This close up of the side of the voting machine highlights the range of patents that the Automatic Voting Machine Company filed on their product between 1889 and 1899. Patents guaranteed inventors that they had exclusive rights to produce their inventions and that those rights would be protected by the federal government. In 1790, the U.S. Congress passed the first Patent Act, which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and applied to physical inventions rather than ideas. By 1836, the Congress established a Patent Office within the State Department to handle the review and issuance of the patents. In 1849, the office was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The number of patents issued during the later half of the nineteenth century increased dramatically with the explosion of mechanization in American industrial life.
National Museum of American History.