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Biography of Elias Howe


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Howe, Elias (1819-1867), the inventor of the American sewing machine. He was born at Spencer, Massachusetts, and died in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a farmer and a miller. Young Elias worked for his father on the farm and in the mill, and attended district school in the winter time. He learned the trade of a machinist. He patented his sewing machine in 1846. He visited England and took out a patent there. He was for a number of years poor, even distitute, and embarrassed by numerous lawsuits. About 1854 his rights under the patent were accepted by various manufacturers, who paid him a royalty, and he became a wealthy man. Nevertheless, he served as a private soldier during the Civil War, and, at a time when it was not known whether the general government was able to pay its debts, he invested his available money in United States bonds. By all accounts, he was a worthy, industrious, patriotic, inventive man. Howe was by no means the first to work at the general problem of a sewing machine, nor, indeed, was he the first to invent a possible contrivance. His inspiration came in the form of the thought to place the eye of the needle in the point, to thrust the thread through the fabric instead of drawing it after. With this idea in mind the rest was easy.