answer to the suit claimed that there should be no patent as the process was in use long before the patent was filed. In both cases an injunction was issued to cease and desist from manufacturing the self-rising flour until the suit was resolved.


Both of the above suits were cancelled on 12 Apr 1856 by Emory Pease.  It seems that on 1 Dec 1855 Fowler had actually transferred the west coast rights to Pease, but the transfer was not recorded until 26 Mar 1856.

Pease, however, continued the suits in his own name. On 31 May 1856 he filed against W L Bromley.  An order of discontinuance was issued on 1 Dec 1856.

There are also two cases against manufacturers in Marysville. J Riley Jennings was sued on 18 Apr 1857 and it was noted that defendant yielded, compromised and settled. A suit against Francis Cunningham was filed on 5 Oct 1857.  Cunningham denied that he was manufacturing flour and the suit was discontinued on 24 May 1858 without prejudice.

Note: Both the Figg and Jennings suits can also be found in the Private Common Law Case Files.  The index there shows that Jenning paid $5000 in damages.


US Patent RE71
In 1828, William Woodworth invented a machine for planing, tonguing, grooving, and cutting into mouldings or plank boards and reducing them to equal width and thickness and facing and dressing brick and cutting moulding on metallic mineral or other substances, and received a patent for the machine.

After he died, his administrator assigned the patent (extended) to James G Wilson through 1849. In Nov 1849 Wilson sold the license to Thomas J Wells for $12,000 for another seven years (to 1856) to be used only in Oregon Territory and some parts of California. Falconer paid $7200 and Purdy paid $2400 to Wells for shares. The defendants were operating in Puget Sound, Washington Territory, which was part of Oregon Territory when the license was issued. 

One  assignee of the patent, James G Wilson made over $2M on royalties.  He tried to get another extension through 1870. A public ruckus ensured and the request failed. This was one of the reasons that amendments to the US patent law were passed in 1861 creating a patent term of 17 years with NO extensions.

On 24 Jul 1856 Wells, Falconer and Purdy filed a suit against Andrew J Pope, William C. Talbot, Josiah Killer and Charles Foster who were operating in Puget Sound, Washington Territory (part of Oregon Territory when the license was issued.) and apparently using a planing machine without a license.

The file does not give a disposition of the cause.  Perhaps it went away when the patent expired at the end of 1856.


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