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Sybilla Masters

MASTERS, Sybilla, American entrepreneur, d-1720. The wife of a merchant, she  invented a corn-mill which used hammers instead of grinders (a maize stamping-mill). Sybilla made hominy meal from Indian maize, she called it Tuscarora Rice but nowadays the term would be southern grits. Her mill went into production and was efficient. There was no American Patent Office then and a woman could not file for a patent. So Sybilla travelled to England in 1712, to file her invention in the name of her husband. Her method of cleaning and curing the Indian corn was very crucial to the Pennsylvania colonial economy. However, this project was not successful at the export level because the product was not to the liking of the British, it still is not! In 1716 she filed another application, for a material involving palmetto and straw for making bonnets. London became her base (she practically had a monopoly on importing Palmetto-leaf to London) for selling hats made of this new fabric. Women’s bonnets in those days were a big market, Sybilla got her share of it. If able to file for a patent in her own name she would likely have been the first American woman patent applicant.

Entrepreneur Inventor

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