Elias Howe Vs Isaac Merritt Singer
Elias Howe invented the first practical and successful sewing machine using the “two-threaded lock-stitch” method. Howe and Isaac Merritt Singer in 1854 battled over the patent, and Howe came out the winner. Isaac Singer made good changes to Howe’s basic model, and that was some of the debate. There were many companies producing sewing machines that were similar to Howe’s model, so he took those people to court. After many years of legal tensions, Howe started to get compensation and royalties for his invention. The royalties for Howe ended when his patent ran out in 1867, but received money for all sewing machines produced in the United States. Howe’s sewing machine only went so far, but Singer is the man who made it a household name.
Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875)
Singer is the name people think of when they think “sewing machines”. Most people have a relative that has some form and style of his machine. Isaac Merritt Singer is the man who invented the first sewing machine for commercial and household use. At first Singer’s sewing machine was intended to replace sewing by hand. His machine could sew about 900 stitches per minute which was far more than any other. The average skilled seamstress could only sew about 40 or 50 stitches per minute.
Singer was always interested in and had a knack for all things mechanical. Early on in life, Singer was granted a patent for a rock-drilling machine and later many more. His most important one came to his shortly after he was asked to repair a “Lerow and Blodgett sewing machine” around 1850. He made some improvements to that machine and that led him to create a model that allowed constant and arched stitches. Singer’s new design made sewing possible on part of the project. The gears on the machine are what told the needle arm and shuttle when to move, this was a new innovation.
Singer and other sewing machine patent holders joined together and created the “Sewing Machine Combination”. Each of the patent holders had specific plans and features for the sewing machine, and by joining them together this made for one great sewing machine model. Elias Howe was not out of the race for sewing machine supremacy, because a deal with the joint patent holders allowed him to receive royalties.
Isaac Singer created a multi-national company specifically designed to sell sewing machines to the house wife and give her some freedom from the long days of hand sewing. The machines were expensive at first, but quickly the price came down when its popularity and demand rose. Singer had a knack for advertising and gaining attention just at the right times, and improving on his designs to make the best machines going. He quickly adapted his sewing machines for commercial use in the garment making industry.
Elias Howe may have been the first American inventor of the practical and successful sewing machine, but it was Singer who made it famous.