invention of the sewing machine

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pages: 256 words: 76,433

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

big-box store, business cycle, clean water, East Village, feminist movement, income inequality, informal economy, invention of the sewing machine, Maui Hawaii, McMansion, megacity, race to the bottom, Skype, special economic zone, trade liberalization, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, upwardly mobile, Veblen good

I’m not sure if I’ll ever make all or even most of what I wear—few will—but learning to sew promised to shift the way I thought of clothing. Human beings have been sewing for thousands of years; some peg it to the last Ice Age.1 It’s store-bought clothing, in its inflexible, prefab form, that is the recent invention. When we entirely gave up homemade and custom clothing, we lost a lot of variation, quality, and detail in our wardrobes, and the right fit along with it. The invention of the sewing machine revolutionized society and fundamentally changed people’s everyday lives. It offered women relief from the countless hours and tedium of hand-sewing. According to the Museum of American Heritage, it took about fourteen hours to make a man’s dress shirt and at least ten for a simple dress.2 Sewing by hand could be enjoyable, but unless you had money to hire a dressmaker or a tailor, it was an obligation to sew and mend every single garment that you, your husband, and your children wore.


words: 49,604

The Weightless World: Strategies for Managing the Digital Economy by Diane Coyle

"Robert Solow", barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, blue-collar work, Bretton Woods, business cycle, clean water, computer age, Corn Laws, creative destruction, cross-subsidies, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, dematerialisation, Diane Coyle, Edward Glaeser, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, financial deregulation, full employment, George Santayana, global village, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, income inequality, informal economy, invention of the sewing machine, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, labour market flexibility, laissez-faire capitalism, lump of labour, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, McJob, microcredit, moral panic, Network effects, new economy, Nick Leeson, night-watchman state, North Sea oil, offshore financial centre, pension reform, pensions crisis, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, spinning jenny, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, two tier labour market, very high income, War on Poverty, winner-take-all economy, working-age population

They were expensive, less versatile than human stitchers, and would have destroyed many women’s livelihoods. Sewing machines were an immediate hit on the domestic market, but it took 40 years for the design to be refined to make them simple and cheap enough for most households. It was not until the 1890s that industrial machines good enough for garment manufacturers went on sale. It took half a century to get from the invention of the sewing machine to the birth of the rag trade sweatshop.9 Another wellknown case study establishes that it took 40 years for commercial gains to result from the introduction of the electric dynamo in the 1880s.10 The Weightless World 7 In fact, there is an entire sub-branch of economic research into the generally slow speed with which new technology is diffused through the economy. As far back as 1935 the French historian Marc Bloch noted that it took a millennium for the water mill to be widely adopted because people moved about so little in the Dark Ages and mediaeval times.


pages: 1,104 words: 302,176

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, deindustrialization, Detroit bankruptcy, discovery of penicillin, Donner party, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, feminist movement, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, high net worth, housing crisis, immigration reform, impulse control, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of the sewing machine, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, Loma Prieta earthquake, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, Mason jar, mass immigration, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, occupational segregation, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, rent control, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, undersea cable, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, washing machines reduced drudgery, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration, yellow journalism, yield management

Processed food was largely unavailable, and fresh meat was unsafe, so the diet was a monotonous succession of salted pork and starchy foods. Unless home-grown, fruit was all but unavailable except during the summer months, and vegetables available in the winter were limited to a few root vegetables that could be stored. Clothing was crude and, for most women, home-made, and the labor needed to create clothing before the invention of the sewing machine created a further burden for the rural and urban housewife. Dwelling units in 1870 universally lacked indoor plumbing, running water, waste disposal, electricity, telephone, and central heating. Although middle-class and upper-class families built homes in cities and nearby suburbs that today constitute cities’ historic districts, farmers and members of the urban working class faced much more difficult living conditions.

Unmarried women were herded into “women’s jobs,” including household servants, clerks, school teachers, and medical nurses. Women worked also in manufacturing, primarily in textiles and apparel; the majority of these working women were young, childless, and/or widows.63 Just as the mechanization of the steel industry eliminated the personal satisfaction of skilled workers and forced employees into a homogenous and highly regimented work force, so the invention of the sewing machine created the archetypal sweatshop, in which rows and rows of women sat in front of their machines producing clothing to the drumbeat of their supervisors demands for an ever faster pace of work. The harsh conditions present in 1870, before the arrival of the sewing machine, combine poor working conditions and low pay: I have worked from dawn to sundown, not stopping to get one mouthful of food, for twenty-five cents.


pages: 877 words: 182,093

Wealth, Poverty and Politics by Thomas Sowell

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, British Empire, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, correlation does not imply causation, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, European colonialism, full employment, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, income per capita, invention of the sewing machine, invisible hand, low skilled workers, mass immigration, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, New Urbanism, profit motive, rent control, Scramble for Africa, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, trickle-down economics, very high income, War on Poverty

Within a larger political universe, many economic activities that once took place within the home or farm, can take place in commercial and industrial enterprises specializing in such activities and providing the same goods and services better or cheaper. For example, when Alexander Hamilton surveyed the American economy in the early days of United States, he found that most clothes worn by Americans were home-made. That may seem strange today because of today’s far larger market for industrially produced clothing, at lower production costs, in part due to economies of scale, and in part due to the invention of the sewing machine in the nineteenth century, as well as far lower transportation costs, due to the invention of railroads, and later trucks, as well as technological advances in seaborne and then airborne transportation. On the world stage, and over the millennia of recorded history, the expansion of production from the home or local village level to successively larger markets was facilitated by successively larger political units, culminating in nations and empires.


pages: 964 words: 296,182

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones

anti-communist, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, deindustrialization, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, fixed income, invention of the sewing machine, joint-stock company, land reform, land tenure, means of production, New Journalism, New Urbanism, night-watchman state, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, unemployed young men, wage slave

But striking changes also occurred in capital cities, whose rapid expansion was signalled by the building booms of the 1850s and 1860s. Kentish Town, where the Marx family settled, was one of the new areas of housing developed during this construction boom. The boom was accompanied by even more striking changes in the production of consumer goods. In clothing, footwear and furniture, as well as building, a technological revolution occurred during the 1850s. The invention of the sewing machine in 1846 and the band saw in 1858, and the adoption of mass sewing and cutting from 1850, provided the basis for the take-off of a large-scale ready-made clothing industry. The application of the sewing machine to shoe sewing in 1857 removed the production bottleneck imposed by hand-sewn shoemaking. At the same time, the use of steam power in sawmills, assisted by the use of wood-working machines from the end of the 1840s, enormously accelerated furniture production.