The business records of textile entrepreneur and inventor Erastus Bigelow offer extraordinary detail about how financing innovation worked on the ground in the antebellum United States. For the first decades of the nineteenth century, increasing numbers of Americans sought patent protection, even as patents often brought little monetary benefit or status to their holders. Historians have tended to look to the court system to account for why this was the case, even though only a small percentage of patent holders ever litigated. This article, by contrast, examines the securitization of patents, which many inventors increasingly saw as supple tools to secure research funds and monetize intellectual property. As individuals and firms bought and sold patents for cash, labor contracts, and funding for further research and development, they shaped an evolving market for intellectual property. Throughout the nineteenth century, this market offered inventors increasing opportunities to offload the risks, and sometimes the rewards, of invention.


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pp. 126-151
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