The recipient, Samuel Brouwer, was born in New York in 1762. Although few details of his life are known, various sources list the entrepreneurial fellow as a carpenter, a barrel-maker, and a composition and fanlight maker. The illustrator who executed the original illustration of Brouwer's brick-making machine, “J. Mackay,” is very likely the John MacKay who is included in New York City directories from 1790 to 1812, sometimes listed as a glazier as well as a painter. The National Gallery of Art holds a 1791 portrait by Mackay of a possible relation of the inventor, Catherine Brower.
Brickmaking became one of the first industries in colonial America. It required only a few rudimentary tools, enough hand-made bricks to build a kiln, wood to fuel the kiln, and a good supply of clay. Fortunately, the shores of the Hudson River had immense clay beds. Due to growing demand, inventors such as Brouwer, Christopher Colles (1739-1816), Apollos Kinsley (ca. 1766-1803), and David Ridgway (1741-1794) received patents for improvements in manufacturing brick and tempering clay during Washington’s administration.
Proving that Construction has long been a cutthroat business, Apollos Kinsley wrote to Secretary of State Jefferson on 22 November 1793 to complain of Brouwer's machine, “I have never Seen the Machine constructed by Mr. Brower but have been Informed that some parts of it were much like mine—especially some of the improvements, which were all made before he constructed his machine…. I hope the Law will not permit him to reap the advantage of experiments which I have made at the expence of all my Property and much time.” No description of Kinsley's invention is known to survive, nor is Jefferson’s response recorded. Over the next third of a century, the federal government issued sixty-five more patents related to brickmaking.
Only nineteen patents signed by George Washington are currently known to survive, of which only seven are also signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. Of the seven signed by both parties, this document is the only known patent with its original drawing, one of only two patents known in private hands, and the only known surviving patent for a New York inventor.
Please note: There are fewer than five known complete sets of presidential patents signed by the first seven presidents of the United States (after Jackson, the presidential signature was no longer required on these documents). With the present and subsequent lots, Sotheby's offers the opportunity for another set to be acquired.
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