Inventors are inspirational. Sybilla Righton Masters was an inventor. She was the first inventor in America to receive an English patent and the first known female inventor. She received a patent for a corn mill and then another for a technique of working and staining palmetto leaves to make hats and others items.
Sybilla Righton was born in the late 17th century possibly in Bermuda. Her parents moved the family to the colony of West New Jersey. She had six siblings. Her father was a mariner and merchant. They lived on a plantation on the Delaware River. Sometime between 1693 and 1696 Sybilla married Thomas Masters. He was a wealthy merchant and they lived on a plantation named Green Spring. He became an alderman of Philadelphia, mayor, and a provincial councilor. Sybbilla had four children. Grinding corn was difficult and inspired by American Indian women pounding corn, she invented a mill that used hammers to make cornmeal.
In 1712, Sybilla set sail for Great Britain to obtain a patent. She applied for a patent from King George I. He took awhile to respond, so in the meantime she worked on another invention. Using straw and palmetto leaves she developed a method for weaving hats, bonnets, and chair covers among other items. She opened a shop in London to sell her goods and then applied for a second patent. In 1715, King George awarded the patent for milling corn in Thomas Masters’ name, however it did state that the invention was his wife’s invention, Sybilla. He next, in 1716, granted a patent for her weaving method.
Upon Sybilla’s return to America, the corn meal became known as Tuscarora Rice and was produced for sale in Philadelphia. Sales were disappointing and the mill they used was converted to other purposes. In 1717, the provincial council granted permission for the recording and publishing of her patents in Pennsylvania.
Sybilla Masters made her mark in history. She passed away in 1720, probably in Philadelphia. Another patent wasn’t awarded to a woman until 1793. Sybilla’s work and ingenuity forged a new path for female inventors. Be inspired! Have a bright day!