Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to conceive of the idea of a sewing machine. Others came up with the idea, one as early as 1790, and some had patented their designs and produced working machines — in one case at least 80 of them.
However, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and an automatic feed.
Words of Wisdom
When the first inventor allows his discovery to slumber for eighteen years, with no probability of its ever being brought into useful activity, and when its only resurrected to supplant and strangle and invention which has been given to the public, and which has been made practically useful, all reasonable presumption should be in favor of the inventor who has been the means of conferring the real benefit upon the world.