Halbert Eleazer Paine


General Paine was another Civil War hero to become Commissioner of Patents.

Born at Chardon, Ohio, February 4, 1826, he was the seventh in line of descent from Stephen Paine, who emigrated from Hingham, England, to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. He graduated from Western Reserve College at the age of 19, at the head of his class, taught school in Mississippi, and then took up the study and practice of law in Cleveland, Ohio. He married in 1850.

In the army, he rose from Colonel in 1861 to Brevet Major General in 1865, and then resigned in May of the latter year.

After serving in the 39th, 40th and 41st Congresses he declined to serve a further term and took up the practice of law in Washington. He was Commissioner of Patents from November 1, 1878 to May 7, 1880, and then resumed the practice of law. He died at Washington, April 14, 1905, and was buried at Arlington.

Paine was not appointed Commissioner of Patents because of special training or experience in patent matters. It is said that prior to taking this office he had not given attention to that branch of the law. He accepted the appointment at the urgent request of Mr. Schurz, then Secretary of Interior, who for some time had been endeavoring to bestow some reward upon his esteemed friend, Paine, in recognition of his sterling character and unselfish service to his country. Mr. Paine, however, proved to be a different type of Commissioner than were a number of his predecessors from the ranks of the military. His decisions were lucid, and showed the industry of careful preparation. He always mastered every detail before deciding a case.

In his report for 1879 he directed attention to a number of desired reforms which were subsequently effected, including provision in the statutes for appeals from the Commissioner in interference cases, improvements in the procedure of assignment recordation and abolition of the requirement of models. One notable improvement established a procedure relating to the matter of errors on the part of the Office, corresponding to the present Certificate of Correction.

Commissioner Paine installed a typewriter in his office, the first in the Bureau, and then issued an order for the general use of typewriters in the Office, and, against vigorous protests, installed them in all divisions as fast as typists could be secured.

He dispensed with the Commissioner's carriage as an unnecessary expense.

Following the example of James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, he spent his last years as a Justice of the Peace in the old city of Georgetown, D. C.


*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.