Patent Models: Textile and Sewing Machines
For much of the nineteenth century, inventors submitted a model with their patent application to the United States Patent Office. The National Museum of American History’s patent model collection began with the acquisition of 284 models from the Patent Office in June 1908, and reached more than 1,000 models by the end of that summer. In 1926, Congress decided to dispense with the stored collection of models and gave the Smithsonian Institution the opportunity to collect any models it wanted. Today, the Museum’s collection exceeds 10,000 patent models dating from 1836 to 1910.
The Museum’s Textile Collection contains over four thousand patent models. The collection includes many examples of carding machines, spinning machines, knitting machines, rope making machines, looms, baskets, carpets, fabrics, and sewing machines. Even the simple clothespin is well represented, with 41 patent models.
This sampling of patent models from the Textile Collection describes the two major groupings, textile machinery and sewing machines. In both groups, the examination of the models begins with the earliest of the inventions. In this early group of patent models, the textile machinery models date from 1837 to 1840, and the sewing machine models from 1842 to 1854.
For more information about the Museum’s patent model collection, see Patent Model Index, Guide to the Collections of the National Museum of American History.
"Patent Models: Textile and Sewing Machines - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Sewing Machine Patent Model
- Patent No. 7,931, issued on February 11, 1851
- William O. Grover and William E. Baker of Roxbury, Massachusetts
- William O. Grover, a tailor working in Boston, believed that the sewing machine would transform the clothing industry. Seeing that the available sewing machines were not very practical, he began in 1849 to devise a different machine. He developed a new stitch that was made by interlocking two threads in a series of slipknots. Another Boston tailor, William E. Baker, shared Grover’s vision and became his partner in the project.
- They received Patent No. 7,931 on February 11, 1851, for a double chain stitch made with two threads. The stitch was made using a vertical eye-pointed needle for the top thread and a horizontal needle for the under thread.
- The Grover and Baker Sewing Machine Company was organized in 1851. Jacob Weatherill, mechanic, and Orlando B. Potter, lawyer, joined the firm. It was Potter who saw that the numerous lawsuits over patent rights were strangling the growth of the fledging sewing machine industry. In 1856, his work lead to the formation of the Sewing Machine Combination also called the Sewing Machine Trust. This organization consisted of three sewing machine manufacturers, I. M. Singer Co., Wheeler & Wilson Co., and the Grover & Baker Co., and the inventor, Elias Howe Jr., who all agreed to pool their important patents and stop patent litigation between them. This allowed them to move ahead with manufacturing and marketing of their own sewing machines and collecting license fees from other companies wanting to use their patents.
- Currently not on view
- model constructed
- before 1851-02-11
- patent date
- Grover, William O.
- Baker, William E.
- ID Number
- catalog number
- patent number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center