Birthplace: Spencer, MA
Location of death: Brooklyn, NY
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Inventor of the sewing machine
Military service: US Army (Civil War)
American sewing machine inventor, born in Spencer, Massachusetts, on the 9th of July 1819. His early years were spent on his father's farm. In 1835 he entered the factory of a manufacturer of cotton machinery at Lowell, Massachusetts, where he learned the machinist's trade. Subsequently, while employed in a machine shop at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he conceived the idea of a sewing machine, and for five years spent all his spare time in its development. In September 1846 a patent for a practical sewing machine was granted to him; and Howe spent the following two years (1847-49) in London, employed by William Thomas, a corset manufacturer, to whom he had sold the English rights for £250.
Years of disappointment and discouragement followed before he was successful in introducing his invention, and several imitations which infringed his patent, particularly that of Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875), had already been successfully introduced and were widely used. His rights were established after much litigation in 1854, and by the date of expiration of his patent (1867) he had realized something over $2,000,000 out of his invention. During the Civil War, he used his wealth to underwrite and equip an infantry regiment for the Union Army, and served in that regiment. He died in Brooklyn, New York, on the 3rd of October 1867.
French Legion of Honor 1867
National Inventors Hall of Fame
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