Saturday, September 10

Sew, Howe does this work?

Momma asked me to pay homage to Elias Howe, who patented the first modern sewing machine on Sept. 10, 1846, earning the gratitude of seamstresses everywhere.

Many other people had designed sewing machines before him (one as early as 1790) and some had even patented their designs. However, Howe made significant improvements to those designs and on Sept. 10, 1846, he was awarded U.S. Patent 4,750 for the first sewing machine using a lockstitch design. ("Lockstitch" because the upper and lower threads "lock"  together when they pass through the fabric hole.)

His machine contained the three essential elements found in most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lockstitch, and an automatic feed.

Despite his efforts to sell his machine, other people began making sewing machines. Howe was forced to defend his patent in a court when he discovered Isaac Singer was selling a machine with the same lockstitch that Howe had invented and patented. He won the dispute after a five-year court battle, earning large royalties from Singer and others for the sale of his invention.

Howe contributed much of the money he earned to equip the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, where he served as a private in Company D and as regimental postmaster from Aug. 14, 1862, to July 19, 1865.

After the War, Howe established the Howe Machine Company i
n 1865 in Bridgeport, Conn. His sewing machine won the gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and that same year he was awarded the Légion d'honneur by Napoleon III for his invention.

Sadly, Howe died that same year on Oct. 3, 1867 at age 48.

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