Abraham Lincoln: Fashion Trendsetter or Patent Pioneer?

By Paul A. Fri, February 17, 2017

So, what’s the story with Abraham Lincoln wearing a leather biker jacket?

If you’ve ever entered or exited Parkway Central Library through the back door on Wood Street, you might have seen the picture in question. It gets lots of admiring comments, so in honor of Presidents Day (and Lincoln’s birth month), we thought it deserved a little attention and explanation:

Lincoln could never have worn a leather jacket because he died in 1865 and the jacket style wasn’t created until 1928. So what’s up with the picture?

Though the picture now hangs above Central Senior Services on the first floor, the space used to be the home of the Patent Collection in the Government Publications Department. As the story goes, the picture was created for a patent exhibit in the 1990s by a former Free Library graphic designer named Marcelle Moraux. Lincoln is in the picture because he’s the only U.S. president to have registered a patent. He’s in a jacket with zippers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the zipper patent in 1993. As for Lincoln’s patent, it was for a device to lift riverboats that had run aground on sand bars. He started work on the device in 1848 when he was a U.S. congressman representing Illinois, and he registered it in 1849. Apparently, he was traveling home from Washington when his boat got stuck on a sandbar, giving him the idea. There’s no indication that the device was ever marketed, but it’s more proof that Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinary man!

Abraham Lincoln wearing a leather motocycle jacket, created by former Free Library graphic designer Marcelle Moraux, circa 1990s.
Abraham Lincoln wearing a leather motocycle jacket, created by former Free Library graphic designer Marcelle Moraux, circa 1990s.
Lincoln’s original patent model was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1908. This replica was built by the Smithsonian in 1978 for long-term display to preserve the fragile original. (image credit: www.smithsonianmag.com)
Lincoln’s original patent model was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1908. This replica was built by the Smithsonian in 1978 for long-term display to preserve the fragile original. (image credit: www.smithsonianmag.com)
Zipper Patent Diagram
Zipper Patent Diagram

Comments

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Yusuf - Tajikistan voce Sat, February 25, 2017
Thank you so much for your Smithsonian expression as examined. It is wonderful in its minut detail. Hugo
Hugo V. Presentado - 4123 Lancaster Avenue, 2nd Fl Rear Philadelphia Wed, March 01, 2017

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