Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thomas Jennings: 35 Chatham Street

map portion comes from a 1834 riot map from the ny divided exhibit
below from wikipedia
Thomas L. Jennings (1791–1856) was a leading abolitionist. He was a free black tradesman who operated a dry-cleaning business in New York City, New York and was the first African American to be granted a patent.
Jennings' skills were so accepted that people near and far-off came to him to alter or custom-tailor objects of clothing for them. When he was thirty years old, in 1821, he was granted a patent for a dry cleaning process called "dry scouring." This enabled him to build up his business.
The first money Jennings earned was spent on the legal fees to purchase his family out of slavery, and then to support the abolitionist cause.
In 1831, Jennings became assistant secretary to the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1857, Oscar Stuart, a slave owner, patented a "double cotton scraper." He did not, in fact, invent the double cotton scraper; historical records show that the only name given for the actual inventor was Ned, his slave. In his defense, Stuart claimed that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave, both manual and intellectual."
In 1793 and 1836, it was legal for both slaves and free Negroes to receive patents for their inventions. In a challenge to the patent, of Stuart vs. Ned, the Patent Office decided in Stuart's favor. They changed the law in 1858 to exclude the granting of patents to slaves, as they were not considered citizens.

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