Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door

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Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door is a phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late nineteenth century.[1] [2] The phrase is actually a misquotation of the statement:

If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, [2]

According to some sources, the current phrasing of the quotation didn't appear until 7 years after Emerson died. Thus, in 1889, Emerson credited with having said

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor ...

rather than

If a man has good corn ... or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else ...

[2] It is unclear who deserves credit for the phrasing in common use today.

The phrase has turned into a metaphor about the power of innovation,[2] and is frequently taken literally, with more than 4,400 patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for new mousetraps, with thousands more unsuccessful applicants, making them the "most frequently invented device in U.S. history".[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kassinger, Ruth. Build a Better Mousetrap. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 128. ISBN 0-471-39538-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Lienhard, John H. Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins. p. 204.