Early Sterling Inventor: John A. Svedberg

JohnASvedberg - Patent 459528

Patent 459,528 for a ‘Coil Steam-Boiler,’ filed February 2nd, 1889, issued September 15, 1891, by John A. Svedberg of Sterling, Virginia. See full patent here.

Svedberg gives no indication of his profession, but a search in the Official Register of the United States, containing a list of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service on the First of July, 1893 places him in the Bureau of Steam Engineering as a Draftsman, earning roughly $150 a day in 2012 rates:

JohnASvedberg - Official Register - 1893 - 619

Digging deeper into the patent archives shows multiple patents by Svedberg: Improvement in Blowers [123,304]; Improvement in Curtain-Cord Tighteners [184,557]; Improvements in Water-Motors for Light Machinery [184558]; Steam-Boiler [324,430]; Boiler [368,739]; and the aforementioned Coil Steam-Boiler [459,528].

Here he is in the running for a boiler test for the Navy:

Engineer News - Volume XX - 1888 - p283

Examples of his patent work:

JohnASvedberg - 123304Blowers

JohnASvedberg - 368739Boiler

JohnASvedberg - 324430SteamBoiler

With these patents, his movements throughout the region along with naming conventions can be traced. Up through 1885, he lives in Washington, D.C., but by 1887, his residence has become Loudoun County. The final, 1891 coil steam-boiler patent places him definitively in Sterling. Yet in 1893, he’s still working in Washington. Quite a commute before the turn of the century.

An obituary for his infant son appears in the July 4, 1894 edition of The Washington Times, indicating that the family still lived in Sterling:

Svedberg - The Washington Times - July 4 1894 - p3John himself would die in Sterling as well, roughly two and a half years later. From findagrave.com, his tombstone stands in the Old Sterling Cemetery.

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall attain mercy”


Carl Olof’s tombstone stands beside his:


Hedwig Svedberg disappears from the history books following her brief mention in the newspaper. John would have been 56 when Carl Olof died. How much younger was Hedwig? Were there other children? Did she remarry? Without other details of her life, it’s almost impossible to tell.

And what of the other men on John’s patents, the witnesses for each filing? Many of them lived interesting lives, as well, with several working in the same naval engineering field as John. Starting with the earliest filing:

An early resident of Sterling once the town claimed its present name, John A. Svedberg was a Finnish immigrant that worked tirelessly to improve the efficiency of machines in his field. Starting at the age of 34, he produced six patents over 19 years at the Bureau of Steam Engineering, before dying at 58. Despite his near-anonymity now, Svedberg remains one of the most interesting and important characters in the early history of Sterling.

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