Mark Twain Granted His First Patent on December 19, 1871

Famous Author and Humorist Was Also an Inventor
Press Release

Brigid Quinn
Karen Sewell

Samuel L. Clemens, born in Florida, Mo., received patent #121,992 on December 19, 1871 for an Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments.

Clemens, better known as Mark Twain and famous for stories such as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, also was an inventor and received a total of three patents. While living in Hartford, Conn., Twain, received his first patent for an adjustable strap that could be used to tighten shirts at the waist. This strap attached to the back of a shirt and fastened with buttons to keep it in place and was easy to remove. Twain's invention was not only used for shirts, but for underpants and women's corsets as well. His purpose was to do away with suspenders, which he considered uncomfortable. Twain also received patents for a self-pasting scrapbook in 1873, that was very popular and sold over 25,000 copies, and in 1885 for a history trivia game.

Twain also believed strongly in the value of the patent system. In his book, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Hank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee, said "...the very first official thing I did in my administration-and it was on the very first day of it too-was to start a patent office; for I knew that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab and couldn't travel anyway but sideways and backwards."

Twain's patent, granted under the name Samuel L. Clemens, as well as the more than 6 million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office website at

Last year, USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.