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By Annabelle Short on 11/02/2016


History of the Sewing Machine

The Sewing Machine, without a doubt, is one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind.

I think we can all agree with that! But who invented it? And how did it come to what it is today? Here’s a brief history of our beloved machine.

  • 1755 Charles Fredrick Weisenthal: The first known mechanical device for sewing was invented in 1755 by Charles Fredrick Weisenthal. It was actually a device used to aid sewing, characterized by a double-pointed needle with eye at the other end.
  • 1790 Thomas Saint: Thomas Saint was the inventor of the first “sewing machine”. His invention was designed to sew canvas and leather. He left behind enough plans that a replica could be created.
  • 1810 Balthasar Krems: In 1810, the German Balthasar Krems created a prototype of a sewing machine. This was operated by foot with a basic wheel feed mechanism that sewed a continuous-circular chain-stitch.
  • 1814 Josef Madersperger: In 1814, Josef Madersperger introduced his version as the “sewing hand”. This was a machine that mimicked the actual movement of the sewer’s hand. He spent all his resources on developing the machine, refining it until 1841.
  • 1829 Barthelemy Thimonnier: Barthelemy Thimonnier invented the first practical version of the sewing machine. The wooden machine produced chain stitches and became a widely used version in it’s time.
  • 1833 Walter Hunt: Walter Hunt was an American mechanic and a prolific inventor. Besides his various creations, Hunt designed plans for the lockstitch sewing machine. This was the very first machine that didn’t try to mimie the human hand in sewing. Unfortunately, he failed to develop it.
  • 1845 Ellias Howe: Ellias Howe, an American engineer, went to England to find interest for his invention - a sewing machine that holds fabric vertically. Upon his return to the United States, he discovered his invention had been infringed upon. One of the offenders was Isaac Singer.
  • Issaac Merrit Singer: Instead of using a rotary, Singer designed a sewing machine that uses a falling shuttle. Howe sued him multiple times for patent infringement, forcing him to pay a lump sum. Singer then went on to take a license under Howe’s patent, paying him $1.15 for each machine sold. Both Singer and Howe became wealthy from their inventions.
  • 1850 Allen Wilson and Nathaniel Wheeler: Allen Wilson developed Howe and Singer’s version of the sewing machine by making a machine that “vibrated” in short arcs. He then went into partnership with Nathanial Wheeler. Grover and Baker joined Singer, Howe, Wilson and Wheeler to pool all their patents in one company. They made the first patent pool in the United States and called it the “ Albany Agreement”. From there, even more companies were formed and many sued each over patent infringement in what came to be known as the Sewing Machine War.
  • 1857 James Gibbs and James Wilcox: In 1857, James Gibbs invented the first ever sewing machine that makes the “chain stitch”. He then partnered with James Wilcox to form the Wilcox and Gibbs Sewing Machine Company, which is still trading today.
  • 1860 William Jones and Thomas Chadwick: In the 1850s, most sewing machines entering the UK were from the US. Knowing he could improve the design and cut the cost, William Jones partnered with Thomas Chadwick to produce machines as Chadwick and Jones Ltd. They used the license from Howe and Wilson and went on to receive great fame in the UK.
  • 1864 George Francise Bradbury: George Francise Brandbury was the first sewing machine manufacturer in Europe. He named his company Bradbury and Co., and licensed the technology of Wheeler and Wilson, Singer, Howe and Grover and Baker.
  • 1889 Singer Sewing Co.: In 1889 the motor was added to the sewing machine. It replaced the pedal-operated machine, but was not perfected into the design until the 1920’s.
  • 21st century Top Sewing Machine Brands Today: Singer, Brother, Simplicity, White and Janome: An important addition from this century is the incorporated touch screen. By 2016, 36 different brands of sewing machines operate.

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