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Sale 38 Lot 306

PROPOSAL FOR AN ELECTRIC TORPEDO GIDEON WELLES(1802-1878) Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy who proposed the blockade of Southern ports and the construction of an ironclad fleet. An extraordinary association A.E.(unsigned) in the margin of a fine content A.L.S. of Mrs. C[harlotte] A. von Cort, the widow of one General von Cort (whom we have been sadly unable to identify), 2pp. 4to., [Washington, c. 1873?] concerning a patent dispute over an electric torpedo. While the case would appear at first to be somewhat obscure, von Cort was the first client of attorney Belva Lockwood, and it was this case that directly led to her struggle to permit women to argue in open court as attorneys. Widow von Cort here writes to Welles, appraising him of her plight, in part: "...You will recall that about the last part of the year 1862 Gen. C. J. von Cort: presented to you; in the Navy Department Washington, plans and Specifications of a Submarine Torpedo shell attached to a carrying rod, or bar; When used to be run out of the boat, by proper means and coming into contact with the Enemy, to be Exploded by Electricity, thereby destroying the enemy; The bar to be drawn back into the boat, another torpedo fastened to the bar, and then it is ready for action again. You referred the invention to your assistant : Mr. Fox. - who examined the plans and Specif[ics] - with President Lincoln; They decided that the invention was of great value. - But the Extreme Circumstances at that time; made it impossible for the government to avail itself of its benefits; President Lincoln said to the inventor, if he would apply the invention for use he would guarantee him any price. - But the invention was not working for money he was working for the country and money was not to be. And he knowing the inefficiency of the Navy even before the war broke out...He gave his services to the country through the war; without asking or receiving any compensation, He was appointed to a high position, but his health failed, and was [un]able to accept...After toiling incessantly in Hospitals and out, and making our home a hospital, soon after the close of the war in 1866. He died leaving me sole administratix... I called at the Navy Dept...they would test the invention...I left the papers in the bureau of ordinance. The Government has now applied this invention, and adopted it as the only reliable defense of the Navy; The various officers in active Service recognize my patent as applied on the Alarm...Therefore I am compelled to solicit from your an answer...". According to an 1878 report issued by the Committee on Naval Affairs, her appeal was denied. (See: "Report, [unfavorable of] the Committee on Naval Affairs, on memorial of Mrs. C. A. Von Cort [claiming right of ownership in the submarine torpedo now on the U. S. torpedo-boat Alarm]. Apr. 19, 1878. 6pp. 8vo. 45 Cong. 2 sess H. rpt 627.). In light of the significance in terms of the career of Belva Lockwood, that matter is somewhat minor in light of the letter's significance to the women's rights movement. Stapled catalog description at top left, some toning and dampstains toward bottom, usual folds, else very good.
Estimate $ 200-300

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