Sewing machine history is anything but dull! From sewing by hand using needles made from bones or horns and animal sinew as thread over 20 000 years ago to the high-tech sewing machines of today, a lot happened. Read on to find out more.
As far back as 1755, a British patent was issued to Charles Weisenthal for a “needle that is designed for a machine”. Further down the line, in 1790, Thomas Saint patented the first detailed design for a “machine powered with a hand crank to be used for leather and canvas”.
The 19th Century
Early in the 19th Century, between 1810 and 1818 various sewing machines were designed – but failed. It was only in 1830 that a French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, invented a functioning sewing machine. With the success of his patent, Thimonnier started a clothing manufacturing company. It wasn’t as happy an occasion as you would expect, though. Thimonnier’s competitors were displeased and burnt down his factory… while he was in it.
Mid-19th Century, John Fisher designed a streamlined machine. Sadly, his patent was incorrectly filed and therefore fell through. From there, American inventor, Elias Howe, patented an updated machine. Because the American market was slow to embrace his invention, he moved to England to sell it there.
In 1851, Isaac Merritt Singer developed the first version of his iconic Singer sewing machine. Despite his ongoing success, Singer was sued for Patent Infringement by Howe as he felt the design was a copy of his, Hunt’s, and Thimonnier’s. (Poor old Fisher got sidelined altogether thanks to the botched patent application.)
Howe won the case, and Singer had to pay him damages – a lump sum and shares of Singer’s profits. In the end, they both died with a handsome fortune from their fantastic invention.