There are a lot of reasons to research the early history of American patent policy. It is an inherently interesting history that provides a framework making contemporary patent policy more comprehensible and a foundation for interpreting historic patent records. For students it provides an opportunity to become familiar with some of basic primary sources that are a staple of research into American history. Also, of course, questions may arise from time to time that can only be authoritatively answered by researching this history.
The approach described below seeks to balance comprehensiveness with feasibility, and emphasizes the importance of creating a structure for the research before wading into the vastness of the historical record. This approach will allow researchers new to this area to get up to speed quickly.
Berry, Robert H. "Researching the Early History of the Patent Policy: Getting Started." Journal of the Patent & Trademark Resource Center Association 25 (2015). http://ptrca.org/newsletters/2015/berry.