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Profile of the Day: Elias Howe

On this day in 1819, American inventor Elias Howe was born. Remembered for patenting the first practical sewing machine, Howe’s invention revolutionized the manufacturing of garments.

Profile of the Day: Elias Howe

Image: Elias Howe / Wikimedia Commons

Howe was born on July 9, 1819 in Spencer, Massachusetts to Dr. Elias Howe, Sr. and Polly Bemis. At 16, Howe began an apprenticeship in a textile factory. However, the Panic of 1837 cost Howe his job. He later began working at a machinist’s shop, where he began to formulate his idea for a sewing machine.

In 1846, Howe received the patent for a lockstitch sewing machine, which could do 250 stitches a minute. His sewing machine would radically change the manufacturing of garments both commercially and in the home. However, despite the machine’s innovations, Howe had difficulty marketing it to the public. As he struggled, other entrepreneurs copied the design and added their own improvements, most notably Isaac Singer. After battling it out in the courts, Howe was awarded considerable royalties from Singer and others for sales of his invention. During the Civil War, Howe would use much of the money he earned to provide equipment for the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army.

Howe died on October 3, 1867 at the age of 48.

Explore Elias Howe’s family tree on Geni and share how you’re related.

View Elias Howe’s Geni Profile


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