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American Inventor

INVENTION AND TECHNOLOGY IN AMERICA:
AMERICAN INVENTOR, 1878-1887

American Inventor

 This new collection – Invention and Technology in America: American Inventor — combines the history of American invention and the interaction of technology with social, economic, and cultural change throughout the course of the late 19th and early 20th century.

The late 19th and early 20th century represented an energetic era of inventions and entrepreneurial spirit. Building upon the boom of America’s Industrial Revolution, as well as answering the increasing call from Americans for efficiency and comfort, America found itself in the grip of invention fever, with more people working on their “lofty ideas” than ever before. Facing an increasingly complex everyday life, the public sought the means by which to cope with it. Inventions often provided the answers, even as the inventors themselves remained largely unaware of the life-changing nature of their ideas.

American Inventor, Part I: 1878-1882 and Part II: 1883-1887

This publication was one of the most prominent of the late 19th Century illustrated mechanical journals. Under publisher and proprietor, J.S. Zerbe and published in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1878 to 1887,  the American Inventor grew to a large nationwide circulation. In its advertising, it claimed “contains in a year reading matter equal to 800 book pages and 300 illustrations of everything new in the field of mechanical thought.” In 1882, the publication included 400 more illustrations than any other mechanical periodical published.

  • Touted as the “…Journal Devoted Exclusively to…Art, Science, and Manufactures.”
  • Provided an outlet for those seeking to promote their new inventions and improving old ones.
  • Read by the general public, inventors, patent officers and attorneys, and mechanics of all types.
  • Included an editorial section, book reviews, commentary on the patent system and reforms, and brief biographies of inventors
  • Presented articles and analyses on inventions from the iron foot plow to power woodworking tools to the telephone to portable power sources.
  • Covered information on inventions in agriculture, building and mechanical industries, infrastructure, particularly transportation, electricity, and communications.
  • Highlighted the growing consumer culture spreading across America.
  • Also, included articles relating to inventions from all parts of the globe.


American Inventor provides vivid illustrations and text and invite users to step back in time and become an active participant in the compelling story of America’s inventive period.

American Inventor, Part I: 1878-1882
American Inventor, Part II: 1883-1887

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