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Library has 'a piece of history' thanks to Hudson man

By JEFF SAUNDERS Reporter Published: June 11, 2017 12:00 AM
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Like most people, Walter Sestili does not have a 188-year-old patent document signed by President John Quincy Adams just lying on his dresser.

Not anymore, anyway.

The Hudson resident recently donated the three-page document, issued in 1829 to Massachusetts inventor Tyler Howe for his improvement to the circular revolving saw, to the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library.

It is hanging in a frame on a wall by the first-floor new book section.

"This is a piece of history we'll be able to show the public for years to come," said library executive director Doug Dotterer just before Sestili used scissors to cut a ribbon on the frame June 6.

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Dotterer thanked Sestili for the donation, as well as library marketing and public relations coordinator Ann Malthaner for arranging to have the document matted and framed.

"We're pretty proud of what we have here at the library and these kind of donations make it even more special," said Dotterer.

Sestili said the document had been on his dresser at least since his wife Elizabeth died in February 2014.

"This was a document that's been passed down in my wife's family," said Sestili. "I think it was her great-great-grandfather who was the patent attorney that wrote the patent for this gentleman. I'm not sure, I think this probably is the copy of the patent that belonged to Howe and [kept] within my wife's great-great grandfather's office for safekeeping."

An inventor family

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Patent 5378X was signed not only by the then outgoing president, but also by Henry Clay, Adams' secretary of state and a major political figure of the time. Abraham Lincoln later cited Clay as a significant influence on him.

According to research done by Beth Daugherty, history librarian at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, Howe was born in 1800 and invention ran in his family. His brother William invented the truss bridge and his nephew Elias Howe invented the lockstitch sewing machine. Tyler Howe would also patent the spring bed in the mid-1850s.

"Every time you lay down on your bed, the box springs down there, same guy," said Sestili.

There is a monument in honor of all three Howe inventors in their hometown of Spencer, Mass.

According to a 1926 article by the Cambridge, Mass. Historical Society, Howe sailed on a boat on a quest for gold following the start of the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s. He would be disappointed in his prospecting, but the discomfort of the rigid berths on the boat inspired his idea for the spring bed.

The 1861 Cambridge City Directory lists Howe as a manufacturer of spring beds and a building he owned now houses the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Bookstore.

Howe may not have found much gold in California, but spring beds made his fortune and he died a wealthy man in 1880 at age 79.

According to a plaque on the document's frame, Sestili's belief that the document was Howe's copy is born out by history, as government-held documents issued for patents were destroyed in the Great Patent Office Fire of 1836.

Sestili said he does not know the name of his wife's patent attorney ancestor, but believes it came down to her through her grandfather Stanley Preston and her father David Preston.

"There's no one left of the Preston family that I know of," said Sestili. "My daughter is the next one in line as far as having any Preston blood in her. But all her aunts, uncles, cousins and everything have passed away."

Sestili said he initially approached the Hudson Public Library, but the donation was declined so he turned to the south to find a library that wanted it.

"I just want to make sure it has a good home and other people get to see it like I've gotten to see it," said Sestili.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9431

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