Inventing a Better Mousetrap: Patent Models from the Rothschild Collection
View the Slide Show
Enjoy this online exhibition of selected objects on display in the exhibition Inventing a Better Mousetrap: Patent Models from the Rothschild Collection. This slide show has 29 images. Click the arrows at either end of the group to see the next group. You can also navigate clicking on the dotted line under the groups. Click on the images to get a larger view. Read more about this exhibition. Complete copies of the drawings and descriptions that explain how each model worked may be viewed from the Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum.
Guess the Mystery Models
Guess the purpose of the invention from the clue provided for each model. Click on the image for a larger view; click "Answer" to reveal the model's real purpose.
Model #1, 1868
A.F. Kitchen; Shelton Depot, SC
Clue: Burglar Beware
Theft Prevention Device
When a thief or intruder entered from the other side of the door, the weighted chain attached to the door released the cocked hammer of the loaded pistol, which discharged at the intruder.
Model #2, 1871
E. Warren Hastings; Boston, MA
A small oil burner inside the base ignited a fuse that was connected to a metal container under the removable cover of the urn. Powdered incense placed in the container then burned, emitting a pleasing odor through the openings in the cover.
Model #3, 1858
H. Hallock; Brookhaven, NY
Clue: May Day! May Day! May Day!
Life Preserving Container
After the occupants entered the container through the door at one end, it automatically detached from its fastenings on the deck as the ship sank. The floating container was fitted with three bunks for sleeping, compartments for water and provisions, and a sliding hatch cover on top that could be opened for light and air.
Model #4, 1865
Burr & Norman Platt; St. Louis, MO
Cotton Seed Planter
The seeds were poured into the top of the planter, and pins on the rotating shaft prevented the seeds from clogging while funneling them downward as the farmer pushed the planter along a plowed furrow.
Model #5, 1888
Conrad F. Bartling; Greenville, OH
Fence Fabricating Machine
The contraption automatically twisted the wires around the fence posts that were fed by hand into the machine. This is one of the few models that showed the finished product emerging from the machine.