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"Improvements in Sewing Machines." Patent no. 1433, filed by C. Raymond, 1872

 

Patent no. 1433. Filing year 1872.

"Improvements in Sewing Machines," C. Raymond.

For most of our history, the close relationship between Canada and the United States has been conducive to the flow of people and ideas across the border. Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell, for example, divided his working life between Canada and the U.S., while inventors such as Thomas Leopold Willson and John J. Wright developed their ideas south of the border before applying them here.

Charles Raymond of Guelph, Ontario, could be considered an example of what the Canadian media has recently termed the "reverse brain drain." Born in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Raymond had already invented two types of sewing machines before legal patent disputes with the Singer Company inspired him to relocate in 1860 to Montréal, the hub of Canada's textile industry. He soon lost money on a sewing-machine business and, in 1862, he and 15 tradesmen relocated to Guelph where he established the Raymond Sewing Machine Company. Here he finally found success, making and selling sewing machines and accessories based on a string of patents, including the one above.

Patent no. 1433 is of particular interest because it was preceded by a caveat filed by Raymond in 1869. A caveat, as it applies to patents, is a legal notification of the intention to file a patent for a concept still under development. Raymond's caveat claimed the invention of "the application of a check, lever, or spring to a single thread sewing machine, by which the thread is held up to or on the hook or looper, and thus prevented from dropping stitches." He just wasn't sure where to put the lever, but promised to perfect the design "as speedily as possible." His 1872 patent, above, included the completed lever mechanism.

Caveats were typically used when the stakes were high. One famous example is American inventor Elisha Gray's caveat for a telephone, filed in the United States Patent Office just two hours after Alexander Graham Bell filed his telephone patent. The sewing machine business in the 1800s was particularly competitive, and Raymond's experience with Singer in the U.S. may have prompted him to take extra precautions.

Over the years, Raymond's business instincts served him well. His Canadian base proved advantageous during the U.S. Civil War, which hampered his American competitors. Later, his emphasis on selling to European markets paid off, while many Canadian competitors failed because of their concentration on the domestic market. In 1870, he employed nearly 80 workers; ten years later, he owned two factories with a workforce of 200.

Raymond's health problems prompted his semi-retirement in 1877, though he continued to invent. He filed a number of patents unrelated to sewing, including an improvement to skates (no. 13026) and a cash register (no. 43108), and was working on a gasoline engine before his death in 1904. A religious man, Raymond was also involved in the local temperance movement, which doubtless would have put him at odds with fellow Guelph innovator and industrialist George Sleeman.

References

Grosvenor, Edwin S., and Morgan Wesson. Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man Who Invented the Telephone. New York: Harry S. Abrams, 1997.

Nash-Chambers, Debra L. "Raymond, Charles." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=41131&query=raymond
(accessed November 7, 2005).

Van Dulken, Stephen. Inventing the 19th Century: 100 Inventions That Shaped the Victorian Age, From Aspirin to the Zeppelin. New York: New York University Press, 2001.