Did you know that until 1880, in order to obtain a patent you were required to also submit a model along with your application? The models were small (12x12x12″) working replicas of the invention itself, sort of 3D versions of the illustrations that are still a part of patent applications. Of course, over time the space needed to store all of these models became too much for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to handle, and the requirement was discontinued.
However, a lot of those models are still floating around out there. In 1908, Congress began auctioning off the models. Some are on display at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office museum in Alexandria, VA, but the largest collection of privately owned patent models is located at the Rothschild Peterson Patent Model Museum in Cazenovia, NY. You can even buy a model yourself, if the mood strikes you: here, here, or (of course) here. Just be prepared to pay more than the cost of the actual product itself, in many cases.
While librarians can’t help you build a model of your invention, we can help you with parts of the patent process. As a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, we can help you navigate the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website, help you find books and other resources on the subject, and help you find a list of local patent attorneys and agents.