Many people think the inventor of the sewing machine was Isaac Singer. Not true! His name is probably the most easily associated with the sewing machine, mostly because he was an opportunistic scoundrel and took advantage wherever he could, although he is responsible for a lot of improvements in early machines.
The first candidate for inventor of the sewing machine was a German mechanic working in London. His name was Charles Weisenthal purportedly in 1755. it was meant to do embroidery but didn't go too far.
|An industrial machine supposedly|
built by Charles Kyte before
1893, inventor unknown.
Somewhere in this time frame someone decided to try to set up a factory with machines to sew in Paris. The Tailors Union discovered it and decided it was going to put them out of business, so they pushed the machines out of high windows to smash them and burned the factory down.
|Early industrial Singer.|
William Newton Wilson discovered this about a hundred years later while doing research. He built a replica from the patent drawings, and it worked. He took it to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia where he tripped over a display by Elias Howe, claiming that HE invented the sewing machine in 1846. Surprise, surprise, surprise!
Howe had invented a machine and patented it. He may have been a good inventor but not funded sufficiently, and there is doubt as to whether his machine actually worked. He went to England and you can google him or go to ismacs.net and read articles to find out his sad story. He eventually came back to the US, found out that people were manufacturing a 'sewing machine' and proceeded to sue everyone and their uncles for patent infringement, and winning.
Enter Singer. He chose to fight Howe in court about the prior use of the technology that Howe patented, and through inefficiencies and errors Howe prevailed through many years. He is even sighted by the Smithsonian Institute as The Inventor of the Sewing Machine.
What Singer did very well was improve the technology, and sell machines. He is credited with allowing free home trials, and inventing the time payment system.
At one time there were many, many local manufacturers of sewing machines, many of whom were making them for distribution by others, and putting the distributer names on them when they made them. Thus you may find the names Jones, Miracle, and many others on machines that are almost identical!
I for one am grateful to the many inventors and scoundrels who contributed in any way to the invention of the machines I so dearly love and use so often!