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"A Machine for Measuring Liquids." Patent no. 1, filed by W. Hamilton, 1869


Patent no. 1. Filing year 1869.

"A Machine for Measuring Liquids," W. Hamilton.

It's unknown whether the "Eureka Fluid Meter," patented by William Hamilton of Toronto, had any kind of lasting impact on the industrial world. The fluid meter, pictured above, consisted of a piston and valve mechanism which, Hamilton claimed, "move[d] without appreciable friction or consumption of power." Hamilton's invention, however, achieved another, indirect kind of immortality as the first national patent issued in Canada, granted on August 18, 1869.

Patenting had already been common practice in the various regions of Canada, with 3,325 patents having been registered since 1824, the year the first British North American patent law was passed in Lower Canada. The first patent law in Upper Canada was passed in 1826.

Following Confederation in 1867, the Patent Act of 1869 standardized the patent process for the provinces of the new Dominion of Canada: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Department of Agriculture, which had been administering the patent process since 1852, continued in this role.

According to the Act, an applicant had to live in Canada for a full year before applying for a patent. The term of a patent was five years, which was renewable for two five-year terms; the length of terms was extended in 1892 to six years. (By comparison, an approved patent today lasts for 20 years.) British Columbia adopted Canadian patent laws in 1872 after joining Confederation, and Prince Edward Island did the same three years later.

As for Hamilton, he was already an accomplished machinist and inventor by the time of this history-making patent. After immigrating to Toronto from England in 1850, Hamilton, in partnership with his son William, established the St. Lawrence Foundry, Engine Works, and Machine Shop. The railway age was in full swing, and Hamilton's was one of a number of shops specializing in castings and steam engines. Perhaps his most successful invention was a "fish-plate bolt", which reduced the number of railway accidents caused by rails coming loose from their ties.


Mainer, George. "Hamilton, William." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. (accessed October 18, 2005).

Patent Act. 4 Geo. IV, Chap. 25.

Patent Act. 7 Geo. IV, Chap. 8.

Patent Act. 32-33 Vic., Chap. 16.

Patent Act. 35 Vic., Chap. 26.