THE HISTORY OF THE SEWING MACHINE
In 1810, German, Balthasar Krems invented an automatic machine for sewing caps. Krems did not patent his invention and it never functioned well.
Austrian tailor, Josef Madersperger made several attempts at inventing a machine for sewing and was issued a patent in 1814. All of his attempts were considered unsuccessful.
In 1804, a French patent was granted to Thomas Stone and James Henderson for "a machine that emulated hand sewing." That same year a patent was granted to Scott John Duncan for an "embroidery machine with multiple needles." Both inventions failed and were soon forgotten by the public.
In 1818, the first American sewing machine was invented by John Adams Doge and John Knowles. Their machine failed to sew any useful amount of fabric before malfunctioning.
Elias Howe's machine had a needle with an eye at the point. The needle was pushed through the cloth and created a loop on the other side; a shuttle on a track then slipped the second thread through the loop, creating what is called the lockstitch. However, Elias Howe later encountered problems defending his patent and marketing his invention.
For the next nine years Elias Howe struggled, first to enlist interest in his machine, then to protect his patent from imitators. His lockstitch mechanism was adopted by others who were developing innovations of their own. Isaac Singer invented the up-and-down motion mechanism, and Allen Wilson developed a rotary hook shuttle.
If Hunt had patented his invention, Elias Howe would have lost his case and Isaac Singer would have won. Since he lost, Isaac Singer had to pay Elias Howe patent royalties. As a side note: In 1844, Englishmen John Fisher received a patent for a lace making machine that was identical enough to the machines made by Howe and Singer that if Fisher's patent had not been lost in the patent office, John Fisher would also have been part of the patent battle.
After successfully defending his right to a share in the profits of his invention, Elias Howe saw his annual income jump from three hundred to more than two hundred thousand dollars a year. Between 1854 and 1867, Howe earned close to two million dollars from his invention. During the Civil War, he donated a portion of his wealth to equip an infantry regiment for the Union Army and served in the regiment as a private.
The 1834 eye pointed needle sewing machine of Walter Hunt was later re-invented by Elias Howe of Spencer, Massachusetts and patented by him in 1846.
Each sewing machine (Walter Hunt's and Elias Howe's) had a curved eye pointed needle that passed the thread through the fabric in an arc motion; and on the other side of the fabric a loop was created; and a second thread carried by a shuttle running back and forth on a track passed through the loop creating a lockstitch.
Elias Howe's design was copied by Isaac Singer and others, leading to extensive patent litigation. However, a court battle in the 1850s conclusively gave Elias Howe the patent rights to the eye pointed needle.
The court case was brought by Elias Howe against Isaac Merritt Singer, the largest manufacturer of sewing machines for patent infringement. In his defense, Isaac Singer attempted to invalidate Howe's patent, to show that the invention was already some 20 years old and that Howe should not have been able to claim the royalties from anyone using his designs that Singer had been forced to pay.
Since Walter Hunt had abandoned his sewing machine and had not filed for a patent, Elias Howe's patent was upheld by a court decision in 1854. Isaac Singer's machine was also somewhat different from Howe's. Its needle moved up and down, rather than sideways, and it was powered by a treadle rather than a hand crank. However, it used the same lockstitch process and a similar needle.
Elias Howe died in 1867, the year his patent expired.