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'Schemes of Practical Utility': Entrepreneurship and Innovation Among 'Great Inventors' in the United States, 1790-1865

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  • B. Zorina Khan
  • Kenneth L. Sokoloff

Abstract

The growth in inventive activity during early American industrialization is explored by examining the careers of 160 inventors credited with important technological discoveries. Analysis of biographical information and complete patent histories through 1865 indicates that these 'great inventors' were entrepreneurial and responded systematically to market demand. Their inventions were procyclical and originated disproportionately from localities linked with extensive markets. Although not exceptional in terms of schooling or technical skills, they vigorously pursued the returns to their inventions, redirected their inventive activity to meet emerging needs, and were distinguished by high geographical mobility towards districts conducive to invention.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Zorina Khan & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1992. "'Schemes of Practical Utility': Entrepreneurship and Innovation Among 'Great Inventors' in the United States, 1790-1865," NBER Historical Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0042
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    Cited by:

    1. Bottomley, Sean, 2014. "Patenting in England, Scotland and Ireland during the Industrial Revolution, 1700–1852," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 48-63.
    2. Jennifer Hunt & Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle, 2010. "How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 31-56, April.
    3. Fontana, Roberto & Nuvolari, Alessandro & Shimizu, Hiroshi & Vezzulli, Andrea, 2013. "Reassessing patent propensity: Evidence from a dataset of R&D awards, 1977–2004," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(10), pages 1780-1792.
    4. Petra Moser & Tom Nicholas, 2013. "Prizes, Publicity and Patents: Non-Monetary Awards as a Mechanism to Encourage Innovation," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 763-788, September.
    5. Charles W. Calomiris & Christopher Hanes, 1994. "Historical Macroeconomics and American Macroeconomic History," NBER Working Papers 4935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. B. Zorina Khan, 2015. "The Impact of War on Resource Allocation: 'Creative Destruction' and the American Civil War," NBER Working Papers 20944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Schwerin, Joachim & Werker, Claudia, 2003. "Learning innovation policy based on historical experience," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 385-404, December.
    8. Matthew Gibbons & Les Oxley, 2017. "The Relationship of Patenting Applications and Expenditure with Output and Real GDP in Nineteenth Century Colonial New Zealand," Working Papers in Economics 17/05, University of Waikato.
    9. Cook, Lisa D., 2011. "Inventing social capital: Evidence from African American inventors, 1843–1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 507-518.
    10. Matthew Gibbons & Les Oxley, 2017. "New Perspectives on Patenting Activity in New Zealand 1860-1899," Working Papers in Economics 17/04, University of Waikato.

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