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Enlighten Me: Hagley’s patent models greet travelers at Philadelphia International Airport

Display Case Artifacts of Invention Following First Day of Installation.jpg
Hagley Museum and Library
Display Case Artifacts of Invention Following First Day of Installation

Hagley Museum is taking with its patent collection on the road this summer.

Hagley has an estimated 5,000 patent models that collection and a selection of them will be in display between Terminals C and D at Philadelphia International Airport this summer.

In this week’s Enlighten Me, Delaware Public Media’s Kelli Steele chats with Hagley assistant curator Chris Cascio about patent model collection - and specifically the ones hitting the road this summer.

The Hagley Museum and Library’s 19th-century patent models have landed at the Philadelphia International Airport.

Hagley holds an estimated 5,000 patent models in its collection and a selection is on display between Terminals C and D.

Hagley assistant curator Chris Cascio says for this exhibit, he tried to put himself in the shoes of people traveling through the airport - who don’t know much about Philadelphia or patent models, “So I tried to think about their experience. And so I came up with several different categories of patent models that we could use, one of which would focus on travel - obviously; another that would focus on food and drink and other things that they would have to get while they’re there at the airport and while they may be waiting for their flight to get ready to go. The other would be to highlight Philadelphia itself.”

Bretzel machine by William Lampert and Henry Huber -1880.jpg

Cascio says he identified 49 patent models in those categories.

The name of the exhibit is Artifacts of Invention:  Patent Models from Hagley Museum and Library, 1845-1895; again it's on display between Terminals C and D.

Cascio says the airport display is a preview to the late summer opening of Nation of Inventors at Hagley, a major exhibition featuring more than 100 patent models, “It’ll be the largest exhibit of patent models in the world right now. And though…in a small, sort of like sense we can talk about the stories behind these inventors and these fantastic inventions they’ve create in the 19th Century at the Philadelphia Airport, we go into a much deeper detail and a much deeper dive at Hagley for the Nation of Inventors exhibit.”  

Cascio notes that for the airport display he sought patent models linked to transportation - like Louis Ransom’s traveling trunk from 1867 that was a predecessor to today’s luggage with wheels on the bottom.

The exhibit is on display throughout the busy summer and holiday travel seasons.

To learn more about the history of patent models, visit

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Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.