Walter Hunt

Just down the lane from the massive Elias Howe family plot–practically in the shadow of it–is the humble grave of Walter Hunt.

walter_hunt1Anyone who has read the long and complicated story of the invention of the sewing machine will know the name Walter Hunt. He is one of the inventors who fought bitterly in court with Howe over the patent for the “lock stitch” machine that was so revolutionary. Hunt had invented a similar machine eight years prior to Howe; however, he failed to ever get around to getting a patent or mass-producing it. He lost the fight, clearly, but there is no doubt that his lack of follow-through had cost him millions of dollars.

It’s more than a little ironic that this poor guy has a small, subdued grave about 50 feet from the huge family plot and giant bust of Howe.
hunt-howe

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Hunt was a prolific inventor, working literally up until the moment he died–which was suddenly, in his workshop. He invented a number of other things, many of which were quite ingenious. Sadly, he struggled financially for most of his life, so he sold a lot of the patents for paltry sums to pay off his debts.

Hunt is credited with inventing:

  • the first sewing machine in 1833
  • the safety pin in 1849
  • an early model of a Winchester repeated rifle
  • a flax spinner (for making rope)
  • a knife sharpener
  • a foot-operated streetcar bell (after witnessing a child get run over by a trolley)
  • artificial stone
  • the street sweeper
  • the velocipede (no idea what that is)
  • the ice plough
  • the fountain pen/inkwell
  • the paper shirt collar

Alex Askaroff has a great biography of him here, if you want to read more.

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