Susanna McLeod

Susanna McLeod

Glimpses of Canadian History : Email:

Canada’s First Patent, the Eureka Fluid Meter” in 1869

The ‘machine for measuring fluids’ was devised by William Hamilton. The owner of a productive foundry business, Hamilton was also an avid inventor.

The thunderous growl of heavy machinery echoed throughout the foundry. Making steam engines for the booming locomotive industry, the St. Lawrence Foundry, Engine Works, and Machine Shop also forged castings for the railway. Perhaps the foundry was an inspiration to its owner, William Hamilton; an inventor, Hamilton’s “machine for measuring liquids” made patent history in the Dominion of Canada.

“Eureka Fluid Meter”

Devising a machine that could measure the flow of fluids, William Hamilton’s invention was named the “Eureka Fluid Meter.” It was an uncomplicated metal machine, consisting of “a piston and valve mechanism,” said “Made in Canada: Patents of Invention and the Story of Canadian Innovation” of Library and Archives Canada. The system moved with little friction and not much draw of power. Filing for a patent to protect his measuring device, Hamilton was issued Patent no. 1. It was “the first national patent issued in Canada granted on August 18, 1869.”

Invented by William Hamilton in 1869, the Eureka Fluid Meter was Canada's first patent.

Invented by William Hamilton in 1869, the Eureka Fluid Meter was Canada’s first patent.

William Hamilton was born in Scotland in 1810 and immigrated to Canada in the fall of 1850 with his wife and four children. Living in the bustling vicinity of Toronto, Hamilton worked at foundries before starting his own industrial works. “He worked for James Good and then for James Rogers Armstrong before establishing in 1851 or 1852, in partnership with his son William, the St. Lawrence Foundry, Engine Works, and Machine Shop,” said George Mainer in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Artisans, Inventors and Machinists

A modern man of the times, Hamilton believed in machine tools rather than fully-handmade equipment. His foundry workforce was diverse, including “numerous well-trained artisans; his techniques attracted machinists, inventors, and moulders of high calibre,” added Mainer. The productive foundry produced a wide range of products: railway cars, iron fences, steam engines for industrial plants and ships, train wheels and many other items.

Patents were issued in Canada since 1824, with well over 3,000 patents registered from 1824 to the mid-1860s. Hamilton’s patent was the first issued in the Dominion of Canada. “Following Confederation in 1867, the Patent Act of 1869 standardized the patent process for the provinces of the new Dominion of Canada,” stated Library and Archives Canada. “The Department of Agriculture, which had been administering the patent process since 1852, continued in this role.”

Hamilton’s “Fish-Plate Bolt”

The “Eureka Fluid Meter” did not open the door of success for William Hamilton, but the inventor did achieve a claim to fame with another of his inventions, the “fish-plate bolt.” Attached to rail lines, the device “reduced the number of railway accidents caused by rails coming loose from their ties,” noted Library and Archives Canada. It was a boon in the burgeoning locomotive age.


This article first appeared on in August, 2011.  Copyright Susanna McLeod

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