Howe’s Patent Model of a Pin Making Machine - ca 1841

Howe’s Patent Model of a Pin Making Machine - ca 1841

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This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 2,013 issued to John Ireland Howe on March 24, 1841. Howe’s invention was a design for an automated common pin making machine. The goal of the design was to improve upon his earlier patented pin making machine which had not found commercial success. His design was mechanically very complex; the patent document comprised 20 pages of detailed text and five of diagrams. Howe had been a physician working in the New York Alms House where he had observed the inmates making pins by hand. He began to experiment with machinery for automating the process and sought the help of Robert Hoe, a printing press builder, to provide mechanical expertise. His design was for a machine that would take a roll of wire, cut the wire for each pin to proper length, sharpen and polish the pointed end of the pin, and finally form the other end into a metal head. The machine consisted of a series of individual chucks (devices much like on lathes) mounted radially on a vertical shaft that rotated inside a horizontal circular frame. Around the circumference of the frame were mounted various tools that shaped the pins. As the vertical shaft rotated, it brought the chucks into alignment with the tools. One type of tool was the point forming file, or mill. The chuck, which was rotating along the axis of the pin, would make the pin tip contact the file thus grinding it into shape. The file was also rotating as well as moving forward, backwards, and side-to-side in a complex manner so as to produce a point which was round, smooth, free from angles, and slightly convex in shape. Howe made provisions for multiple such tools to progressively shape the point. The other major tool was the head forming mechanism. A carrier removed the pin from its chuck and inserted its blunt end into a set of gripping jaws that held it into a set of dies. The dies formed a thickened section of metal at the end of the pin. A second carrier extracted the pin and inserted the thickened section into a second set of dies which then flattened and formed the final pin head. The machines made from the patent design enabled the Howe Manufacturing Company become one of the largest pin manufacturers in the United States.
The patent model is constructed primarily of metal and is about one foot square and one foot tall. It represents the essential elements of the design such as the rotating set of chucks mounted on the vertical shaft, the sharpening mills, and the head making mechanisms. It shows how the rotating table brings the pins to the point sharpening mills. While it is uncertain that the model would be capable of actual pin production, it appears that turning the attached hand crank would cause the machine to go through the motions of actual pin production.
Object Name
patent model, pin making machine
Object Type
Patent Model
date made
ca 1841
patent date
Howe, John I.
place made
United States: Connecticut
associated place
United States: Connecticut, Derby
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 14 in x 13 in x 12 1/2 in; 35.56 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Patent Models
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Work and Industry: Production and Manufacturing
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Patent Models
Inventing in America
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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