July 12: Joseph Bell Alexander (1871)

Dr. Joseph Alexander moved from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. and became co-owner with Dr. Charles Brown of the Brown & Alexander undertaking firm, located at 323 D Street. This was the firm chosen to do the embalming of President Abraham Lincoln following his assassination (see accompanying picture). Brown & Alexander had embalmed the president’s son, Willie, when he died three years earlier. For their services for the president, the firm charged $260 – $100 for the actual embalming and $160 for sending embalmers along on the Lincoln funeral train to tend to the body during its long journey home to Springfield, Illinois.

Joseph Bell Alexander must have been a very inventive person. In the early 1860’s, he devised a calculating machine and took out U.S. Patent No. 41898 for it. The machine never went into production, but its technology was used in other calculating devices. Dr. Alexander’s original model is in the Smithsonian today. Alexander took out six patents for improvements of oil-burning lamps, several patents for siphon bottles and bottle-stoppers (actually it was the first American siphon bottle found in patent records), and a patent for an automatic railroad switch. Joseph Bell Alexander and Finnella Maury Little were married at Epiphany in 1864.

< Previous   Next >

No comments yet

Add comment