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HOWE, Elias, Jr. [1819-1867] -- American inventor (sewing machine)

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Son of a farmer and miller, he assisted his father in summer and attended the district school in winter. In 1835 he went to Lowell, where he worked in a machine shop, and in 1837 be removed to a sbop in Cambridge, and soon after to one in Boston. While there be conceived the sewing-machine that made his name famous.

He experimented continuously for five years, completing his first invention in May, 1845. He had meantime returned to Cambridge, where his father had a machine shop. In making his first machine he received financial aid from George Fisher, an old schoolmate.

In September, 1846, be patented the first sewing-machine, but the opposition to labor-saving machines rendered the introduction difficult, and he engaged as a railroad engineer until his health failed. As the artisans of America were unwilling to receive his invention, he went to England in 1847, intending to introduce it there, but met with no better success.

He then worked his way home as a common sailor, having disposed of his English rights to William Thomas, after adapting the machine to stitching valises, umbrellas and corsets.

On reaching home he found his sewing-machine imitated by rival inventors and extensively introduced by parties who had money to advertise and show the working of the machine. This was done regardless of Howe's patents.

In 1854 he succeeded, by the help of wealthy friends, in establishing the priority of his invention, and he re-purchased the patents, which be had parted with during his adversity. This enabled him to collect royalty on every machine produced in the United States, and his income soon reached $200,000 per annum.

When his patents expired in 1867 he had received in royalties from the sale of machines over $2,000,000, and after that be engaged in the manufacture of sewing-machines.

In the civil war be served as a private in the 17th Connecticut volunteers. He was decorated with the cross of the Legion d'Honneur by the French government, and received for his invention various other medals and honors, including the gold medal at the Paris exposition in 1867.

In the selections of names for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, New York university, made by the board of electors in October, 1900, Howe stood fourth in "Class D, Inventors," receiving forty-seven votes, Fulton, Morse and Whitney only securing places with eighty-five, eighty and sixty-seven votes, respectively.

He died in Brooklyn, N.Y., Oct. 3, 1867. BDNA  -30-
 

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