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.
- Fancy Power Loom Patent Model
- Patent No. 491, issued November 25, 1837
- William Crompton of Taunton, Massachusetts
- Before William Crompton’s 1837 patent for a fancy power loom was adopted, the harnesses of power looms were controlled by cams. This arrangement limited the number of harnesses that could be utilized, which in turn limited the complexity of patterns that could be woven. To vary a pattern, the cams had to be laboriously changed. Crompton’s invention solved both of these problems. In his patent, an endless pattern chain was used, upon which rollers or pins could be variously placed to engage the harness levers (as had the cams) but which allowed any number of harnesses to be used and easily permitted the changing of patterns. More elaborate designs now could be easily woven on power looms.
- Crompton was born in the textile mill town of Preston, England, in 1806. He was taught how to weave on a cotton hand loom and learned the trade of a machinist. Crompton came to Taunton, Massachusetts, at the age of 30, and was employed by Crocker and Richmond. At this textile mill he designed a loom to weave a new, more complex patterned fabric. The mill failed in 1837 and Crompton went back to England. He entered into cotton manufacture with John Rostran, and took out a British patent for his loom under Rostran’s name.
- Crompton emigrated with his family in 1839 back to the United States to promote his looms. The Middlesex Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, invited him to alter his fancy cotton loom for the weaving of woolen fabrics, which he accomplished in 1840. It was considered an important landmark for the woolen industry. In his book, American Textile Machinery, John Hayes quotes the Committee on Patents of the United States House of Representatives, 1878: “ . . . upon the Crompton loom or looms based on it, are woven every yard of fancy cloth in the world.”
- In 1849, William’s health declined and his son, George, carried on the business. Like his father, George was an inventor and patented many improvements for the loom. After 1859, the Crompton Loom Work became one of the largest fancy loom manufacturers in the United States.
- Currently not on view
- model constructed
- before 1837-11-25
- patent date
- Crompton, William
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- patent number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center