Edgar M. Marble


Rising from the ranks, Mr. Marble was appointed Commissioner of Patents on April 28, 1880, by President Hayes, and served until 1883.

It was a most interesting period. The reconstruction following the Civil War was just ending, and many of the great figures of the war were still on the stage. In the field of invention, electricity was just emerging. In the practice of patent law, routine was just established.

Edgar M. Marble's qualifications for the position of Commissioner of Patents were found in the record he had already established in the Interior Department, in the position he had occupied up to that time, for executive capacity, clearness and correctness of decision and a thorough grounding in general law.

He was born on November 13, 1838, near Meridian, New York, a farmer's son. Until he was twenty years of age he passed his youth like other farmers' boys of the time, caring for the crops during the spring, summer and fall, and attending the district school during the winter. Feeling the independence and self-reliance of early manhood, he went to Monroe Collegiate Institute at Elbridge, New York, from which he graduated in 1860, thereafter entering Hamilton College. Without finishing college he became principal of the high school at Ionia, Michigan, and then served during the War as adjutant.

At the close of the war, he served four years as a county clerk in Michigan, and then, starting as a law clerk in the Interior Department, he was later appointed to the position of Examiner-in-Chief of the Patent Office, and still later, Assistant Attorney-General of the Interior Department, which position he held until his appointment as Commissioner of Patents in 1880.

While serving as Commissioner of Patents he also performed the duties of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for a number of months, winning much praise in the distinction with which he executed the duties of his double office. In 1883 he resigned the Commissionership of Patents to take the position of Land Commissioner of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, but in a few weeks returned to Washington to continue as head of the Patent Office until 1884. He then retired from governmental service to the practice of patent law.

Having associated with him his two sons, Harry M. and Louis M. Marble, he continued the active practice of patent law until forced by ill health, in 1901, to leave active work. He later returned to work until the time of his death on December 25, 1908.


*Republished with permission of the Patent and Trademark Office Society from the article Biographical Sketches of the Commissioners of Patents, 18 J.P.O.S. 145 (1936).  The United States Patent and Trademark Office is grateful for the Society’s assistance.