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Bayonets, and the Importance of Original Research

Just a short blog post. You may ask what bayonets have to do with the general theme of this blog. Maybe a bit more than you think. I’ve just published an article called America’s First Patents. It is a study of the actual patents issued between 1790-1839. Not a study of what other people said about them, or guessed about them, or inferred. We actually read the patents. Sometimes you have to do the work.

Which brings me to the topic of bayonets. The blogosphere and standard media is ablaze with criticism of President Obama’s remark that we have fewer bayonets today. After all, we still use bayonets! 500,000 of them! And we only had 100,000 soldiers in 1916, so of course we had fewer bayonets!

Except no one actually looked, and it wasn’t that hard.

This report on 1917-1918 Ordnance makes clear that the US government ordered nearly 2,000,000 bayonets in 1917-1918, and even that was 500,000 less than the number of rifles available for bayonets.

The common point is that when it comes to history you have to do the work. you can’t rely on guesses, because they are often wrong. My patent study took several people many months to complete. It took me about half an hour to find an actual document that could have answered the question (a silly one at that) on which so much virtual ink has been spilled.