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Which presidents are better inventors: Republicans or Democrats?     Send a link to a friend

By Paul Niemann

[OCT. 28, 2004]  With the 2004 elections upon us, the Political Division of Invention Mysteries World Headquarters has issued its prediction for the presidential election.

Several U.S. presidents were inventors before they moved into the White House, so we take a look at how this could influence the election results. With my loyal and bipartisan dog, Patent, watching over me to make sure that I score this contest accurately, we've devised a system that's fair to both parties.

Votes will be awarded as follows:

  • One vote for a patented invention, even if it fails in the marketplace.
  • Two votes for an invention that succeeds in the marketplace, whether patented or not.
  • Three votes for a patented invention that succeeds in the marketplace.
  • Any number of votes will be deducted for any acts that are "unbecoming of a president."

In chronological order, we begin with Thomas Jefferson, who was by far the greatest presidential inventor in U.S. history. Jefferson created at least nine successful inventions: a moldboard plow, a wheel cipher, a spherical sundial, a portable copying press, automatic double doors, the bookstand, the swivel chair, the dumbwaiter and a macaroni machine. That's 18 votes, if you're keeping score at home. He also introduced French fries, ice cream, waffles and macaroni to the United States.

While he was an Illinois congressman Abe Lincoln invented a solution to help him navigate a boat through shallow waters. He was issued Patent 6,469 for "A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals" in 1849. Lincoln never commercialized his invention, but he made a wooden model of it that sits in the Smithsonian Institution. Score two points for Lincoln's Republican Party.

Even though Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, didn't invent the process of impeachment, he was the first U.S. president to actually be impeached (he was impeached by the House but acquitted by one vote in the Senate). Deduct three votes, but for which party? Johnson was both a Democrat and a Republican during his career, so his negative votes get thrown out.

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Enter another Republican president, Rutherford B. Hayes. President Hayes was not an inventor, but we deduct two votes from his party under the "acts unbecoming of a president" clause instituted at the beginning of this column. Some might even say that Hayes' offense, like Johnson's, was an impeachable one. What was his crime?

Upon seeing a demonstration of Alexander Graham Bell's telephone in 1876, Hayes failed to realize its benefits at first. He remarked, "That's an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?" By the way, the middle initial "B" in his name stands for "Birchard."

Another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, gets two votes for the teddy bear that bears his name. Roosevelt didn't patent the teddy bear, because he's not the one who created it. It was invented by Morris Michtom, who named it after the president and presented it to him as a gift in 1903.

Deduct three votes for the Republican Party for Richard Nixon's impeachment and subsequent resignation. His negative votes get canceled out by Democrat Bill Clinton's impeachment, though.

So there you have it -- the entire 215-year history of presidential inventions in a nutshell. Now it's time to count up the votes to see which party will occupy the White House for the next four years. Drumroll, please.

The votes are in, and it doesn't look good for either party. The Republicans, with Lincoln, Hayes, Roosevelt and Nixon, have minus one vote, while the Democrats have minus three votes because of Clinton's impeachment. This means that Thomas Jefferson's party is the winner. To which party did Jefferson belong?

He was a member of -- and I'm not making this up -- the Democratic-Republican Party. When Jefferson was first elected president, in 1801, the nation didn't have the same two-party system that it has today. There were other political parties during the 1800s, such as the Federalists and the Whigs.

I think we need a recount.

[Paul Niemann]

Invention Mysteries is written each week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at niemann7@aol.com.

Copyright Paul Niemann 2004

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