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James Monroe and John Quincy Adams Signed Patent for Wheel to Secure Ropes and Chains Used in Machinery
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JAMES MONROE and JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. Document Signed by Madison as President and co-signed by Adams as Secretary of State, issued to James Cooper, Patent for a wheel to prevent ropes and chains from slipping when used for turning machinery. Washington, June 17, 1823. 1 p. 11½ x 14¾ in.

Inventory #24025.05       Price: $2,750

James Monroe (1758-1831) was the fifth president of the United States (1817-25). Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, he served in the Revolution, entered politics after the war, becoming a Senator (1790-94) and then Governor of Virginia (1799-1802). In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase for President Jefferson. Monroe served as Secretary of State (1811-17) and Secretary of War (1814-15) under Madison. He was elected President in 1816 and again (almost unanimously) in 1820, receiving 231 out of 232 electoral votes. His popularity was so widespread that he and his party’s ascendancy was heralded as the “Era of Good Feelings.” His two terms are remembered for the recognition of the new Latin American republics and, of course, the Monroe Doctrine. In his Annual Message of 1823, Monroe responded to European threats of encroachment on Latin American land by declaring that the American continents, “by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power.” Monroe could do little to back up these statements and it was not until the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt that this policy was given military muscle.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was the sixth president of the United States (1825-29). Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, the son of John Adams, the younger Adams studied at Harvard and was admitted to the bar in 1790. He served successively as minister to The Netherlands, Great Britain, Portugal, and Berlin in the 1790s. He served in the Massachusetts Senate (1803-06), as minister to Russia (1809), and as minister to the Court of St. James (1815-17). Adams was elected president over Andrew Jackson without a majority of electoral votes; the election was ultimately decided by the House of Representatives. As president, he developed a federal program to create a system of highways and canals connecting the territories, and in 1828 broke ground for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. In 1830, Adams was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for the remainder of his life as a fighter against the circumscription of civil liberties.

James Cooper (1780-1845) was born in Virginia. A serial inventor, Cooper also obtained patents for improving Archimedian screws in 1819 and for machinery to supersede the use of cog wheels in 1826.


Engrossment is light; James Monroe’s signature is good and John Quincy Adams’ signature is dark. Tape remnants on verso at edges from former framing.

Historical Background- Presidential Signed Patents

At 3:00 on the morning of December 15, 1836, a Patent Office messenger sleeping in the building awoke to thick smoke emanating from the basement. He acted quickly, rousing his colleagues to make a desperate attempt to enter the portion of the building that housed the patent documents. Outside the patent room, they encountered blocked doors, heavy smoke, and unreachable windows. By the time the fire department arrived, it was too late; the Patent Office was doomed, and eventually burnt to the ground.

An estimated 7,000 models, 9,000 drawings and 230 books—as well as applications, correspondence, and patent copies—were destroyed by the blaze. Some of these documents were recovered with the help of inventors who still held the original patents, but an examination of the records recovered by the Patent Office revealed that their efforts to restore the archive were not very successful.  Many of the destroyed patents were issued between 1790 and 1822, and had expired at the time of the fire, which made the recovery process even more difficult (Early Un-numbered U.S. Patents, 1790-1836). Of the estimated 10,000 patents issued before 1836, only 2,800 were ever recovered (Dood, Kendall S., Patent Drawings:  Milestone Documents in the National Archives). Very few of the recovered patents are extant today. 

Patents were typically signed by both the President and Secretary of State, and, since four of the five presidents elected after Washington also served as Secretary of State, many of these early patent documents are actually endorsed by two presidents. Signed patents are much scarcer than presidential land grants, ships, and many other forms of presidential documents.

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