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Elias Howe

Howe, Elias, 1819–67, American inventor, b. Spencer, Mass. He was apprenticed in 1838 to an instrument maker and watchmaker in Boston at whose suggestion he turned his attention to devising a sewing machine. He exhibited his first machine in 1845 and patented another in 1846. No financial backing was secured in the United States, and in 1846 a third machine was sold in England, together with all rights in Great Britain, to William Thomas. Howe worked with Thomas in London to produce a machine to stitch leather. After a breach between the two, Howe returned to the United States to find his machine being manufactured by others. He brought several suits (including one against Isaac M. Singer) for infringement of patent and finally obtained a judgment for royalty in 1854. With the royalties earned through an extension of his patent (1861–67), he supported during the Civil War an infantry regiment in which he served as a private and in 1865 established in Bridgeport, Conn., the Howe Machine Company.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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