above headline might not sound all that interesting at first, wait
until you learn the identities of the inventor, the killer and the
victim. Each one was known for something other than their main
profession, and each one left a lasting legacy that has something to
do with money some 200 years later.
He helped establish the United States
patent office in 1790. Oddly enough, he was originally against the
idea of patents because he considered patents to be an unfair
But that isn't what he was known for.
So who was this inventor?
We'll call him Tom, because his name
His inventions included the swivel
chair, a new type of sundial, the moldboard plow and the cipher
wheel. Among his peers at his main job, he was without equal as an
inventor. Tom also introduced french fries, ice cream, waffles and
macaroni to the United States. In fact, he invented a macaroni
But that isn't what Tom was known for.
So what was his claim to fame? And why does this writer keep asking
all these annoying questions?
Tom has several legacies larger than
his inventions, such as his Monticello estate, serving as our
nation's first patent commissioner, establishing the University of
Virginia, serving as secretary of state and serving as president of
the United States. That's right, Tom is Thomas Jefferson. His name
and image appear on the $2 bill.
the killer who worked for him…
But first, one more annoying question,
and then I'll stop. I promise. Who was the killer who worked for
Thomas Jefferson, our nation's third president?
[to top of second column
in this article]
In 1799 he founded the Bank of the
Manhattan Company, which later merged with another bank to become
Chase Manhattan Bank, but that's not what he is remembered for.
I can't reveal his name just yet
because that would give it away, but he killed a man in a pistol
duel that made headlines at the time. In fact, it caused a national
outrage, as the victim was a signer of the Declaration of
Independence. The man who worked for President Thomas Jefferson and
also founded the company that became Chase Manhattan Bank was
initially indicted for murder, but the charge was later reduced and
he served no prison time. A year later, he finished the job for
which he was elected: serving as Thomas Jefferson's vice president.
That man, of course, is Aaron Burr.
In some duels, the two combatants would
fire their pistols at trees, intentionally missing the other person.
This allowed each person to save face without killing his opponent.
The loser of
that duel, Alexander Hamilton, became regarded as a hero or, as the
NRA once said, "a lousy shot." He went on to have his image placed
on the $10 bill, while Burr's reputation is still tarnished two
Invention Mysteries is written each
week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004