| Elias Howe
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Elias Howe Elias Howe (July 9, 1819 – October 3, 1867) was born in Spencer, Massachusetts. He was an American inventor and sewing machine pioneer. Contrary to popular belief, he did not invent the sewing machine (that honor was reserved for Walter Hunt), but on September 10, 1846, Howe was awarded the first United States patent for a sewing machine using a lock stitch design. This patent was disputed in court in the 1850s, since Walter Hunt had actually invented the lock stitch some years prior without patenting it. So technically Howe was a refiner of the sewing machine. Howe died on October 3rd, 1867. He was buried in Gravesend cemetery in New York. . He was known as the "Hairy Monkey".This was a common name for him by the people. In some pictures he has a fro, symbolizing how much he hated to get his hair cut.
Elias Howe - The Sewing Machine
Eight years later, Elias Howe demonstrated his machine to the public. At 250 stitches a minute, his lockstitch mechanism outstitched the output of five hand sewers with a reputation for speed. Elias Howe patented his lockstitch sewing machine on September 10, 1846 in New Hartford, Connecticut.
For the next nine years Elias Howe struggled, first to enlist interest in his machine, then to protect his patent from imitators. His lockstitch mechanism was adopted by others who were developing innovations of their own.
LOC Photo: Occupational Portrait of a Woman Working at a Sewing Machine, circa 1853.
During this period, Isaac Singer invented the up-and-down motion mechanism, and Allen Wilson developed a rotary hook shuttle. Howe fought a legal battle with these inventors to see that his rights in the invention were recognized, winning one of his suits in 1856. The three inventors pooled their patent rights in the Sewing Machine Combination, under which patent the sewing machine was successfully marketed for many years.
The first mechanical sewing machines were used in garment factory production lines. It was not until 1889 that a sewing machine for use in the home was designed and marketed. By 1905, the electrically-powered sewing machine was in wide use.
After successfully defending his right to a share in the profits of his invention, Howe saw his annual income jump from three hundred to more than two hundred thousand dollars a year. Between 1854 and 1867, Howe earned close to two million dollars from his invention. During the Civil War, he donated a portion of his wealth to equip an infantry regiment for the Union Army and served in the regiment as a private.
HOWE, Elias, inventor, born in Spencer, Massachusetts, 9 July, 1819; died in Brooklyn, New York, 3 October, 1867. He was the son of a farmer and miller, and assisted his father in these pursuits, also attending school during the winter months. In 1835 he went to Lowell, and served for a time with a manufacturer of cotton machinery, earning but fifty cents a day. The financial panic of 1837 threw him out of employment, and he then went to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was given work in the shop of Ari Davis, a Boston machinist. It was at this time that he conceived the idea of making a sewing machine, and he diligently labored upon it in spare hours after his day's work. After five years of continuous experimenting he succeeded in completing his invention in May. 1845, but not until he had received pecuniary aid from an old school fellow, George Fisher, with whom he formed a partnership. He obtained, on 10 September, 1846, a patent for the first practical sewing-machine, but in consequence of the opposition to any labor-saving machines, the artisans of Boston were unwilling to use it, and for a brief time Mr. Howe obtained employment on a railroad as an engineer until his health failed. In 1847 he visited England, hoping for success in that country, but after two years he returned to the United States, utterly destitute, after working his way home as a common sailor. While in England he disposed of his rights in that country to William Thomas, and adapted the machine to the business of corset, umbrella, and valise making. During his absence the machine had been imitated and introduced through the country regardless of his patents. Friends were now easily found who were willing to help him to establish his patent, and in 1854, after much litigation, he was successful in establishing his prior right to the invention. His prosperity was thenceforth assured, and a year later he had repurchased all of the patents that he had sold during his season of adversity. Mr. Howe then received a royalty on every sewing machine that was manufactured in the United States, and his income grew from $300 a year until it reached 8,200,000. It was estimated that up to September, 1867, the date of the expiration of the patent, he had realized about $2,000,000. In 1863 he organized a company of which he was made president, and erected a large sewing-machine factory at Bridgeport, Connecticut During the civil war he contributed largely to the support of the government, enlisting as a private soldier in the 17th Connecticut regiment, with which he served until failing health compelled his resignation, and later, when the government was pressed for funds, he advanced money to pay the regiment. Mr. Howe received numerous medals, including the gold medal of the World's fair held in Paris in 1867, where he also was given the cross of the Legion of honor.
Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM
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