FRENCH SEWING MACHINES
The first man known to have put a mechanical sewing device into commercial operation was Barthelemy Thimonnier, a French tailor. After several years of fruitless effort he invented a machine for which he received a French patent in 1830. The machine made a chainstitch by means of a barbed or hooked needle. The vertically held needle worked from an overhanging arm. The needle thrust through the fabric laid on the horizontal table, caught a thread from the thread carrier and looper beneath the table, and brought a loop to the surface of the fabric. When the process was repeated the second loop became enchained in the first. The needle was moved downward by the depression of a cord-connected foot treadle and was raised by the action of a spring. The fabric was fed through the stitching mechanism manually, and a regular rate of speed had to be maintained by the operator in order to produce stitches of equal length. A type of retractable thimble or presser foot was used to hold the fabric down as required. The needle, and the entire machine, was basically an attempt to mechanize tambour embroidery, with which the inventor was quite familiar. Although this work, which served as the machine‘s inspiration, was always used for decorative embroidery, Thimonnier saw the possibilities of using the stitch for utilitarian purposes. By 1841 he had 80 machines stitching army clothing in a Paris shop. But a mob of tailors, fearing that the invention would rob them of a livelihood, broke into the shop and destroyed the machines. Thimonnier fled Paris, penniless. Four years later he had obtained new financial help, improved his machine to produce 200 stitches a minute, and organized the first French sewing-machine company.The Revolution of 1848, however, brought this enterprise to an early end. Before new support could be found other inventors had appeared with better machines, and Thimonnier‘s was passed by. In addition to the two French patents Thimonnier also received a British patent with his associate Jean Marie Magnin in 1848 and one in the United States in 1850. He achieved no financial gain from either of these and died a poor man.