Howe, Elias

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b. 9 July 1819 Spencer, Massachusetts, USA
d. 3 October 1867 Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
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American inventor of one of the earliest successful sewing machines.
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Son of Elias Howe, a farmer, he acquired his mechanical knowledge in his father's mill. He left school at 12 years of age and was apprenticed for two years in a machine shop in Lowell, Massachusetts, and later to an instrument maker, Ari Davis in Boston, Massachusetts, where his master's services were much in demand by Harvard University. Fired by a desire to invent a sewing machine, he utilized the experience gained in Lowell to devise a shuttle carrying a lower thread and a needle carrying an upper thread to make lock-stitch in straight lines. His attempts were so rewarding that he left his job and was sustained first by his father and then by a partner. By 1845 he had built a machine that worked at 250 stitches per minute, and the following year he patented an improved machine. The invention of the sewing machine had an enormous impact on the textile industry, stimulating demand for cloth because making up garments became so much quicker. The sewing machine was one of the first mass-produced consumer durables and was essentially an American invention. William Thomas, a London manufacturer of shoes, umbrellas and corsets, secured the British rights and persuaded Howe to come to England to apply it to the making of shoes. This Howe did, but he quarrelled with Thomas after less than one year. He returned to America to face with his partner, G.W.Bliss, a bigger fight over his patent (see I.M. Singer), which was being widely infringed. Not until 1854 was the case settled in his favour. This litigation threatened the very existence of the new industry, but the Great Sewing Machine Combination, the first important patent-pooling arrangement in American history, changed all this. For a fee of $5 on every domestically-sold machine and $1 on every exported one, Howe contributed to the pool his patent of 1846 for a grooved eye-pointed needle used in conjunction with a lock-stitch-forming shuttle. Howe's patent was renewed in 1861; he organized and equipped a regiment during the Civil War with the royalties. When the war ended he founded the Howe Machine Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
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Further Reading
Obituary, 1867, Engineer 24.
Obituary, 1867, Practical Magazine 5.
F.G.Harrison, 1892–3, Biographical Sketches of Pre-eminent Americans (provides a good account of Howe's life and achievements).
N.Salmon, 1863, History of the Sewing Machine from the Year 1750, with a biography of Elias Howe, London (tells the history of sewing machines).
F.B.Jewell, 1975, Veteran Sewing Machines, A Collector's Guide, Newton Abbot (a more modern account of the history of sewing machines).
C.Singer (ed.), 1958, A History of Technology, Vol. V, Oxford: Clarendon Press (covers the mechanical developments).
D.A.Hounshell, 1984, From the American System to Mass Production 1800–1932. The
Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, Baltimore (examines the role of the American sewing machine companies in the development of mass-production techniques).
RLH

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

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Howe,Elias — Howe (hou), Elias. 1819 1867. American inventor and manufacturer who designed early sewing machines (1845 and 1846) and subsequently won patent infringement suits against a number of manufacturers, including Isaac M. Singer. * * * …   Universalium

  • Howe, Elias — (1819 1867)    Born in the United States in the countryside of Massachusetts, Howe led the life of a typical farmer s son. Seeking to secure a better life, Howe worked in a machine shop and, realizing the demand for a mechanical sewing device,… …   Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry

  • Howe, Elias — born July 9, 1819, Spencer, Mass., U.S. died Oct. 3, 1867, Brooklyn, N.Y. U.S. inventor. A nephew of William Howe, he began work as a mechanic. In 1846 he was granted a patent for the first practical sewing machine. It attracted little attention …   Universalium

  • Howe, Elias — (9 jul. 1819, Spencer, Mass., EE.UU.–3 oct. 1867, Brooklyn, N.Y.). Inventor estadounidense. Sobrino de William Howe, comenzó a trabajar como mecánico. En 1846 registró la patente de la primera máquina de coser práctica, la que atrajo poca… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Howe — /how/, n. 1. E(dgar) W(atson), 1853 1937, U.S. novelist and editor. 2. Elias, 1819 67, U.S. inventor of the sewing machine. 3. Gordon (Gordie), born 1928, Canadian ice hockey player. 4. Irving, 1920 93, U.S. social historian and literary critic.… …   Universalium

  • howe — /how/, Scot. and North Eng. n. 1. a hole. 2. the hold of a ship. 3. a hollow; dell. adj. 4. hollow. 5. deep. Also, how. [1325 75; ME (north and Scots), alter. of holl; see HOLLOW] * * * (as used in expressi …   Universalium

  • Howe — (as used in expressions) Howe Caverns Howe, Elias Howe, Gordie Gordon Howe Howe, James Wong Howe, Julia Ward Howe, Richard Howe, conde Howe, William Howe, 5° vizconde …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Elías — (Eliyyāh) ► BIBLIA Profeta del Antiguo Testamento. Elías, Feliu * * * (as used in expressions) Boudinot, Elias Canetti, Elias Disney, Walt(er Elias) Howe, Elias Lönnrot, Elias …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Howe-Orme — instruments were manufactured by the Elias Howe Company of Boston, MA. The company was founded by Elias Howe, Jr. (1820–1895). Although the inventor of the sewing machine had the same name, this Elias Howe, Jr. was not associated with that… …   Wikipedia

  • Elias Howe — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Elias Howe Archivo:Elias Howe Project Gutenberg eText 15161.jpg Elias Howe Nacimiento …   Wikipedia Español

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