On September 9th, 1846, American inventor Elias Howe (July 9, 1819 - October 3,1867) earned a patent for the sewing machine, a tool which revolutionized the manufacture of clothing. A machinist by trade who worked in a cotton factory in Lowell, Massachusetts, Howe sold his rights in England for but a small amount, a mere 250 pounds sterling, and then moved there, leaving his family behind, to continue perfecting his invention for use on special fabrics, like leather and silk. When he returned to the United States, he discovered development in the industry: many sewing machines, including those made by I. M. Singer and Company, were being used in homes and factories on numerous fabrics -- effectively violating his patent and leading to years of litigation. Howe's rights were established in 1854, and he began receiving royalties on all sewing machines made in the the United States, though he spent years in poverty pursuing his dream to earn a fortune.
At Teachers College, we look for additional inspiration in the work of faculty who developed sewing courses; Mary Schenk Woolman, Professor of Household Arts Education from 1894-1912, was among the first who urged the value of vocational education for women and wrote numerous books on sewing, the trade school, textiles, and clothing care. Additional archival materials on sewing and textiles, including courses of study and samplers, may be viewed in Pocketknowledge.
The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- The Story Of the Sewing-Machine: Its Invention--Improvements--Social, Industrial and Commercial Importance. (1860, Jan 28). Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887)
- The Singer Manufacturing Co.: A Vast and Wonderful Organization. The History Of the Sewing Machine. (1886, Jan 01). New York Times (1857-1922)
- Massey, R. J. (1901, Nov 17). A Georgian Invented Sewing Machine: Written For the Sunny South. The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945)
- Howe, E. (1904, Jul 24). An Interesting Old Letter: It Was Written By Elias Howe, Jr., Inventor Of the Sewing Machine, Before Riches and Fame Came To Him. Detroit Free Press (1858-1922)
- Mansfield, J. C. (1926, Oct 22). High Lights Of History: Invention Of the Sewing Machine. The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945)
- Dyer, B. (1957, Sep 10). Today In History. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995)
- Sokolov, B. (1963, Jan 09). What's Your Problem. Newsday (1940-1993)
- Sewing Machine Saga Told. (1975, Aug 31). The Austin American Statesman (1973-1980)
- Ralph, & Kovel, T. (1975, Sep 07). Early Sewing Machines Came In Novel Shapes. The Hartford Courant (1923-1995)
- From The Times Archives: A Great Inventor: Pioneer Of the Sewing Machine. (1989, Aug 02). The Times of India (1861-Current)
- Herzberg, Rudolph., and Upfield. Green. The Sewing Machine : Its History, Construction, and Application ; Translated from the German of Dr. Herzberg. London: E. & F. N. Spon, 1864. Print.
- Hollar, Sherman. Pioneers of the Industrial Age Breakthroughs in Technology. 1st ed. New York, N.Y: Britannica Educational Pub. in association with Rosen Educational Services, 2013. e-book
- McCabe, James D. Jr. Great Fortunes, and How They Were Made Or, The Struggles and Triumphs of Our Self-Made Men. Auckland: The Floating Press, 2008. e-book
- Mechanics of the Sewing Machine. New York, N.Y: Singer Sewing Machine Co. 1914. Print.
- Picken, Mary Brooks. Short Cuts to Home Sewing. New York: Singer Sewing Machine Co., 1926. Print.
- Sewing Machine of Elias Howe, Sewing Machine Museum, Sommerfeld /Kremmen, by Membeth, CC, Wikimedia Commons
- Special News Slide, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries
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