The history of the sewing machine is linked to several accusations, a few failed attempts, and a major scandal. From a very lucky death escape to patent laws, this interesting story is a good illustration of how difficult the sewing machine had to find its way into homes. In this article we will talk about when sewing machine invented and who invented sewing machine.
The history of the sewing machine would not exist without the art of hand sewing. Our ancestors first started sewing by hand around 20,000 years ago, when the first needles were made from animal bones or horns, and the thread was made from animal tendons. Our inventive instinct explains the natural progression in wanting to improve sewing techniques and make them less laborious. This is all the more true during the industrial revolution of the 18th century when it became essential and necessary to reduce manual sewing in factories.
1755: the first patent
German Charles Weisenthal received a British patent for a "needle designed for a machine". There is no description of the mechanical machine in the Weisenthal patent, however, it demonstrates that such an invention was already necessary.
When Sewing Machine Invented
The history of the sewing machine begins above all here. Englishman Thomas Saint designed the first real sewing machine. The patent describes a machine operating with a crank to be used for leather and canvas. No one knows if Mr. Saint built a prototype, but in 1874 William Newton Wilson found the drawings for the patent. The drawings were so detailed that he built an exact copy, proving the machine works.
Beginning of the 18th century: many attempts for many failures
It's important to point out that all of the sewing machine sketches made before the first success had a needle that moved from side to side and was fed by a crank.
1810: Balthasar Krems invents an automated the machine for sewing caps. He didn't patent his design but it didn't work anyway.
1814: An Austrian tailor, Josef Madersperger, received a patent in 1814. He tried several different designs, however, despite his persistence, they all failed.
1818: John Adams Doge and John Knowles invent the first sewing machine in the United States, but it could only sew a few pieces of fabric before breaking.
1830: the first working sewing machine
40 years after Thomas Saint designed and described a sewing machine, we finally have the first working machine. Barthelemy Thimonnier, a French tailor, invented the machine that used a hooked needle and thread, creating a chain stitch that could sew up to 200 stitches per minute.
1830: a riot and death that barely passes
After successfully obtaining his patent, Thimonnier opened the world's first clothing factory whose production was made from the machine. It aimed to produce uniforms for the French army. But when other French tailors learned of his invention, they didn't like it. Fearing that the machine would push them out of work, they burned down the factory while Barthelemy Thimonnier was still inside. The moral of the story, never claim victory too quickly. Its inventor is almost dead.
1834: principles come before money
Walter Hunt created the first functional sewing machine in the United States, but he had some moral questions. Hunt believed that such a machine would mean job loss for many people, so he didn't bother to patent the design. You understand now why this story is not going to be a long quiet river.
The sewing machine based on drawings by Walter Hunt
1844: loss of a patent
The sewing machines we've seen so far are all made up of messy elements, with nothing working. In 1844, the English inventor John Fisher designed a sewing machine that eliminated this disparity between moving parts. However, a problem with the form at the Patent Office caused the loss of his patent, so he never received recognition.
1845: Elias Howe and the lockstitch
American Elias Howe invents the sewing machine that resembles Fisher's, with a few tweaks and adjustments. His patent was to invent “a process that uses yarn from 2 different sources”. His machine uses two threads, one passing through a needle and the other coming from a bobbin, creating what is called the lockstitch.
Marketing his design wasn't easy, so he decided to take the plunge by taking a boat to England. After a long stay, he returned to the United States to find that other people had copied his lockstitch mechanism. One of them being Isaac Merritt Singer.
1851: the introduction of Isaac Singer
Isaac Merritt Singer is one of the world's best-known sewing machine makers, building an empire that still stands today. His iconic Singer sewing machines are beautifully adorned and almost legendary. He developed the first version of our modern sewing machine, with a foot pedal and the needle moving up and down. He was also inspired by some elements of Howe, Hunt, and Thimonnier's previous inventions, which prompted Howe to file a complaint.
1854: a real headache
Elias Howe decided to take Singer to court for patent infringement, where he successfully defended his case. Isaac Singer tried to refer to Walter Hunt's invention, explaining that Howe picked up this idea. Unfortunately for Singer, this had no impact as Hunt's lack of patent design indicated that it was then intellectual property usable by anyone.
What is interesting is that if John Fisher's patent had not been filled out incorrectly at the Patent Office, he would also have been involved in the lawsuit since Howe's and Singer's inventions were quite close to that by Fisher.
As a result, Singer was forced to pay a lump sum of patent royalties to Howe, as well as give him a share of the profits of the company I.M. Singer & Co.
Despite all of these allegations, dramaturgy, and legal disputes, Howe and Singer both died multimillionaires and these two pioneering inventors gave the world the sewing machine. Without those first failed attempts and the persistence in creating something that would save workers long and perilous hours of work, who knows what our garment manufacturing industry would look like today. The history of the sewing machine is complicated, and as a result, many enthusiasts still debate whether to claim the title of true inventor. Our position? We're just so happy that we don't have to use animal tendons and bones anymore.