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Procedure for Identifying Whatsits

Ivan Risley
6/28/97
(Last Revised February 1978)

One of the many rewards in collecting tools and belonging to a group of people with this common interest is finding an unknown item and then discovering its origin, usage, and identity. The sharing of informati on that leads to one of these identifications is a part of the program sponsored by our tool collectors organization.

To achieve the goal of helpful assistance in unknown tool identification, it is necessary to separate the unknowns into two categories: 1) patented, and 2) those of totally unknown origin. This separation permits the best utilization of the information al sources available.

 

Tools Of Unknown Origin

The procedure for identification of tools of unknown origin will include the following:

  1. The tool can be submitted for identification through any of three channels.
    1. Brought and displayed at a regular meeting.
    2. A photograph and description submitted to the whatsit committee.
    3. Tool brought and displayed at an area meeting and the area Director submitting photos and descriptions to the whatsit committee
  2. The unidentified tool is to be photographed and the photo and description placed on file for further reference. File to be maintained by whatsit committee chairman.
  3. Attempts for actual identification will be accomplished by three methods.
    1. During the formal whatsit session at the regular meetings.
    2. As a response to a publication containing submitted whatsits issued twice a year by the whatsit committee,
    3. In cooperation with EAIA and their whatsit program sharing of information between the organizations.

 

Patented Tools

Any tool that has a name, number, patent date, etc, can usually be identified by searching the Patent Gazette at any major library. University, college, professional, and industrial libraries may also subscribe to the patent service.

It is suggested that anyone who has an unidentified, patented item first use his library to seek information. If, however, he does not have access to the Patent Gazette, a member may submit the tool to the membership through the following procedures.

  1. The tool can be submitted for identification through any of three channels.
    1. Brought and displayed at a regular meeting.
    2. A photograph and description submitted to the whatsit committee.
    3. Tool brought and displayed at an area meeting and the area Director submitting photos and descriptions to the whatsit committee
  2. The unidentified tool is to be photographed and the photo and description is to be placed on file for further reference.
  3. Attempts for actual identification will be accomplished by four methods.
    1. During the formal whatsit session at a regular meeting.
    2. As a response to the whatsit publication. Patented tools will be included based on merit and possible interest to the membership in general. The whatsit committee will select on the basis of early patent dates, frequency tool is submitted, unusual usa ge, etc.
    3. In cooperation with EAIA whatsit committee.
    4. By a member or the whatsit committee searching the patent files.

If you are unable to locate a set of Gazettes and have a tool you really want identified, you may contact the whatsit committee and they will assist you with a patent search. Our time is limited, but we want to be of assistance.

 

The Patent Gazette

Many public and college libraries and perhaps some museums have back issues of Patent Gazettes and associated index books. The Gazette is published each week and contains a thumbnail description and usually one illustration of each patent granted d uring that week. The patents are listed in numerical order. The Gazettes may be individual booklets, reprinted and bound into volumes or may be on microfilm. Regardless of form, they are separated by week and the patents are in numerical order.

Usage

  1. If the patent number is known, location of the Gazette entry can be accomplished by a straight-forward numerical search.
  2. Many items are marked with a name and a date such as Palmer's Pat. Oct. 3, 1887. In this case, obtain the index of patentees for- 1887. Chances are that only one patent was issued to someone named Palmer on October 3, The index will cross reference to a patent number. Most patents were granted to individuals rather than to a company or corporation.
  3. If only a date is known, and you think the patented item is a type of spoke shave, for instance, obtain the patent classification index for the particular year. Look under Spoke Shaves for any patents granted on the listed date. Select the proper one by review of the illustrations. If there isn't any listed for that date, check under Shaves, Routers and any other heading that sounds appropriate. Each patent was classified by use of the words in the title. If the patentee requested letters patent for a "Rosewood Spoke Shave", it might be classified under R for Rosewood.
  4. If only a date is known and you have no idea of what the item was intended to be, location of the Gazette entry is a little more tedious. Obtain the Gazette for the correct week and review each patent by name and illustration. This may take a while bu t then, no one said it was easy.

 



 
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