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Monday, March 15, 2010
Elias Howe, The Inventor of The Sewing Machine, from Edcon Publishing.
Elias Howe was born lame. When he was a boy in Spencer, Massachusetts, he tired very easily. Often he sat around the house, watching his mother work. She labored from daylight until after dark, and he felt bad that he couldn't make her life easier. As she moved about, cooking and washing and sweeping and ironing, he could only sit in the corner and watch. At night, by the light of a small lamp on the kitchen table, she would sew clothing for the entire family. Sewing seemed to be the hardest work she did. She bent her back over the cloth, holding it in the flickering light so that she could see the difficult and close work. Before she could complete a single garment, she had to run her needle and thread in and out of the cloth many times.
Although Elias tired quickly if he worked too long at a time, he had great mechanical ability. He liked to work with small machines. When he did this kind of mechanical work, his hands were sure and clever. He began to get good jobs in the machine industry. At sixteen, he worked in a shop in Lowell, a city near Spencer. He worked for An Davis, who made machines for Harvard professors. Making many different kinds of machines was a good experience.
One day in Mr. Davis's shop, Elias heard a man remark, "If a man wants to get rich, he should invent a sewing machine for women." The others laughed. Many men had tried, but no invention could seem to make a needle and thread to go through cloth as well as a woman could. When Elias was still a young man, he fell in love and married. Soon he saw that his wife was doing the same difficult work with needle and thread that his mother had done. Seeing this made Elias even more determined to make housework easier.
Later, Elias Howe went to Boston to work for a man who made watches and fine instruments. Remembering the remark about a mechanical sewing machine, ' he kept thinking about how one might work. He watched his wife as she sewed. In his spare time he worked on his idea. When he was in his early twenties, he developed a machine that worked like a human arm. It operated in a way similar to the way a person's arm and hand pushed a needle and thread through cloth. Elias Howe was happy that he had succeeded where so many other inventors had failed. Sadly, the machine was not good enough. It would not sew a long enough straight line. Besides, the thread kept breaking or snarling into a knot. People said that the sewing machine made an interesting show, but no one would buy it.
Elias's work in the watch and instrument shop paid him very little money. He had only that small income. Yet he did not quit. From his father and a partner, he got some money to work on a new machine. Within a year he had perfected a better sewing machine. This new machine made 250 stitches a minute, joining two threads so that they would stay in a straight line and hold long pieces of cloth together. Howe went immediately to register the invention so that no one could copy it. But nobody in the United States seemed to be interested in this remarkable invention.
William Thomas, an English manufacturer, asked Howe if he would come to England and work for him. Howe's wife was not well, but they decided that they had no other choice. So Howe took his wife and three small children across the Atlantic Ocean to England. Thomas owned one of the biggest companies in the machine industry. Although he was a wealthy man, Howe received only a small income from him. After three years in England, Howe's wife became so ill that they decided to return to America. He was forced to sell the English rights to his sewing machine to William Thomas for a small amount of money, just about enough to pay for his family's passage back to America.
When Howe reached the United States, he discovered that other men were imitating his designs and selling sewing machines similar to the one he had invented. His wife was dying, and he had no money at all. He determined to fight for whatever money was due him. He took the men to court to get back his rights to the sewing machine. After several years, he won his case. The court declared that because he had registered the invention in his name, he was the one that owned the rights. The other men who had been selling sewing machines similar to his, had to pay him large sums of money.
Soon Elias Howe became wealthy. He was so rich that, during the Civil War, he paid great sums of money to raise and equip an entire regiment of soldiers. Although he could have been an officer if he had wanted to, he served as a private soldier in his own regiment.
After the war ended, he formed the Howe Machine Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His company was a great success. His invention of the sewing machine made the lives of millions of people easier and more pleasant. But there was one great sadness in Howe's life. Both his mother and wife had died before they could benefit from his remarkable invention.
1. Elias Howe often sat and __________
2. When Elias was sixteen, he got a job __________
3. Elias Howe thought that the hardest kind of housework was __________
4. Elias Howe had great __________
5. Elias Howe perfected a machine that ___________
6. When Howe returned to the United States, he found __________
7. A new invention should be ____________
8. The clothing industry probably grew larger __________
9.Another name for this story could be ___________
10. This story is mainly about ____________