Sewing Machines from the Past to the Present
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First episode : 1793 - 1832

Thimonnier has freed women from one of their servitudes
To tell the truth, the noble life of Thimonnier should be taught in schools.
Edouard Herriot


Barthélemy Thimonnier was born on 19 August 1793 in L'Arbresle, Rhône (69), France. The elder of seven he studies for a while at Saint jean seminary in Lyon and in 1795 he takes the trade of tailor and sets up his business in Amplepuis which he will leave after his wife's death. He marries a embroideress in January 1822. thus, in 1823 he moves to the neighbourhood of Saint-Etienne in a place named 'Les Forges'.

Bathélemy Thimonnier
Sewing garments all day long, Thimonnier soon starts to think about sewing with the help of a mecanical device. He had certainly noticed the stitch used by the workwomen in the Lyon region to crochet - they could make the stitches so fast and almost in a 'mecanical' way... It was the chain stitch, the very stitch he uses for his mecanical sewing. Thus, Thimonnier completes his "Couseuse", that is his first sewing machine, in Valbenoite in 1829.
A a tailor, even though he is smart enough to invent a sewing machine, Thimonnier has problems to derive money from his invention alone, so he associates with Aguste Ferrand, a tutor in the Ecole des Mines in Saint-Etienne. he signs a private agreement in which he agrees upon building a second "mecanical loom" while "Mr. Ferrand agrees to make all drawings, reports and applications" necessary for the patent "in both the contracting parties' names" as well as "finding the sum of money necessary to the application of the said patent". Note that the patent is to be "in both the contracting parties' names" whereas Thimonnier is the actual clever inventor of a machine capble of sewing 200 stitches per minute (a tailor sew 30 in a minute).

Reconstruction of Thimonnier's workshop
at the
at the Sewing Machine and Cycle
Museum in Amplepuis.
The patent is issued on 17 July 1830. But Thimonnier had gone to Paris before the patent was issued. Thanks to generous investors, he had founded the first company whose "unique and special aim is to exploit, in France and aboard, Thimonnier and Ferrand's invention of the sewing machine and, eventuallty, of its by product". The contrat was signed on 8 June 1830 and read that the company's "coporate name will be Germain Petit and Co. The head office is set up at 155 rue de Sèvres.

The first page of the patent

In the morning of 20 January 1831 about 200 tailors ransacked the rue de Sèvres factory. They destroyed eighty Couseuses and threw the pieces out through the windows. They considered these machines that they nicknamed "arm-breakers", as dangerous competitors.

Couseuse at the Sewing Machine
and Cycle Museum in Amplepuis
Thimonnier had to flee for his life. As he was the victim of thearts from the tailors Thimonnier withdrew from the Company and left Paris. Before him, another man from Lyon had beenn through the same ordeal - the Canuts (Lyon's textile workers) had threatened Joseph Jacquard (1752-1834) with throwing him into the Rhône river and had destroyed his first loom.

The Germain Petit and Co company broke up after one of the most important investors, M. Beaunier. The very man who had created the first animal haulaged railway between Saint Etienne and Andrézieux.

second episode >


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