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.
- Loom for Weaving Knotted Counterpanes Patent Model
- Patent No. 546, issued January 6, 1838
- Erastus B. Bigelow of West Boylston, Massachusetts
- Erastus B. Bigelow primarily claimed the mechanism that raised the knots that formed the figures or patterns on the counterpane. His patent specification was lengthy, five pages of drawings and nine pages of written specifications.
- In 1840, the editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute wrote, “. . . the goods produced in this loom are of a quality very superior to such as are produced in the hand loom; at all events we have not met with any thing of the kind in the shops that will compare with them for texture, and for beauty and regularity of pattern. . . . We anticipate that at a very early day, American counterpanes will become as general as berths on board steamboats, and as beds at hotels. The articles are for sale in all our large cities, and as soon as there is a sufficient supply, will make their way into every part of the Union.”
- Bigelow was a prolific inventor, patenting at least 33 loom improvements. In 1842 he revolutionized carpet manufacture by a series of inventions that made the carpet loom automatic. The automatic features enabled manufacturers to replace male weavers with less costly female weavers or boys. His inventions for the power weaving of Brussels, Jacquard, Ingrain, and Wilton carpet were quite successful. Before the mid-19th century, the importance of these inventions was recognized both in the United States and in Europe.
- Currently not on view
- model constructed
- before 1838-01-06
- patent date
- Bigelow, Erastus Brigham
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- patent number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center