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The History of the Sewing Machine
Transcript of The History of the Sewing Machine
By: Brianne Falkowski A sewing machine is a textile machine used to stitch fabrics or other material together with thread. Sewing machines were invented during the first Industrial Revolution to decrease the amount of manual sewing work performed in clothing companies. Since the invention of the first working sewing machine, generally considered to be the work of an Englishman Thomas Saint in 1790, the sewing machine has vastly improved the efficiency and productivity of fabric and clothing industries. In 1790 British inventor Thomas Saint was the first to patent a desgin for a sewing machine. His machine was meant to be used on leather and canvas, but a working model was never built. In 1814 an Austrian tailor named, Josef Madersperger, presented his first sewing machine, the developement started in 1807. In 1830 a French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, patented a sewing machine that sewed straight seams using a chain stitch. By 1841, Thimonnier had a factory of 80 machines sewing uniforms for the French Army. The factory was destroyed by rioters afraid of losing their livelihood. Thimonnier had no future sucess with his machine. In 1833 Walter Hunt created the first lock stitch sewing machine. His machine used an eyepoint needle carrying the upper thread and a shuttle carrying the lower thread. The curved needle moved through the fabric horizontally, leaving the loop as it withdrew. The shuttle passed through the loop, interlocking the thread. The feed let the machine down requiring the machine to be stopped frequently and reset up. Hunt eventually lost interest in the machine and sold it without bothering to patent it. In 1842, John Greenough patented the first sewing machine in the United States Elis Howe, born in Spencer, MA, created his sewing machine in 1845, by using a similar method to Hunt's except the fabric was held vertically. The major improvement he made was to use the sax needle which ran away from the point, starting from the eye. After a lengthy stint in England trying to attract interest in his machine he returned to America to find various people infringing on his patent. Isaac Merritt Singer had become synonymous with the sewing machine. Trained as an engineer, he saw a rotary sewing machine being repaired in a Boston shop. He thought it to be clumsy and promptly set out to design a better one. His machine used a flying shuttle then a rotary one; the needle was mounted vertically and included a presser foot to hold the cloth in place. It had a fixed arm to hold the needle and included a basic tensioning system. He combined elements of Thimonnier, Hunt's and Howe's machines. He was granted an American patent in 1851 and it was suggested he patent the foot pedal to power some of his machines; however it had been used too long for a patent to be issued. He was the first person to sucessfully make a machine that was convenient for everyone to use and love. Meanwhile, Allen B. Wilson, had developed a reciprocating shuttle, which was an improvement over Singer's and Howe's. However John Bradshaw had patented a similar device and was threatening to sue. Wilson decided to change track and try a new method. He began a partnership with Nathaniel Wheeler to produce a machine with a rotary hook instead of a shuttle. This was far quieter and smoother than other methods. The Wheeler and Wilson Company produced more machines in the 1850's and 1860's than any other company. Wilson also invented the four motion feed mechanism which is still seen on every machine today. This had a forward, down, back, and up motion. Through the 1850's more and more companies were trying to sue each other because they had claimed that another company had stolen their idea and had been using it in their machines. This triggered a patent thicket known as the sewing machine war. In 1856 the Sewing Machine Combination was formed consisting of Singer, Wheeler, Howe, and Wilson. These four companies pooled their patents, meaning that all the other manufacturers had to obtain a license and pay $15 per machine. This lasted until 1877 when the last patent expired.
In the 1840s a machine shop was established at the Merrow Mill to develop specialized machinery for the knitting operations. In 1877 the world’s first crochet machine was invented and patented by Joseph M. Merrow, then-president of the company. This crochet machine was the first production overlock sewing machine. The Merrow Machine Company went on to become one of the largest American Manufacturers of overlock sewing machines, and continues to be a global presence in the 21st century as the last American overlock sewing machine manufacturer.
James Edward Allen Gibbs (1829-1902), a farmer from Raphine in Rockbridge County, Virginia patented the first chain-stitch single-thread sewing machine on June 2, 1857. In partnership with James Wilcox, Gibbs became a principal in Wilcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Company. Wilcox & Gibbs commercial sewing machines are still used in the 21st century. Sewing machines continued being made to roughly the same design, with more lavish decoration appearing until well into the 1900s when the first electric machines started to appear. The first electric machines were developed by Singer Sewing Co. and introduced in 1889. At first these were standard machines with a motor strapped on the side. As more homes gained power, these became more popular and the motor was gradually introduced into the casing. In 1946, the first TOYOTA sewing machine was built under the strict supervision of TOYOTA founder, Mr. Kiichiro Toyoda. Mr. Toyoda had a strong belief that home-use products must be "functional yet beautiful". In 1987, Israeli pioneers introduced the first vision controlled computerized sewing machine. The addition of vision sense to sewing systems enhanced dramatically the accuracy of the multipart sewing process. This would correct or compensate in real time for any deflections, deformations, or dynamic movement of the sewn parts when compared to conventional sewing machines. Modern machines may be computer controlled and use stepper motors or sequential cams to achieve very complex patterns. Citations: http://www.moah.org/exhibits/virtual/sewing.html