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US Patent: 17,520
Improved carriage-wheel
James D. Sarven - Columbia, TN

USPTO Classifications:

Tool Categories:
trade specific : wheelwright
transportation machines : wagons : wheels, axles and hubs


Woodburn & Scott - St. Louis, MO
New Haven Wheel Co. - New Haven, CT

A. Barr
J. R. Lamb

Patent Dates:
Granted: Jun. 09, 1857

Reissue Information:
Reissued as RE3,079 (Aug. 11, 1868)

Patent Pictures:
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This is the original patent for the very famous Sarven hub, which became the dominant hub for wagon wheels and is still in production today, albeit modernized with Timken roller bearings. Companies such as the Defiance Machine Works made machines specifically designed for making Sarven wheels.

The Sarven hub uses a pair of flanged collars sandwiching the spoke ends, which have alternating long and short tenons, and having only half the tenons go toward the center of the hub allowed the hub to be made smaller than previously while also allowing the (half as many) tenons to be much stronger. The result is a simple but strong hub.

"The nature of my invention consists in the employment of flanged collars of metal to be used in combination with a wooden hub, as follows: I use in general a very small hub of wood, much smaller than in the old style of wheel, and instead of making sixteen mortises, as is common for spokes, I make in general nine or ten for the tenons somewhat larger than in the ordinary way, and between each of these spokes I make a mortise in the hub about three-eighths of an inch deep and insert spokes wedge-shaped, as shown by the drawings accompanying this specification. After the spokes are all fitted I put the flanged collar on the back part of the hub, the collar fitting closely to the hub and serving to strengthen and support the same while the flange fits closely to the back of the spokes. I in general make three screw-holes in this collar next the hub, into which I insert screws, so that the collar will retain its position in case the hub should shrink in the flange that fits against the spokes. I in general make five one-fourth-inch holes, into which I cut a thread to receive screws. After the back flanged collar is secure I put on the front flanged collar on the front of hub, it fitting closely to the hub, but is not screwed thereto, the flanges fitting closely to the front of the spokes. In these flanges there are five holes..."

Reissued twice, this patent was also subject to litigation. In Sarven v. Elihu Hall the validity of the patent was affirmed. Hall was manufacturing a wheel based on Almon Warner's patent of 1867-02-05, but the court found that the Warner wheel had shoulders on the spokes and that feature infringed on the Sarven patent. Hall, having lost that judgement, modified his spokes to have spokes without shoulders bearing on the hub. Sarven again sued for infringement. Although the evidence of the first trial strongly suggested that removing the spoke shoulders would avoid infringement, Sarven's lawyers successfully argued that it still infringed. Because Hall had acted in the plausible belief that he was no longer infringing, he did not have to pay costs.

An 1860 advertisement from New Haven Wheel Manufactory includes a letter: "I, James D. Sarven, hereby certify that the NEW HAVEN WHEEL CO., per Henry G. Lewis, Secretary, and Messrs. WODBURN & SCOTT, of St. Louis, Mo., have the exclusive right manufacture my PATENT WHEEL, and sell the same as an article of merchandise to those not owning those rights."

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