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Who Invented the Sewing Machine?

Bhakti Satalkar Feb 17, 2019
There are many people from various countries who have worked to make the present design of the sewing machine. Here's a look at the history of this wonderful invention.
The Industrial Revolution brought in a lot of changes to it. One such revolutionary breakthrough in this industry was the introduction of the sewing machine which is claimed to have been invented by the Germans, French, Britishers, Americans.

Invention of the Sewing Machine

It is said that the sewing machine was invented by a German, who went by the name Charles Weisenthal. Although he was German, he stayed in England. He had applied for a patent for a needle. This needle was used for a machine, but it is not confirmed till date if the machine was indeed a sewing machine.
In 1790, Englishman, Thomas Saint, a cabinet-maker of Greenhill Rents in the parish of St Sepulchre, London, applied for a patent for a 'stitching' machine. He also gave patterns to replicate the design, but this was not a working model.
The design had an awl, which created holes in the fabric. The thread was passed through the hole made, to sew the fabric. This patent was later discovered by Newton Wison in 1874, and later Isaac Singer worked upon the same design.
Two Frenchmen called James Henderson and Thomas Stone, came up with an idea in 1804, to design a sewing machine which could replicate hand sewing. This just remained an idea, and the design never saw the light of day.
Scott John Duncan filed a patent for an embroidery machine in 1804. This machine had multiple needles, however, this design also faded into oblivion. The first machine to stitch button holes was patented by Charles Miller.
In 1810, a German called Balthasar Krems invented an automatic sewing machine. This machine however, did not work properly, and Krems never applied for a patent.
The name of Balthasar Krems is not generally mentioned in the list of the many inventors of this machine. After Krems, in 1814, an Austrian gentleman called Josef Medersperger, claimed to have invented the machine, and also applied for a patent. This machine did not work either.
With sewing machines designed in Europe, America decided to enter the contest. In 1818, two American gentlemen called John Adams Doge, and John Knowles made the first 'American' sewing machine. Unfortunately, the machine did not sew even a small piece of cloth. The first working American version of this machine was patented by John Greenough in 1842.
Barthelemy Thimonnier, a French tailor, made the first documented working sewing machine. He was a tailor for the French army. He had 80 machines which stitched uniforms for the French Army. But his factory was destroyed by tailors fearing unemployment. His model of the sewing machine used a hooked needle, and a single strand of thread.
Walter Hunt invented the lock stitch sewing machine in 1833. Since the machine had to be stopped frequently, Walter lost interest in the machine. He did not patent the design, and sold off the machine.
Elias Howe used the design made by Walter Hunt, and patented his machine in 1845. He tried to sell his nouvelle idea in England, but failed. However, on returning to America, Howe found that parts of his patent were infringed upon. He filed a court case, and won it in 1854. He also won the rights to claim royalty from manufacturers using his design.
It was Isaac Merritt Singer's name which became synonymous with this 'magical' machine. He noticed a sewing machine in Boston but did not like the design. Therefore, he decided to design one himself. The needle was mounted vertically, and it also had a presser foot to hold the cloth in place.
This machine was a combination of Thimonnier, Howe, and Hunt's machines. He did not patent the foot pedal, which has been in use since then. Howe won the lawsuit filed against Isaac, for which Isaac had to pay Howe royalty for machines already produced. Later they worked out their differences, and business partners.
Allen Wilson used a design exactly opposite to Isaac Singer's design. Just around the same time, John Bradshaw also claimed to have invented a similar design. He threatened to sue Allen Wilson, therefore, Wilson could not file for a patent.
The 'sewing machine war' led to the formation of the Sewing Machine Combination. Singer, Howe, Wheeler and Wilson, and Grover all combined their patents. This combination lasted till the expiry of the patent period in 1877.
The electric sewing machine was invented in 1900 by the Singer Sewing Company. Orisol, invented the computerized sewing machine in 1987. This enhanced the accuracy of the machine to a large extent.