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In 1867 just outside of Boston, a pig farmer's daughter, Jane Budden, determined to get away from country life, takes the proceeds from selling the family pigs and heads south to Brooklyn to find a husband. On her way to the home of her cousin, Garnet Allison, Jane has a brief encounter with an eccentric young man, Hiram Stevens Maxim, a poor, unsuccessful inventor, who turns out to be the Allisons' next-door neighbor. Garnet invites several of the local matrons to her home to introduce Jane, who surprises and delights them by declaring her determination to marry. They are scandalized, however, when she admits she is not particular who she marries as long as the man meets her requirements of intelligence and wealth. One of the ladies, Mrs. Meade, is Hiram's landlady, and after meeting Jane, Mrs. Meade warns him about the "designing woman" who is his new neighbor. Hiram promptly visits Jane with a bouquet of flowers to inquire about her motivations for coming to Brooklyn and then informs her he is one prospect she can count out. The next day Jane and the Allisons are surprised when smoke begins billowing from Mrs. Meade's boardinghouse. The volunteer fire brigade, led by Josephus Ford, arrives but are unable to find the source of the smoke, which emanates from Hiram's latest invention, a smokeless curling iron. When Josephus finally discovers the source of the smoke and drenches Hiram with the hose, Jane looks on with approval. Some days later at a party, Jane proves quite popular with many of the local young men. While dancing with several in turn, however, Jane is annoyed to notice Hiram standing aside passing negative judgment on each of her potential suitors. Hiram is especially disapproving when Jane shows more than a passing interest in Josephus, who, it turns out, is a wealthy lawyer with important real estate interests. Later, as Jane's interest in Josephus grows, Hiram scoffs at her, assuring her she will never gain the attentions of so important a citizen as Josephus. Then Jane receives the newly printed invitations to her and Josephus' wedding. Hiram attends the engagement party uninvited and upsets Jane by telling her she will never be happy with Josephus. Her confidence wanes, when, to her dismay, Josephus asks her to sign a pre-wedding contract. Jane grows further discouraged after Josephus reveals how he expects his future wife to behave, but she only truly realizes her error when he announces that he has just bought a large interest in a pork packing plant. Jane excuses herself and hurries after Hiram and proposes to him. He accepts after warning her that he is poor and has nothing to offer her. She assures him she will see to it that he is successful. Jane and Hiram marry and he struggles along with several small inventions, always with support and encouragement from Jane. Soon they have a son, Percy, whom Hiram insists on rearing in a somewhat eccentric manner to build the boy's character and confidence. As Percy grows into a precocious and energetic young boy, Hiram's odd inventions begin to meet with increasing practical and financial success. The House of Science decides to honor Hiram as inventor and engineer of the times and requests that he sit for a formal portrait. Jane, now pregnant with their second child, is delighted by the family's prosperity and longs to see Hiram's countenance along side other world famous inventors of the day, but Hiram steadfastly refuses. Undeterred, Jane commissions a scatterbrained artist, Magel, to come to the house to do the portrait, but Hiram insists the portrait is a waste of time. Distracted by Hiram's obstinate attitude, Jane is accidentally knocked down by Percy as he is playing with his dog and is taken gravely ill. During a fearsome night, it appears that Jane and the new baby may die, but finally both recover. Hiram, who has been wracked with despair at the thought of losing Jane, surprises her as soon as she is well by taking her and the entire family to Magel's to sit for a family portrait.