Isaac Merrit Singer, Sewing Machine Inventor, Founder of Singer – Entrepreneur

Isaac Merritt Singer was born in Pittstown, New York, on October 27, 1811. He was the youngest child of Adam Singer  and his first wife, Ruth Benson. Adam, a millwright, and his wife emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1803. They had eight children, three sons and five daughters. When Isaac Singer was 10 years old, his parents divorced. After Adam Singer remarried, Isaac Singer did not get on well with his stepmother.  When he was 12, he ran away. He later went to live with his elder brother in Rochester.

Started with Machines

Singer’s elder brother had a machine shop, and Isaac went to work there. It was there that Isaac grew to his full height of 6 feet 4 inches  and where he first learned the machinist trade that would become the basis of his fame and fortune.

First inventions Led to Singer Sewing Machine

After a series of inventions in the machine trade, Singer went to work in Boston for a man named Phelps.  Lerow & Blodgett sewing machines were being constructed and repaired in Phelps’ shop, where Singer went to work.  Phelps asked Singer to look at the sewing machines, which were difficult to use and produce. Singer concluded that the sewing machine would be more reliable if the shuttle moved in a straight line rather than a circle, with a straight rather than a curved needle. Singer was able to obtain a US Patent for his improvements on August 12, 1851.

Singer’s Prototype

Singer’s prototype sewing machine became the first to work in a practical way. It could sew 900 stitches per minute, far better than the 40 of an accomplished seamstress on simple work.

I. M. Singer & Co

In 1856, manufacturers Grover & Baker, Singer, Wheeler & Wilson, all accusing each other of patent infringement, met in Albany, New York to pursue their suits. Orlando B. Potter, a lawyer and president of the Grover and Baker Company, proposed that, rather than squander their profits on litigation, they pool their patents. This was the first patent pool process which enables the production of complicated machines without legal battles over patent rights.

Mass Produced Sewing Machines

Sewing machines began to be mass produced. I. M. Singer & Co manufactured 2,564 machines in 1856, and 13,000 in 1860 at a new plant on Mott Street in New York. Later, a massive plant was built near Elizabeth, New Jersey.  By investing in mass production utilizing the concept of interchangeable parts he was able to cut the price in half, while at the same time increasing his profit margin 530%.  Singer was the first who put a family machine, “the turtle back”, on the market. Eventually, the price came down to $10. According to PBS, “His partner, Edward Clark, pioneered installment purchasing plans and accepted trade-ins, causing sales to soar.” I. M. Singer expanded into the European market, establishing a factory in Clydebank, near Glaasgow, controlled by the parent company, becoming one of the first American-based multinational corporations, with agencies in Paris and Rio de Janeiro.


-If you are an inventor, risk and create something

-Make sure to get a patent for your invention

-Inventions can lead to other ideas or inventions


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