History and More on
Sybilla Masters carried a patent
application to England in 1712. She invented a new corn mill, but the patent
had to be filed in her husband's name because she was female.
American colonist and inventor, Sybilla
Masters invented a way for cleaning and curing the Indian corn crops that
the colonist in early America received as a gift from the native peoples.
Sybilla Masters's innovation allowed the corn to be processed into many
different food and cloth products. The patent was issued in her husband
Thomas’ name by the British courts in 1715. That was the unfair law at
the time, women and minorities had no rights to own patents. Thomas Masters
was issued patents for "Cleansing Curing and Refining of Indian Corn Growing
in the Plantations". A second patent was issued to Sybilla's husband for
another of her inventions entitled "Working and Weaving in a New Method,
Palmetta Chip and Straw for Hats and Bonnets and other Improvements of
Sybilla Masters was the first American
woman inventor in recorded history, no doubt women have been inventing
since the dawn of time without recognition.
The following text is from a 1891
Scientific American magazine article that discusses the patent issued to
Sybilla Masters, however, the writer appears to be a bit cynical.
Scientific American, v 65 (ns),
no 5, p 71-2, 1 August 1891
Fossil Patents By T. Graham Gribble
A much later but very quaint
patent is that of Dame Sybilla Masters, of Philadelphia, for corn shelling
and preserving. She writes in German text, hard to decipher and very antiquated
for that period.
with >>> Women
It is granted by King George the
1st, and the official entry in Roman text is as follows: "Letters patent
to Thomas Masters, of Pennsylvania, Planter, his Execrs., Amrs. and Assignees,
of the sole Vse and Benefit of 'A new Invention found out by Sybilla, his
wife, for cleaning and curing the Indian Corn, growing in the several Colonies
of America, within England, Wales, and Town of Berwick upon Tweed, and
the Colonies of America.'"
The two upper illustrations [refers
to patent drawing] show the cleaning and the lower the curing. The top
view represents the sheller, worked by animal power, probably a donkey
(Asinus vulgaris). The gearing and shaft are of wood, and a reciprocating
motion is produced by a series of detents upon a revolving cylinder something
after the manner of a musical box.
It is to be feared that Dame Sybilla's
invention did not attain to as wide a field of application as was covered
by the letters patent. It is more than probable that the obtuse agriculturist
continued to shell corn sitting on a pine plank with a spade edge to scrape
them off by, in spite of the "paines and industrie" of the dame.