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Richmond & Backus Co. Sewing Room, Detroit, Michigan
Turn of the century sewing in Detroit, Michigan

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Inventor Elias Howe Was Born
July 9, 1819

At 250 stitches a minute, Howe's machine could out sew the fastest of hand sewers. Despite its speed, though, Howe's invention did not sell very well. It wasn't until Isaac Singer (1811-1875) and Allen Wilson (1824-1888) each added their own new features to the machine that it became more popular. Singer invented the up-and-down motion mechanism, and Wilson created a rotary hook shuttle. (A sewing machine uses two spools of thread. The shuttle holds the lower thread and carries this thread through a loop of the upper thread, resulting in a stitch.) Howe, Singer, and Wilson put their inventions together, and soon sewing machines were built and sold to garment factories all over the United States.

In 1889, an electric sewing machine for use in the home was designed and marketed by Singer. By 1905, Americans all over the country were beginning to sew with electrically powered machines. Today sewing machines in manufacturing plants use computer technology to create customized clothing with little human intervention. Have you ever used a sewing machine?

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