At the time of his patent, Charles Miller lived in St. Louis, Missouri, an uncommon choice of residence for a sewing machine inventor. Most of the inventors, and subsequent manufacturers, were located in the northeastern United States, particularly New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
In his patent specification, Miller states: “This invention relates to that description of sewing-machine which forms the stitch by the interlacing of two threads, one of which is passed through the cloth in the form of a loop, and the other carried by a shuttle through the said loop.” His claim continues by stating: “It consists, first, in an improved stop-motion, or certain means of preventing the feed or movement of the cloth when by accident the thread breaks or catches in the seam; and, second, in certain means of sewing or making a stitch similar to what is termed in hand-sewing ‘the back stitch.”
According to Miller, his mechanism was different in that it passed the needle through the cloth in two places rather than in one, as was the case with other sewing machines of the time. His brass model is strikingly handsome, and engraved on the base of the model is “Charles Miller & J. A. Ross.” Usually when a second name is so prominently displayed on a model, it indicates a second inventor. However, no mention is made of Ross in the patent specification. Interestingly, Jonathan A. Ross turns up the following year at the 1853 New York Exhibition, exhibiting a sewing machine, and is listed in the catalogue as a sewing machine manufacturer from St. Louis, Missouri.
Miller is perhaps best known for an invention some two years later. It was the first sewing machine patented to stitch buttonholes (Patent No. 10,609, issued March 7, 1854). In his patent specification, Miller describes the three different stitches, “button-hole stitch, whip stitch or herring-bone stitch,” that can be mechanically sewn to finish the buttonhole.