Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark

Charles J. Robertson

This lavishly illustrated history of America’s Patent Office Building illuminates the importance of a treasured national landmark. Today the building is home to two Smithsonian museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The book’s rich historical details from the 1830s to the present will be of particular interest to architectural historians and urban planners and to anyone who loves our nation's capital.

The Patent Office Building, constructed between 1836 and 1868, was built to display models submitted by inventors seeking patents, as well as historical artifacts including the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin’s printing press, and George Washington memorabilia. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was known as a “museum of curiosities” and was visited by 100,000 people annually. During the Civil War, it was both military barracks and a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1865, its nearly completed north wing was the site for Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball. Poet Walt Whitman called this witness to history and repository for American ingenuity and enterprise “the noblest of Washington buildings.”


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Product Details

Copublished with Scala Publishers Ltd.
Year Published
112 pp.: ill. (38 color)
  • Softcover: 1-85759-385-5
9 188 34 in.


An image of the Patent Office Building from 1846
Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark
June 30, 2006January 21, 2008
This exhibition honors the completion of the building's glorious renovation and marks the 170th anniversary of President Andrew Jackson signing legislation that authorized the building's construction.