Missing Historical Patent Documents from the National Archives

The National Archives needs your help in locating lost and stolen documents.  Among those historical documents are what the National Archives describes as Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent but then states it to be a drawing made circa 1804 in response to a court case in Georgia:


Patent documents concerning the Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine patent:


How to report a missing document to the National Archives:

  • E-mail:   MissingDocuments@nara.gov
  • Surface mail:

    Missing Documents
    Office of the Inspector General
    National Archives and Records Administration
    8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740

  • Telephone by calling:

    (301) 837-3500 (Washington, D.C. Metro area)
    800-786-2551 (toll-free and outside the Washington, D.C. Metro area)

Please be ready to provide as much of the following information as possible:

  1. Your full name and contact information (E-mail, Daytime Telephone Number, Fax Number, Mailing Address).
  2. A description of the document(s) and why you believe it is a U.S. government document, including the document creator, creating agency, addressee, date, and physical description (e.g., size, format, type, and any signatures or markings that helped you you determine it was a U.S. government record).
  3. Where the document is now, including the name, address, telephone, web site, and e-mail addresses of the individual or organization holding the document.
  4. Whether the document is about to be auctioned, transferred, or disposed of in some way, including the nature of the action (e.g., auction, ownership transfer), the proposed date and nature (e.g., online, in person) of the auction, and who has transferred or placed the materials at the auction (if known).
  5. Why you believe the document may belong to the National Archives: State, for example, if the document in question is an original Presidential pardon or a treaty.
  6. Other Information: List any additional information that would be helpful in determining whether the historical document is a U.S. governmental record such as Federal agency file code markings, signatures, or address lines to governmental officials.

Privacy note:   NARA encourages and welcomes anonymous tips on lost or stolen documents. It is the policy of NARA and the Office of the Inspector General to protect the identity of any source who provides information regarding lost or stolen documents.

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