Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
Thomas Gilpin was born in Philadelphia on Sept. 10, 1776, and died there on March 3, 1853. With his brother, Joshua (1765-1841), he established Delaware’s first paper mill near Wilmington in 1787. Thomas Gilpin invented and patented the first continuous papermaking machine in the U.S. in 1817, based upon information secured by his brother in England. Although successful, the Gilpins suffered from a shortage of capital and losses in other investments, and they sold the mill in 1837. The document is a deposition in a patent infringement case brought by John Ames of Springfield, Mass., against the firm of Howard & Lothrop (Case No. 36, October term, 1833, United States Circuit Court, Boston, Mass.). Ames had visited the Gilpins’ mill in 1822 and eventually obtained information about the papermaking machine by bribing a workman. Within two months, Ames had patented a machine that closely resembled Gilpin’s. Ames later asked Gilpin to testify about the origins of his machine. Gilpin and Hugh McFee, a workman who had resisted Ames’ bribes, agreed to provide written answers to a list of questions, which were then read into the court record. The deposition contains an account of Ames’ attempts to bribe McFee. It also includes the only surviving copy of Gilpin’s 1817 patent and drawing for his first papermaking machine.