Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 84, page(s) 721-723


CHARLES ELLIOTT MITCHELL, for many years a member of the Hartford County Bar, and a leading patent attorney of the United States, died suddenly at his home in New Britain, Connecticut, on March 17th, 1911. Mr. Mitchell was in his seventy-fourth year, having been born in the town of Bristol on May 11th, 1837. His father, George H. Mitchell, was postmaster at Bristol, and his mother, Lurene Hooker Mitchell, was a direct descendant of Rev. Thomas Hooker, leader of the original settlers of Hartford. Through his father, he was descended from William Mitchell, a Revolutionary soldier. After attending school in his native village, he entered Williston Seminary, and later, Brown University, receiving his degree in 1861. He studied law at the Albany Law School, and was admitted to practice in 1864. On December 13th, 1866, Mr. Mitchell married Cornelia Chamberlain, sister of the late Governor Abiram Chamberlain, and also of the late Judge Valentine B. Chamberlain.

Mr. Mitchell had a legal mind in the truest sense of that term. He readily understood and appreciated the nicest distinctions, and no one could discriminate more closely nor clearly. He had unbounded enthusiasm in his work, which he believed to be a noble calling, and gave it the first claim on his time and talents. He had the health and vigor that enabled him to spend long hours and days in continuous labor. He had a personality that attracted, and from which radiated the very essence of sincerity and truth. With all of these qualities Mr. Mitchell was equipped when he entered the general practice of the law in 1864. In 1869 he and the late Frank L. Hungerford formed a partnership for the practice of law, and they continued as partners until 1897. Mr. Mitchell's attention was early turned to the law of patents and trade-marks, and he soon devoted his entire attention to this branch of the profession; and having a mechanical turn of mind, which aided him greatly, he steadily rose into prominence as one of the ablest patent lawyers in the United States. In 1889 President Harrison appointed him Commissioner of Patents, which office he held from November 1st, 1889, to July 1st, 1891. After assuming his duties as commissioner, he inaugurated many reforms in the workings of the patent office, and President Harrison, in his message to Congress under date of December 1st, 1890, bestowed hearty commendation upon him for his administration of the office. On his resignation as commissioner he removed to New York, where he again resumed the practice of his profession.

For a period immediately following this step he was connected with litigation on the Edison Incandescent Lamp patent; also with the hotly contested litigation relating to storage batteries. This was the inventive age, and he had to keep pace with the rapid development of the electrical art in a long series of suits relating to all sorts of electrical apparatus, including direct current generators, motors, and controllers for street railroads. He entered into a long series of suits relating to alternating current apparatus, including alternating current rotary field Tesla motors, alternating current generators and transformers. He was called upon to bring action for infringement of the Sprague Multiple Unit Train patent, which invention is now used upon almost all electrically operated elevated railroads and suburban trains. He was also engaged in litigation relating to the manufacture of gramophones, graphophones, buttonhole machines, pulverizing mills, door checks, cash registers, typewriters, and many other devices. It must be borne in mind that in these matters the patents involved were largely fundamental, marking epochs in the industrial, mechanical, and commercial advance of the country and of the world. No one had blazed a trail, and his advance was into the region of the untried and unknown.

In 1902 Mr. Mitchell first felt the effect of many years of strenuous labor. He retired from the practice of his profession, and returned to New Britain, where he was greatly beloved, and where he had many interests and associations. He entered into the life of this community with the same zeal that had characterized his former years. Shortly after his return he was asked to become the president of the Stanley Rule & Level Manufacturing Company, a position which he held at the time of his death. His advice was valued on business matters, and he served as director in many companies.

Mr. Mitchell was a deeply religious man and one who looked into the future with confidence and trust. At the time of his death he was a deacon in the First Church of Christ, and also the leader of a Bible class, which consisted of sixty men, and for many years he was a director of the Y. M. C. A., and during the later years of his life was president of the association.

Mrs. Mitchell, together with three sons, Robert C. Mitchell and George Henry Mitchell, both lawyers in New York City, and Charles H. Mitchell, a lawyer in New Britain, survive him.