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    This product was added to our catalog on Monday 16 November, 2009.

    Hartshorn Buckle #1, Patent 1855

    Price:  $8.00

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    It is one thing to blindly offer reproductions of an item to the living history world, with the hope that the significance and proper application are understood and used. One of the most satisfying aspects of creating reproduction items is to find and retrace the underlying story behind the original artifact. This buckle is perhaps one of the most common buckles of the period, and no matter what garment is examined, whether it be military or civilian, chances are that this buckle will be found in use.


    1855 patent Patent Abstract

    On July 10th, 1855, Sheldon S. Hartshorn was awarded patent 13,218 for a process in the manufacture of a hinged buckle, which involved swedging a bow to contain a shaped wire prong. The process was both simple and efficient, using wire instead of more costly solid cast frames, or stamped flat stock. The large number of extant originals is an indication of the success of the design.

    Sheldon Hartshorn was born in Derby Connecticut and married Cynthia Boughton in 1836. Together they raised three boys and two girls, and it appears that his wife died after the birth of their youngest child Henry. Although Sheldon was awarded patents for many different styles of buckles, patents 11,892, (patented November 7th, 1854), 13,218 (patented July 10th, 1855) and 13907 (patented December 11th, 1855), he never seemed to prosper from his labors. Althought he was listed as the head of the household, throughout his life he was required to share his home with borders or coworkers. It is not clear whether he had intended to start his own company, or sell his patents directly, but in 1855 he was able to get the backing of entrepreneur George Kelsey and both had begun to work for the West Haven Buckle Company, which exists to this day. George Kelsey is a man of considerable note, and he himself was awarded a patent on February 21st, 1862 for a buckle which we offer as the "double roller buckle". Since Kelsey's occupation is listed as a Buckle Manfucturer and Hartshorn is listed as Mechanic, it is not clear if Kelsey actually invented the 1862 patent, or acquired the rights. Kelsey is listed in the 

    Sheldon Hartshorn Census Kelsey Census

    same point in time as Hartshorn as having substantially greater wealth, his house, which was staffed with servants, being worth $4,500 and personal assets of $15,800, whereas Hartshorn's house, is valued at $1,500 and personal assets of $600. Kelsey would go on to later have the majority of ownership of the West Haven Horsecar Line, and in late 1869, he started a ferry service, and would also go on to build a hotel. It is quite possible that Hartshorn invented the 1862 patent double roller buckle, but could not cover the costs of manufacture.

    Although Hartshorn's buckle was a success in design and ubitquitous application, it was anything but a financial success for him. It appears that he was required to bear the entire legal cost of enforcing the patent as well as the numerous petitions to deny the renewal of his patent. Hartshorn died shortly before the extension of his patent in 1869, requiring that his children take up the onerous legal expense of defending the patent. Ultimately, the family abandonded the fight, just as the patent was to be reissued.

    Kelsey patentThe patent was reissued on February 3rd, 1874 under the reissue number 5,755, and was granted to the West Haven Buckle Company. The petition was submitted by George R. Kelsey, Treasurer for the West Haven Buckle Company.

    Extant examples of this buckle often vary in styling, but all bear the raised letters PATENT 1855. We intend to produce other styles manufactured under this patent, but this is the first in the series. This buckle is taken from an original which was found on a vest back in our collection. This buckle will admit a strap of 1" and is perfect for canteen straps, vest and trouser belt backs. It is available in either black or gilt finish.

    We are very proud to offer this buckle, which not only offers detail to the historical impression, but a tremendous piece of business and patent history.  Harthshorn's patent spanned a large section of the 19th centry, and we are very proud to reintroduce it in the early 21st century.

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