ON EXHIBIT: From Tesla to Jobs: The Great Thinkers and Tinkerers Hall of Fame in Alexandria Museum

While Americans are familiar with the Energizer Bunny, Europe and Australia know the Duracell Bunny. The Trademark exhibit tells the story of these trademarks and many others. Credit: Jay Premack/USPTO

By Kelly MacConomy

Family in for the 4th? Looking to avoid the DC crowds? Too hot for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and not in the mood to seek refuge in the mall, least of all on the Mall? There is a gem of a museum right here in Port City that will appeal to the most beleaguered museum-going house guests, restless campers and free-range young-uns.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in the Carlyle District just opened a new exhibit commemorating the recent issue of the ten-millionth patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The exhibit highlights the evolution of the patent process from 1790 to present day. #NewPatentDesign

The Ford Mustang- Half 1965/Half 2015 Interior
Photo by Kelly MacConomy

This museum isn’t all legal and engineering patent pencil-pushing history. It’s as interactive as it gets. Nothing says “Don’t Touch”. No one stands guard imperiously warning…. “Please step back”. One of the most popular draws is the half-n-half Mustang. The Ford Motor Company created a one-of-kind 1965 Mustang conjoined with a 2015 Mustang to demonstrate the differences. Best of all the signs says, “Take her for a spin”. Well, you are allowed to sit in it.

Kids of all ages get snap happy with the car. Be sure to post your Insta pics and selfies while touring the museum- on foot. One fun educational feature is spotting the fake consumer product. Test your consumerism IQ by identifying the counterfeit goods. This exhibit demonstrates the importance of the trademark concept in protecting both intellectual property and consumer interests. Consider next time you see a Tesla drive past you that the indefatigable Hall of Famer inventor Nikola Tesla alone held 300 patents. The museum has inventor-based programs for educators at all grade levels.

Another new exhibit honors the inventor/veterans of World War I. Alexandria is spotlighting the one hundredth anniversary of America’s engagement in the First World War. “Visionary Veterans: Honoring Inductees Who Served In World War I” showcases the accomplishments of five WWI veterans and Hall of Fame inductees whose contributions to innovation made an important impact upon the early part of the 20th Century that continues today. The exhibit is ongoing through October, 2018. Look for other special events dedicated to the WWI centennial including special art installations and exhibits at the Torpedo Factory, built one hundred years ago, with construction beginning on Armistice Day in November, 1918.

The Inventors Hall of Fame
Photo by Kelly MacConomy

To engage museum visitors further and in conjunction with the celebration of the 10 millionth patent, the City of Alexandria is sponsoring a local patent history scavenger hunt this summer. The USPTO has created inventor trading cards complementing the new exhibits and celebrating the hallmark patent, available at local museum and historic sites. Participants are encouraged to collect all the cardsavailable at each stop.

There are nine Alexandria sites, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon where the third patent ever issued is still in use today at the Gristmill, an automated, three-story system of gears, wheels, and troughs. The Gristmill makes flour and cornmeal that’s used in the production of whiskey at the Distillery as well as in the Mount Vernon Inn where they make scrumptious cornbread and grits. George Washington as President granted the first patent in 1790. A celebration of the 10 millionth patient was held at the Gristmill and Distillery June 19, recreating the historic signing of that patent earlier that day by President Trump, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu presiding.

The Geodesic Polyhedron Fountain at the USPTO. Photo by Kelly MacConomy.

Participating sites for the trading cards also include The Torpedo Factory, The Lyceum, Gadsby’s Tavern, The Black History Museum, The Fort Ward Museum, The Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary Museum, the Friendship Firehouse Museum and of course The National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum. Happy hunting!

The National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum is conveniently located inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office building at 600 Delany Street in the Carlyle District. Admission is always free. Open weekdays 10-5. Saturdays 11-3. Closed Sundays. The Eisenhower Metro is nearby as well as the AMC Hoffman 21 Theater movieplex with a Starbucks, Cold Stone Creamery and several great restaurant options to keep the troops diverted for hours. Make a day of it.

You will thank me later.