Necessity's Children: 150 Years of Local Inventions
Nov 18, 2010 - Feb 6, 2011
Taking its title from Plato’s reference to ‘necessity being the mother of invention,’ the special exhibitionNecessity’s Children: 150 Years of Local Inventions presents a sampling of the 2,300+ patents that have been awarded to residents of Stockton since the late 1850s.
The artifacts, photographs and patents that make up this exhibition provide an interesting review of this area’s social and economic past and demonstrate that the fertile lands surrounding Stockton have been matched by the fertile imaginations of its residents.
This exhibition is the first in the San Joaquin Rootsseries, made possible by the Tuleburg Endowment—a permanently restricted endowment used to highlight the successes and unique qualities of the region, originally nicknamed “Tuleburg.”
Given this city’s role in the development of local agriculture, it is not surprising that the majority of Stockton patents relate directly to both new and improved machinery that has helped to make San Joaquin County the seventh most productive agricultural county in the United States.
The islands of the Delta were transformed from swampland to a veritable farmers’ Eden by the dredges, ditchers and irrigation pumps developed by local inventors. As row and orchard crops such as grains, onions, potatoes, sugar beets, beans and asparagus were introduced over the years, Stocktonians met the challenge of the agricultural variety by developing or perfecting a range of farm machinery, including plows, cultivators, tractors and harvesters. Other local inventors created methods for processing and packaging this bounty.
Like the rest of America, Stocktonians fell in love with the automobile during the early 20th century and many turned their creative energies toward improvements to the internal combustion engine, pneumatic tires, turn signals, rear-view mirrors, oil filters, gasoline pumps and other automotive accoutrements. Still others made names for themselves and their companies by creating the vehicles and machinery used to build roads and highways—locally, nationally and abroad.
Many Stockton inventors operated independently, creating in the privacy of their home or shop. Others worked for some of the city’s major manufacturing concerns such as the Holt Manufacturing, Fiberboard, R. G. LeTourneau, California Cedar Products and Stockton Box companies, designing the methods and means of production that allowed these companies to flourish for decades.
Some of the most fascinating patents are those that can best be described as “quirky.” Examples include the combination train-boat (1882), the alarm for indicating life in a person buried accidentally (1910), the horizontally swinging barber’s chair (1950) or the golf tee and ball setting device (2000).
While it is impossible for the museum to highlight all of the many patents that have been held by Stocktonians over the past 150 years, they will be accessible via a searchable database. Using search criteria such as the inventor’s name, the date the patent was awarded, its title or a general descriptive phrase, museum visitors will be able to view patents for everything from tomato harvesters to horse pacifiers.
This exhibition (along with Centuries of Progress: American World's Fairs, 1853-1982) will remain on display through February 6, 2011.