Margaret Knight's Battle Rap; 1871 (Pt. 1)


In honor of Women's History Month, here's Pt 1 of a short I wrote for the 365 Women Playwrights Project.

Interior; court room of the U.S. Patent Court. The year is 1871 . Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914) skims through her blueprints as the hearing begins.

COMMISSIONER 1 Hear ye, hear ye, on this day, July 11th, 1871, we, the United States Patent and Trademark Office -

COMMISSIONERS 2 & 3 Bully!

COMMISSIONER 1 -convene in the matter of Knight vs. Annan to determine which applicant is the rightful owner of the U.S. Patent. Honorable Judge Reinhold presiding. All Rise!

JUDGE You don’t really have to stand, this isn’t court court, it’s Patent Court.

COMMISSIONER 1 I like the standing. It lends gravitas.

JUDGE All right, please rise. Now sit. In the matter of Knight vs. Annan, I understand that both Ms. Knight and Mr. Annan claim to have invented some sort of machine out of paper bags? That doesn’t sound very sturdy. Or useful.

MARGARET With respect, your Honor, it’s a paper bag machine. A mechanism that makes paper bags.

COMMISSIONER 2 But don’t we already have paper bags?

COMMISSIONER 3 Yessir! The Missus used one to pack my lunch. (opening bag) Dandy! Hominy biscuits and marrow bones!

MARGARET The cone shaped bags currently used are poorly shaped. My device creates flat bottomed bags -

Commissioners break into “Fat Bottomed Girl” by Queen.

COMMISIONERS FLAT BOTTOMED BAGS THEY MAKE THE ROCKIN’ WORLD GO ROUND!

MARGARET Uh, yes. The flat bottom is a superior shape -

CHARLES Maybe on a bag, but not a woman!

JUDGE You are in a court, Mr. Annan.

CHARLES Patent court.

JUDGE Be that as it may, please act like a gentleman.

CHARLES I, Sir, am a gentleman of the first water!

MARGARET A gentleman of four oats more like!

CHARLES Objection!

COMMISSIONER 2 Overruled!

JUDGE That’s my job.

COMMISSIONER 2 Apologies, your Honor.

JUDGE Please continue, Ms. Knight.

MARGARET In addition to an inferior shape, the bags of today are made by hand, which is quite inefficient. With my mechanism -

CHARLES Poppycock!

MARGARET It is MY mechanism, your Honor! I made my mock up from wood, as you see here, but I needed an iron model to apply for a patent, so I commissioned one to be built. It was made at the same machine shop where one Charles Annan just happened to be working. I aver that Mr. Annan fiendishly stole my design and falsely patented the device under his name.

CHARLES Pure bunkham!

JUDGE Mr. Annan. Please. This is my court and we will proceed according to my rules. As customary in our proceedings, we will settle this matter the way we settle all Patent disputes.

COMMISSIONERS RAP BATTLE!

MARGARET Rap what?

JUDGE Rap Battle.

COMMISSIONER 2 We used to hold a Dance Off but Samuel Morse broke his femur doing a head spin.

MARGARET Truly?

COMMISSIONER 3 Honor bright! Despite the carryings-on, Morse won his patent for the Telegraph. That man knows how to pop it and lock it!

JUDGE Indeed. But, in the face of physical harm, we’ve had to discontinued the practice.

CHARLES That is a powerful shame. I do a prodigious Running Man.

JUDGE Henceforward, patent disputes will be settled via a Rap Battle.

MARGARET I don’t understand - wrap as in wrapping a present or -

CHARLES RAP, you Dimwit!

JUDGE Mr. Annan, Please. Rap as in words recited rapidly and rhythmically over a beat.

COMMISSIONER 2 Like talking to music.

JUDGE Ms. Knight, please commence in presenting your arguments to the court.

MARGARET Um ... Talking to music? Uh- well....

Margaret unfurls an architectural drawing. She sings/speaks the following to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Modern Major General. I WISH TO HAVE IT UNDERSTOOD THAT I BELIEVE MYSELF TO BE THE FIRST TO CREATE THIS DEVICE; A FOLDING PAPER BAG MACHINE I HEREBY DO DECLARE TO GIVE A TRUE AND FULL DESCRIPTION OF MY UNUSUAL CONTRAPTION AS MENTIONED IN THE CLAUSE ABOVE THE NATURE OF CONSTRUCTION ALLOWS TUBES OF PAPER TO BE FED FROM A ROLL, THEN CUT AND FOLD, AS SHOWN IN FIGURES A TO ZED MISTER ANAN IS A LIAR, THERE’S NO POINT IN PRETENDERING...

She hands the blue prints to the Commissioners.

REFERENCE BEING MADE TO THE SUBMITTED ARTIST’S RENDERING

COMMISSIONERS REFERENCE BEING MADE TO THE SUBMITTED ARTIST’S RENDERING!

REFERENCE BEING MADE TO THE SUBMITTED ARTIST’S RENDERING! REFERENCE BEING MADE TO THE SUBMITTED ARTIST’S RENDERING!

The Commissioners stand and bow while Judge bangs his gavel.

Click back to blog for Part 2!

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