1842 Greenough's Patent Model of a Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine Patent Model
Patent No. 2,466, issued February 21, 1842
John James Greenough of Washington, D.C.
In 1842, John Greenough received the first American patent for a sewing machine. Greenough’s patent model used a needle with two points and an eye in the middle. To make a stitch, the needle would completely pass through the material by means of a pair of pinchers on either side of the seam. The pinchers traveled on a rack and opened and closed automatically. The needle was threaded with a length of thread, and required constant rethreading.
This type of sewing was classified as a short-thread machine. The machine was designed for sewing leather, and an awl preceded the needle to pierce a hole. The leather was held between clamps on a rack that could be moved, to produce a back stitch, or forward to make a shoemaker’s stitch. The material was fed automatically at a selected rate, according to the length of stitch desired. A weight drew out the thread, and a stop-motion shut down the machinery when a thread broke or became too short. Feed was continuous for the length of the rack-bar, and then it had to be set back. The turn of a crank set all motions to work. Greenough did not commercially manufacture his invention and his patent model remains as the only evidence.
He held several profitable patents for shoe-pegging machinery. He had many interests and his other patents included ones for plate glass; lampshades; looms; firearms; meters; propellers; gearing; hinges; power-transmitters; car steps; and a paper bag-making machine.
Greenough worked at the Patent Office from 1837 to 1841, supervising draftsmen who were restoring the patent drawings lost in the disastrous 1836 fire. Later he became an attorney working mostly on patent cases, and established a patent agency in New York City. In 1853, he was one of the founders of the American Polytechnic Journal, which published engravings of recent patents.
Currently not on view
Object Name
sewing machine patent model
model constructed
before 1842-02-21
patent date
Greenough, John J.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 10 in x 14 in x 6 in; 25.4 cm x 35.56 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
patent number
accession number
Patent Models
Patent Models
Patent Models, Sewing Machines
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Patent Models
Patent Models, Sewing Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Janssen, Barbara Suit. Patent Models Index
Publication title
The Sewing Machine: Its Invention and Development
Publication author
Cooper, Grace Rogers
Publication URL
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