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Sewing Machines

As early as the mid-1700s, European inventors sought to overcome the technical problems of mechanical sewing. Often they tried to mimic the motions used in hand sewing with no success. Some American inventors who were looking for ways to mechanize sewing in the early 1800s also attempted to simulate the motions of sewing by hand, but others took a more innovative approach. Elias Howe, Jr. patented his first sewing machine in 1846. It incorporated some, but not all of the elements of a successful machine. Other inventors continued the quest.

A combination of their patented improvements ultimately resulted in several practical sewing machines. The necessary features were an eye-pointed needle; continuous thread from spools; a horizontal table; a lock stitch; a shuttle or bobbin for a second thread; an overhanging arm; synchronous cloth feed and needle motion; a presser foot; and a capacity for either curved or straight stitching. These individual improvements, along with the mechanisms to ensure that each operation was carried out in proper sequence, comprised the fundamentals of a practical sewing machine.


Isaac Merrit Singer

Isaac Merrit Singer (1811-1875) personified two distinct chapters in America's story of industrial expansion during the 1900s. As the clever machinist, who in 1851 developed the first sewing machine capable of doing continuous stitching, he was a living testimony to the Yankee genius that revolutionized this country's way of life. In devoting much of the fortune reaped from that invention to indulgence in luxury, he also became an early reflection of the uninhibited opulence that characterized life among America's Gilded Age entrepreneurs.


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Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875)
Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875)

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