Thimmonier, Barthélémy

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b. 1793 Saint-Etienne, France d. 1857
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French inventor of the first sewing machine.
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The sewing machine is probably the most universal and the most important machine in clothing manufacture, being used both industrially and domestically. It was also the first domestic consumer durable and was the first mass-produced machine to appear in the home. The first practical sewing machine was built during 1828 and 1829 by Barthélémy Thimmonier, a working tailor of Saint-Etienne in France. He came from a modest family and had never received any training as a mechanic, so his invention is all the more remarkable. He took out a patent in 1830 in his own name and that of Ferrand, a tutor of the Saint-Etienne School of Mines who had helped him financially. It was a chain-stitch machine made largely of wood and operated by a foot pedal with a large flywheel. The needle moved up and down through the cloth, which was placed on a platform below it. A second, hooked needle under the platform made a loop in the thread, which was caught when the first needle descended again.
In 1841, Thimmonier was appointed to a senior position in a large Paris clothing factory engaged in the production of French army uniforms. He soon had eighty machines in use, but a mob of hand-sewers broke in, smashed the machines and nearly killed Thimmonier. In 1845, he had developed his machine so that it could make 200 stitches per minute and formed a partnership with Jean-Marie Magnin to build them commercially. However, the abdication of Louis Philippe on 21 February 1848 ended his hopes, even though patents were taken out in the UK and the USA in that year. The English patent was in Magnin's name, and Thimmonier died impoverished in 1857. His machine was perfected by many later inventors.
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Bibliography
1830, with Ferrand, (chain-stitch machine).
Further Reading
A.Matagran, 1931, "Barthélémy Thimmonier (1793–1857), inventeur de la machine à coudre", Bull. Soc. Enc. Industr. nat. 130 (biography in French).
J.Meyssin, 1914, Histoire de la machine à coudre: portrait et biographie de l'inventeur B.Thimmonier, 5th edn, Lyons (biography in French).
M.Daumas, (ed.), 1968, Histoire générale des techniques, Vol. III: L'Expansion du machinisme, Paris (includes a description of Thimmonier's machine, with a picture).
N.Salmon, 1863, History of the Sewing Machine from the Year 1750 (tells the history of the sewing machine).
F.B.Jewell, 1975, Veteran Sewing Machines. A Collector's Guide, Newton Abbot (a more modern account).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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