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The History of the Singer Sewing Machine

The Singer Sewing Machine| Historical Project Research| | Sarah Clark| 9/12/2010| Engineering 1000 Instructor: Dr. Tzu-Yu Wang | The sewing machine is basically a textile machine. It is used for stitching together things such as fabric, paper, card, or other material with some type of thread.

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The sewing machine needed to be something that was functional and compact. It would need to be something that was simple to use and be able to sew faster and more efficiently then hand sewing was. Up until the time that the sewing machine was invented, women would spend great amounts of time sewing.Women would have to hand sew everything, clothing for themselves and their families as well as household items. Women also formed the majority of the labor force that sewed clothes in factories and wove fabrics in mils. The invention of the sewing machine essentially liberated these women from spending many hours a day sewing. The first patent related to the sewing machine was for the double pointed needle. In 1775 Charles F. Weisenthal, a German mechanic, was granted the patent for this needle.The patent itself described a needed for use in a machine, but did not elaborate on what the machine looked like or if one even existed. The patent itself was never put to use during Weisenthal’s lifetime. There were several attempts at creating a sewing machine. In 1790, the first workable sewing machine was invented and patented by a British inventor named Thomas Saint. This machine never made it past the patent model stage. In 1830, Barthelemy Thimonnier, a French tailor, got a patent for the first practical, sewing machine.By 1841, almost 100 of his machines were being used, in a factory, to sew uniforms for the French army. Walter Hunt, the inventor of the safety pin, had an idea for a double-thread sewing machine. Sometime in 1834, he devised a machine that used an eye-pointed needle in conjunction with a shuttle carrying a second needle. He gave up on the project thinking that it would put poor seamstresses out of much needed work. He never bothered to get a patent. In 1846, Elias Howe, from Massachusetts, patented a sewing machine that had a grooved, eye-pointed needle and shuttle.When he was unsuccessful selling this machine in the America he went to England and adapted it to work for a corset maker. When he finally returned to America, he found that other manufacturers were selling several sewing machines, and that they were infringing on some part of his patent. Isaac Singer never claimed to have invented the sewing machine. Instead he improved on what was already out there. It took him 11 days and forty dollars to create the improved sewing machine. He made many changes, part of which was based on Howe’s work.He created the first machine where the needle went up and down, instead of side-to-side like the previous versions. He also changed the hand crank that was used to a foot treadle. Like Howe’s work, the Singer machine used the same lockstitch. That stitch was part of Howe’s patent. As a result, Howe sued Singer for patent infringement. During the suit, the I. M. Singer Corporation researched the Hunt machine and had an inventor rebuild one. They attempted to use this rebuilt machine to break the Howe patent. The plan did not work. Howe ended up winning the lawsuit and received royalties on his patent.Singer and other companies ended up paying Howe. By the time Howe died in 1867, he was collecting more than four thousand dollars a week and had already procured about two million in royalties. According to the official Singer Sewing machine website, within two years of Isaac Singer forming the I. M. Singer Corporation, they became the leading manufacturer and marketer of sewing machines in America. By 1855, Singer became the world’s first international company. They had offices and manufacturing plants in New York and Paris. They also originated the idea behind installment payments.In 1863, they held 22 patents and had assets of $550,000. They were selling roughly 20,000 sewing machines a year. Needless to say Singer Manufacturing Company, which it was now known, continued to grow; opening offices and factories in numerous places around the world including Germany, Brazil, Scotland, Indiana, New Jersey, England and Britain. The sewing machine was never a government or major company project. It was all done by individuals. Therefore, the funding for the sewing machine came from the people who were trying to create a working one or an improved model.It was up to the individual to market and sell his or her own product. In the latter half of the 19th century there were well over 200 sewing machine companies, each with several models of sewing machines. Most of these companies made sewing machines for the home, but a few made machines specifically for commercial use. There were also companies that made both. There were many considerations when designing the sewing machine. The sewing machines designed for commercial use had to be designed to be rugged, mostly made from things like cast iron.They were designed to be used constantly. The machines designed for home use were lighter, but still as capable as the more rugged machines. There was a large market for these lighter machines. The different machines usually were accompanied by tabletops, made from solid wood. They also had decorative cast iron legs. Depending on if the sewing machine was going to be used for commercial or home use determined how the sewing machine was going to look and whether it was designed to be in constant use or not.Aside from determining if the sewing machine would be used for commercial or home use, the sewing machine engineer had to consider many factors. Some of those factors include needle type, thread type, what type of stitch it produces, some sort of device to form the specific stitch, and it had to have some type of support for the cloth. There also had to be a mechanism to allow one stitch to follow the previous one, a tension control and something to make sure the sewing machine did what it needed to in the correct sequence without error.Although engineering disciplines were not as defined as they are today. Several disciplines were involved in the creation of the sewing machine. Mechanical engineering was involved in the creation of the mechanical parts used to make the sewing machine do its job. Some sewing machines used a type of pulley system to function; textile engineers designed the rope used in this pulley system. Metallurgical engineers were involved in the process of developing the cast iron used for the sewing machine itself as well as the decorative legs on home sewing machines.In addition, once electricity was introduced, electrical engineers were used to create the wiring system. The sewing machine greatly changed the way our society functions. Without the sewing machine, the world would be a very different place. Like the car, the cotton gin and countless other innovations from the past 300 years, the sewing machine takes something time-consuming and laborious and makes it fast and easy. With the invention of the mechanized sewing machine, manufacturers could suddenly produce piles of high-quality clothing at minimal expense.Because of this, the vast majority of people in the world can now afford the sort of sturdy, finely stitched clothes that were a luxury only 200 years ago. Industrial sewing machines have made many products affordable and readily available. Home sewing machines have introduced the joys of sewing and embroidery as a craft. With the advance of the way sewing machines interact with technology, there is no telling where the future of the sewing machine will lead us.Works CitedAlef, Daniel. Isaac Merritt Singer: Sewing Machines and Sewing Seeds. Santa Barbara: Meta4, 2007. E-Book. Cooper, Grace Rogers.The Invention of the Sewing Machine. Washington, D. C. : Smithsonian Institution, 1968. E-Book. Cooper, Grace Rogers. The Sewing Machine: Its Invention and Early Development. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1976. Print.”SINGER® SEWING CO. | Company Information. ” SINGER® SEWING CO. | Home. Web. 14 Sept. 2010. http://www. singerco. com/company/.”Sewing Machines. ” Machine-History. Com. Web. 14 Sept. 2010.http://www. machine-history. com/THE SEWING MACHINE>.