Sewing Machines from the Past to the Present
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Who Invented the Sewing Machine?
Studying the history of the sewing machine immediately raises the question of the identity of its inventor. Many argue over the name of the father of the sewing machine. These "specialists" often tend to credit one of their countrymen for the invention. Thus, most Anglo-Saxon encyclopaedias name Walter Hunt and Elias Howe as inventors of the sewing machine. In 1834, the former built a machine that used two spools and an eyed-needle but could only sew a short seam. As for Howe, he created his first prototype in 1846 in Massachusetts, United States. Still in the United States, Morey & Johnson patented a chain stitch (one thread) sewing machine in 1849. Isaac Merritt Singer comes into the history of the sewing machine as late as in 1851, and only to improve Howe's invention. Howe then sued him for patent infringement. Singer's innovations were mainly on the marketing level - he devised the hire purchase system and aggressive sales techniques; which allowed him to build his empire.

However, before them, a French tailor living in Amplepuis, Rhône (69), France, had conceived a chain stitch machine capable of sewing 200 stitches per minute (a tailor sews about 30 stitches per minute). As early as 1929 Barthélemy Thimonnier had conceived the sewing machine he patented the following year, in 1830. It was a continuous thread "Couseuse" (the same machine as Morey and Johnson "re-invented" in 1849).

Some had tried before him, but vainly. Charles Weisenthal had patented a needle designed for mecanical sewing but there was no mention of a machine. Englishman Thomas Saint had patented a sewing machine but had never built it. Moreover, in the 1880s, when it was attempted to build a machine from the patent's drawings it was obvious that it could not work without dramatic improvement.

In 1818, John Admans Doge and John Knowles also tried to build a machine, but it could only sew short length of fabric before laborious resetting was necessary.

Therefore, Barthélémy Thimonnier is the first man to have build and patented a sewing machine actually capable of replacing hand sewing. Moreover, his machine was used to sew the French troops' uniforms. In less than ten years, a factory equipped with eighty machines was opened.

Thimonnier is doubtlessly the first to have conceived a sewing machine worthy of the name, sold it and to have equipped a clothes workroom.

Click here to discover Thimonnier's invention

Have a look at Singer's version of the history of the invention of the sewing machine. It's commented!


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