Several sources indicate that Joseph E. Gearhart had patents issued on almost forty different inventions. It is not exactly certain how this figure originated, but the records show that he secured at least eight U.S. Patents. I have tracked down these eight U.S. patents, so we do know quite a bit about his knitting machine, his railroad car pusher (still in use today), his vacuum cleaner, and his match safe. There were many other inventions he was working on, but they had not yet reached the patent stage at the time of his death in 1928.
Of all the patented inventions, I especially like the match safe for is uniqueness. You can find the toothpick version on the counter of almost every restaurant in the United States. Its that a clear plastic box full of toothpicks, mounted on top of a block of wood, with a groove at the exhaust end to catch a single tookpit when pressed. The match safe was the original version of this idea, and waterproof. You could even hold it up to the kitchen faucet to spin the flint and light the match!
Back in those days, and perhaps even today, foreign patents were also required to stop infringments overseas. Joseph’s son Emory obtained at least five foreign patents for his Runner Knitter, from Canada, England, Mexico, Spain, and Germany. These patents were issued from their respective countries in their native language. I assume several of the other patents were also obtained in foreign countries.
I have obtained several of the original patents, complete with seals and ribbons. Joseph’s 1877 patent for the car-pusher is quite a nice document. Somewhat fragile with age, it bears the marks of a well-handled possession which must have been proudly taken out and shown often. The wording, decoration, and signature style reminds me of an era closer to colonial times, when documents had a far more artistic and careful composition than today. For anyone with a railroad interest, I’ll be following up on this invention in an upcoming article.
I would be very happy to hear from anyone who can add to the initial list below. The circular knitting machine patents can be viewed in their entirety at PatentList.pdf. I would certainly like to add any newly discovered patents to the list if at all possible.
- patent 190,848. April 26, 1877. Joseph Gearhart. Improvements in car-pushers.
- patent 424,877. April 1, 1890. Joseph Gearhart. Circular-Knitting Machine.
- patent 457,643. April 11, 1891. Joseph Gearhart. Circular-Knitting Machine.
- patent 468,171. February 2, 1892. Joseph Gearhart. Mold for Casting Knitting-Machine Cylinders.
- patent 479,629. July 26, 1892. Joseph Gearhart. Circular-Knitting Machine.
- patent 611,751. October 4, 1895. Lewis Gearhart. Circular-Knitting Machine.
- patent 940,387. November 16, 1909. Joseph Gearhart. Match-Safe.
- patent 998,891. July 25, 1911. Joseph Gearhart. Vacuum-Cleaner.
- patent 1,013,289. January 2, 1912. Joseph Gearhart. Insert-Jaws for Lathe-Chucks.
- patent 1,739,359. December 23, 1927. Emory Gearhart. Looping Machine.
- patent 1,777,610. October 7, 1930. Emory Gearhart. Runner Knitter.
- patent 1,912,977. August 11, 1931. Emory Gearhart. Semiautomatic Turfing Device.