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]

In 1889, seven years after Emerson's death, came the invention of the current standard of mousetraps.[2] That same year Emerson was quoted as saying:

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor..."[2]

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]


  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 e Lienhard, John H. Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins. p. 204.