The REAL Story of the History of the Sewing Machine
The history of the sewing machine is complicated by definitions and technicalities—and different versions of history.
The Singer Sewing Machine Company claims that Isaac Singer improved upon the one sewing machine in existence—and so, Isaac Singer was the inventor of the first practical sewing machine.
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History of the Sewing Machine
What Really Happened…
However, research into more impartial sources shows a quite different story. Here is the simple, unbiased version of the history of the sewing machine:
- Before 1818 – In various countries–Austria, England, France, Germany—patents had been issued for an assortment of sewing machines. Some tried to imitate hand sewing, others embroidery. Most sewing machines that were patented were probably never actually constructed.
Early Model Sewing Machine Photo by Carl Malamud, US
- 1818 America – John Adams Doge and his partner John Knowles developed a sewing machine that could sew short lengths. The machine then had to go through an arduous set up before continuing. It never really got anywhere.
- 1830 France – The First Sewing Factory – Barthelemy Thimonnier invented a sewing machine to do embroidery, but he quickly saw that it could do sewing as well. He obtained a patent for his machine (made mostly of wood), and he contracted with the French government to make uniforms for the French army. Within 10 years he had a sewing factory with 80 machines.However, Parisian tailors resented his success, and they were worried that the machines would put them out of work. One evening a group of them broke into his factory and destroyed his precious machines. He fled for his life, and died in poverty.Thimonnier was the first person to produce a truly practical sewing machine, to offer sewing machines for sale, and to open a sewing factory.
- 1844 England – John Fisher invented a machine for making lace that was actually a sewing machine. Historians question whether John filed a patent that was misplaced at the patent office, or he simply lost interest.At any rate, his machine worked, and he played an important part in the history of the sewing machine. John Fisher should have been considered in the patent arguments between Howe and Singer which occurred in later years.
- 1845 – Massachusetts farmer Elias Howe patented his sewing machine and tried to sell his machines to tailors in the US. Unsuccessful, he left for England to see if he would do better there.Failing there as well, Howe returned to America, only to find Singer (and dozens of others) manufacturing sewing machines and selling them—infringing on his patent.
Howe sued, won, and both Singer and Howe died millionaires. So, neither Singer nor Howe invented the first sewing machine, but they both played an important part in the history of the sewing machine.
Now that you have read about the history of the sewing machine, here are some of the more popular modern sewing machines:
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