Orville H. Platt, “Invention and Advancement,” 1891.

In 1891, Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut offered remarks at the centennial celebration of the American patent system. Platt marveled at American advances in science and technology.  “Formerly we ascribed creative faculty or force to the Divine Being alone,” Platt declared, but ”now, when we look upon the wondrous contrivances and inventions everywhere contributing to our life wants … we are forced to exclaim: ‘Behold the expressed thought of the creator— man!’”  

According to Platt, how did the rise of electricity and the power of coal contribute to the rise of this new technological age?

While Platt honors inventors like James Watt (steam engine) and Samuel Morse (telegraph), why does he suggest that there are “many greater than Watt” in 1890s America?


Platt, Orville H. “Invention and Advancement.” in Proceedings and Addresses: Celebration of the Beginning of the Second Century of the American Patent System at Washington City, D.C., April 8, 9, 10, 1891. Classic ed. 57-76. Washington D.C: 1891.

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Teaching Unit: Rise of Coal in the 19th Century United States