Chronological List of U.S. Sewing Machine Patent Models
There are more than seven hundred sewing machine patent models and a similar number of attachment models in the Smithsonian collections. Most of these machines were received in 1926 when the Patent Office disposed of its collection of hundreds of thousands of models. Prior to 1880, models had been required with the patent application; although the requirement was discontinued that year, patentees continued to furnish models for another decade or so. All models prior to 1836 were lost in a Patent Office fire of that year, but since the sewing-machine patent history dates from the 1840s, most of the historically important ones of this subject have been preserved.
These models form a valuable part of the record of the invention, supplementing the drawings and the text of the written specifications. The early sewing-machine models were made to order, either by the inventor or a commissioned model maker. As soon as sewing machines were produced commercially, it was less expensive for the patentee to use a commercial machine of the period, to which he added his change or improvement, than to have a complete model constructed to order. Some of the commercial machines used in this way are the only examples known to be in existence, and as such, are of more interest in establishing the history of the manufactured machine than for the minor patented changes.
During the period of the “Sewing Machine Combination”, many patentees attempted to invent and patent “the different machine”. This was either a radical change in style or an attempt to produce a far less-expensive type of machine. These machines were not always put into commercial production, but the patent models give an indication of the extent to which some inventors went to simplify or vary the mechanics of sewing machine.
The following list include those sewing machine patent models in the Smithsonian Institution collections.
* Includes trade-marks and labels
The records of the United States Patent Office indicate that a patent for a sewing machine was granted on March 10, 1826, to Henry Lye, a glove-maker. The specification and model of this patent were destroyed in 1836, at a fire which consumed the records of the Patent Office. Some years since, the writer of this article devoted several days to ascertain the construction of this Lye machine and succeeded in gaining information, from a person who had seen it, that it was simply a clamp in which gloves were held while being stitched. It was in no sense a sewing machine, but simply a work holder.
from 1876 International Exhibition Report