5 American Politicians Who Were Also Inventors

Do you know any politicians who were also inventors? You might well guess one or two, but here are five for your delectation.
Christopher McFadden

Some people just make you feel sick. They seem to be so talented that they can do just about anything. These 5 examples of politicians who were also inventors are a prime example. 

Not content with holding highly successful political careers, they also found the time to invent something. Some even got patents. The following list is far from exhaustive and in no particular order.

1. Benjamin Franklin

We'll kick off our list of politicians who were also inventors with one of the more famous ones.


Benjamin Franklin was rather a high achiever it seems. He led an illustrious political career, was Postmaster of Philadelphia, Ambassador to France and President of Pennsylvania and a founding father of the United States. 

Not content with those achievements he was also a prolific inventor. He is best known for his scientific experimentation. Notably his work on electricity and lightning. What is less known is that he also devised clever little devices, many of which he didn't even patent.

For example, have you heard of bifocal glasses? Yup Benjamin Franklin invented them. They were the product of his own frustration with his aging eyes. He decided to create a pair of glasses that allowed him to see close-up and far away in the same apparatus.

5 American Politicians Who Were Also Inventors
Benjamin Franklin circa 1746 Source: Harvard University Portrait Collection, Bequest of Dr. John Collins Warren/Wikimedia Commons

Franklin also devised the Franklin Stove. This was a freestanding stove that sat in the middle of the room. The heat was radiated out from all sides but the smoke would be vented from the bottom. Not ideal.

Franklin's designs were later modified and improved by one David R. Rittenhouse. He fixed some of the flaws by redesigning the stove and adding an L-shaped chimney.

2. Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was another high achiever it seems and a worthy addition to our list of politicians who were also inventors. He was also a founding father who also helped pen the Declaration of Independence. He also served as the third president of the United States.

During his downtime, he appeared to have a penchant for inventing things too. He would also set the stage for future inventors by establishing patent criteria whilst serving as the head of the patent office. 

Examples of his inventions include the Jefferson's Plow. Jefferson had an interest in and some experience with farming and agriculture. This combination helped him devise one of his more popular inventions. His plow was effectively an improved moldboard plow.

5 American Politicians Who Were Also Inventors
Source: cliff1066/Wikimedia Commons

His inventiveness would also extend to cooking food not just growing it. After spending some time in Europe as a minister to France, he decided to devise a machine to replicate macaroni. His blueprints were for a device with six little holes to give the shells the classic bent shape. 

Today, he’s also credited for popularizing macaroni and cheese, along with ice cream, french fries, and waffles among the American masses.

3. Abraham Lincoln

Mr. Lincoln earned his place on the side of Mount Rushmore due to his work in the Oval Office. But there is something else that makes him stand out from the rest. He was the first, and only, president of the United States to hold a patent.

His patent was for an invention that could lift boats over shoals and other obstacles in rivers. His patent was granted in 1849 whilst he was practicing law after serving a term as an Illinois congressman.

The idea came to him whilst he was a young man ferrying people across rivers and lakes. He found that boats would often get hung up or stranded by shoals or other obstacles. 

5 American Politicians Who Were Also Inventors
Source: Loveless/Wikimedia Commons

His idea was to create an inflatable flotation device that would lift the vessel above the water's surface. This allowed the boat to clear the obstacle and continue on its way without running aground. 

Though Lincoln never built a working version of the system, he did design a scale model of a ship outfitted with the device, which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. 

4. Peter Cooper

Peter Cooper was the oldest person ever nominated by any political party to run for President of the United States. In 1876 at the grand old age of 85 years old, he didn't stand a chance but ran anyway.

He was encouraged to run for the Greenback Party with his running mate Samuel Fenton Cary. The campaign cost around $25,000. That's interesting enough, but Peter was a rather important inventor too.

5 American Politicians Who Were Also Inventors
Source: William Avery/Wikimedia Commons

Peter designed and built the first American steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb.

The Tom Thumb steam locomotive was built from various old parts. It included musket barrels and some small-scale steam engines he'd managed to get from New York. The Tom Thumb was a rousing success.

He was also an American industrialist and philanthropist. He also founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan, New York City.

5. John Deere

And last but by no means least on our list of politicians who were also inventors is John Deere. John was born in Rutland in February of 1804. After working as a Blacksmith for some time here, he would go on to invent the first successful steel plow. 

Its success would lead to the foundation of the John Deere and Company that, to this day, manufactures farm implements like tractors. You might have heard of them!

Later in his life, Deere focussed his attention on civil and political matters. He served as President of the National Bank of Moline, a director of the Moline Free Public Library, and was a trustee of the First Congregational Church.

John Deere also served as Moline's mayor for two years but due to chest pains and dysentery Deere refused to run for a second term. He died at home (known as Red Cliff) on May 17, 1886.

So there you go. 5 politicians who were also inventors. There are plenty of other examples out there so who would you have included? Please feel free to comment below.

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