The trouble with sewing machines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thousands of years ago, sewing was done by hand using needles of ivory, animal bone and fish bone. This continued until 1830 when a tailor from Lyon, France, named Barthelemy Thimmonier, invented a sewing machine.

The French government was so impressed they hired Thimmonier to make military uniforms. An angry mob of tailors stormed the factory, destroying all the machines and almost killing Thimmonier. Moving to another town, Thimmonier, later died in poverty.

In 1838, a machinist named Elias Howe thought he might invent a sewing machine, and in September of 1846 he started showing it to manufactures. The machine sold $300 and was a failure because of the price.

Howe left the United States and moved to England for two years. When he returned to the Unites States, he found companies were selling sewing machines like his for $100. He legally contested the patent by Issac Singer.

They stayed in and out of the courts until 1853. At this time the courts ruled that Singer had to pay Howe a royalty on every sewing machine sold. Howe died in 1867 receiving $4,000 in royalties a week. The rest of the Singer story is history.

Louisiana Treasures Museum has fish bone sewing needles that are about 1,000 years old. We also have on display on sewing machines. Stop by for a visit and look at the collection. For more information call 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum located at 10290 Highway 22, West Pontchatoula.