Mary Kies

May 5th Celebrates Mary Kies

Today on Days to remember we celebrate how on May 5th 1809, Mary Kies was awarded the first patent for her technique for weaving straw with silk thread.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought weaving something out of nothing is so incredible to watch and learn.

However back in the day, when inventions were coming up throughout history, only men were allowed to have patent for their ideas, because women were excluded from being allowed to patent anything they invented.

Mary Dixon Kies was the first American woman to apply for and receive a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

On May 5, 1809, her patent for a new technique of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats was signed by President James Madison.

Because of the Napoleonic Wars, the United States embargoed all trade with France and Great Britain, creating a need for American-made hats to replace European millinery.

The straw-weaving industry filled the gap, with over $500,000 ($9 million in today’s money) worth of straw bonnets produced in Massachusetts alone in 1810.

Mary Kies was not the first American woman to innovate in hat-making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women and girls to make her hats.

The method created a new industry for girls and women because the straw bonnets could be made at home from local resources, so the women and girls could do work for themselves.

Thus, Betsy Metcalf started the American straw-hat industry. Under the Patent Act of 1790 she could have sought a patent, but like most women at the time, who could not legally hold property, she chose not to. Mary Kies, however, broke that pattern on May 5, 1809.

Dolly Madison was so pleased by Kies’ innovation that she sent a personal letter applauding her. Who was President James Madison wife, which is how Mary Kies was awarded the first patent for her technique for weaving straw with silk thread.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


One thought on “Mary Kies

  1. Pingback: Religious celebrations in May 2016 | From guestwriters

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