Seth Boyden
Seth Boyden was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 inventor. He was the brother of Uriah A. Boyden
Uriah A. Boyden
Uriah Atherton Boyden was a Boston inventor and mechanical engineer. He was the brother of Seth Boyden....

A New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 native (born in Foxboro, Massachusetts), he was a watchmaker who moved to Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

. Boyden perfected the process for making patent leather
Patent leather
Patent leather is a type of japanned leather that has been given a high gloss, shiny finish. The process was brought to the United States and improved by Newark-based inventor Seth Boyden in 1818, with commercial manufacture beginning September 20, 1819. Boyden's process, which he never patented,...

, created malleable iron
Malleable iron
Malleable iron is cast as White iron, the structure being a metastable carbide in a pearlitic matrix. Through an annealing heat treatment the brittle as cast structure is transformed. Carbon agglomerates into small roughly speherical aggregates of graphite leaving a matrix of ferrite or pearlite...

, invented a nail
Nail (engineering)
In woodworking and construction, a nail is a pin-shaped, sharp object of hard metal or alloy used as a fastener. Formerly wrought iron, today's nails are typically made of steel, often dipped or coated to prevent corrosion in harsh conditions or improve adhesion...

-making machine, and built his own steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

. He is also credited with having invented a cut off switch for steam engines and a method for producing zinc from ore. At the time of his death, he told friends that he had, even at that time, enough experiments on hand to last two whole lifetimes.

In 1818, Boyden received a piece of German manufactured patent leather (said to be a German military cap front) from a local carriage
Coach (carriage)
A coach was originally a large, usually closed, four-wheeled carriage with two or more horses harnessed as a team, controlled by a coachman and/or one or more postilions. It had doors in the sides, with generally a front and a back seat inside and, for the driver, a small, usually elevated seat in...

 manufacturer and used that to investigate the possibility of creating a version of leather in the United States that was treated in such a way that the material would be decidedly more dressy than work boots and similar leather goods, but retained its desirable qualities of protection and durability. To reverse engineer
Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation...

 the European patent leather, Boyden set up a shed at the Malleable Cast Iron Foundry of Condit & Bowles at 25 Orange in Newark, New Jersey (40.736807°N 74.182262°W) and ultimately discovered a way to produce his own patent leather. Using a formula that was based on a series of treatments using layers of linseed oil-based coats, the new shiny leather began commercial production on 20 September 1819. Boyden’s efforts resulted in the production of glossy leather that quickly caught on as a complement for formal dress. Ironically, Boyden never patented his inventive patent leather process.

Boyden began his work with malleable iron in 1820, when he was 32 years old. From observing the behavior of iron that stuck to the walls of his grandfather's forge, he had developed a theory about the heat treatment of iron. He completed his research in 1826, and won an award ("Premium No. 4") from the Franklin Institute
Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute is a museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest centers of science education and development in the United States, dating to 1824. The Institute also houses the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.-History:On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughn Merrick and...

 in Philadelphia two years later, who noted that Boyden's annealed cast iron specimen No. 363, containing an assortment of buckles, bits, and other castings, were "remarkable for their smoothness and maleability" and "the first attempt in this country to anneal cast iron for general purposes."

Several sources state that Boyden "made the first American daguerreotype" and this statement appears on a plaque at the base of a Boyden statue in Newark's Washington Park. While it has long been accepted that D.W. Seager of New York City produced the first daguerreotype
The daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process. The image is a direct positive made in the camera on a silvered copper plate....

 in America, it is unclear which other Americans may have been experimenting with the process prior to a public display of Seager's daguerreotypes in the Summer of 1839. A daguerrean camera built by Boyden still exists in the collection of the Newark Museum
Newark Museum
The Newark Museum is the largest museum in New Jersey, USA. It holds fine collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and arts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the ancient world...


Boyden rarely patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed his inventions, preferring instead to take individual contracts and to build and sell off businesses. He did make large sums from this, but not enough to support his research and to provide for his old age. During the last 15 years of his life, Boyden lived in near-poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 in Hilton, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 (now Maplewood, New Jersey
Maplewood, New Jersey
Maplewood is a township in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 23,867.-History:...

) and developed a hybrid strawberry
Fragaria is a genus of flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae, commonly known as strawberries for their edible fruits. Although it is commonly thought that strawberries get their name from straw being used as a mulch in cultivating the plants, the etymology of the word is uncertain. There...

 known as the Hilton strawberry.


Seth Boyden's name is found on an elementary school in Maplewood, New Jersey, and a complex of public housing projects in Newark, New Jersey. Additionally, a statue of Boyden stands in Newark's Washington Park.

External links

  • Seth Boyden at Find A Grave
    Find A Grave
    Find a Grave is a commercial website providing free access and input to an online database of cemetery records. It was founded in 1998 as a DBA and incorporated in 2000.-History:...

  • Remembering the forgotten Seth Boyden at Google News Archive
    Google News Archive
    Google News Archive was an extension of Google News providing free access to scanned archives of newspapers and links to other newspaper archives on the web, both free and paid.-History:The archive went live on June 6, 2006....

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