Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Paper Bag Machine: Inventions by Women A-Z

Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914)
In 1850, Margaret E. Knight of York, Maine was one smart twelve-year-old. She had just made her first invention, a device to stop cotton mill machinery from operating, when thread or something else got stuck.

While visiting a cotton mill where her brothers worked as overseers, she had witnessed an accident. A thread had snagged, causing a shuttle to fly off its spool, and stabbed a young boy. As shocking as it was, accidents with flying shuttles were not uncommon. Eyes were lost and other injuries inflicted. 

Margaret thought it through and came up with a device that worked. It was never patented, but by the time she was a teenager, news had spread and the device was being used in mills elsewhere. It saved workers from who knows how many injuries.

1834 Lowell, Mass. A typical cotton mill in Margaret's time

Margaret liked inventing things and never forgot her first experience. After the Civil War, she found herself working for the Columbia Paper Bag  Company in Massachusetts. It seemed to her a better bag could be made, one that had a flat bottom and could stand up alone, making it easier to pack. She made drawings and designed a model for a machine that glued the bottom together. The machine was patented in 1871, and the new paper bag was a huge success. 

paper bag machine
Margaret's Paper Bag Machine
Unfortunately, a patent was not enough to prove that Margaret was the sole inventor. Charles Annan, who had watched her machine being built, stole her idea and filed a patent in his own name. Outraged, Margaret took him to court, where Annan then argued before the judge that she wasn't capable of creating such a device. Margaret did not back down and proved in court that she did indeed invent, build, and patent the machine. 

Margaret went on to receive over twenty patents for her inventions, among them a rotary engine, shoe-cutting machine, and a dress and skirt shield. When she died, her obituary described her as a "woman Edison." 

Image result for free image of flat bottom sack In 2006 she was inducted into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame. Her paper bag machine is still used today, with over 7000 machines in existence worldwide that continue to make the ever popular flat-bottom bag. Suppliers are in the U.S.A,. Germany, France and Japan. 







Sources: http://www.women-inventors.com/Margaret-Knight.asp
http://www.smithsonianlegacies.si.edu/objectdescription.cfm?ID=92
http://www.paperdiscoverycenter.org/margareteknight/;https://www.google.com/patents/US116842
https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/diversity/margaret-knight
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_E._Knight

Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl

29 comments:

  1. Hi Sharon - so pleased to see she fought for her rights and got them. Very clever lady or little girl to start with .. the guards must have saved so many unnecessary injuries in the mills ..

    I'm loving this series .. cheers Hilary

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    1. At twelve years old too. I admire her independance. She also strikes me as a very responsible girl. Wish there had been more about her.

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  2. Another clever lady, I didn't realise there were so many around.
    Great post.

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  3. I'm glad she proved she had created the machine. She sounds like she was an astonishing individual and very, very intelligent.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. It would be fun to interview her, hypothetically of course.

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  4. Now the paper bag is something we take for granted and probably never think there was a real person responsible for its creation. Yay Margaret!

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    1. (smile) I'll never look at a paper bag the same again.

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  5. What a great story! That flat bottom makes a world of difference. It's sad that I had never heard of Margaret before.

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  6. It's so sad that kids were put to work in mills like that. And the injuries? I shutter to think of them.

    I'm glad she got the patents for her inventions. Go girl!

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    1. Yes, sad. Lots has been written about that!

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  7. I should add her name to one of the paper bag people on my blog banner! She is their Queen!

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  8. Oh, that sounds good :) I need to check that out!

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  9. Thanks Sharon for this sweet lass who started inventing at such a young age! To her we owe a lot! A paper bag that stands up. And good on her for proving that she was the rightful patent owner. An inspiration.

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  10. Oh wow-another wow! What a spitfire!! Glad she took that idiot to court-she did win right? That jerk was just trying to say she could invent it because she was a woman. I love paper bags and the colourful ones especially.

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    1. Can't you just hear her in the courtroom? Spitfire is perfect :)

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  11. I am so glad she fought and won! Bravo Miss Knight!
    Sharon this has been so enlightening!

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  12. Good for her! What an inspiring woman.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, and nice to meet you Cindy!

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  13. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a paper industry hall of fame... :D But what an amazing lady! And she didn't back down from a fight either! :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. Hi! It surprised me too. I need to get over to your amazing blog :)

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  14. Fascinating! I never heard of this or her, sadly. Not surprising a man would try to take credit...thrilled and surprised she won...it was and in many ways still is a mans world. She must have been extraordinary.

    Adding you to my blog log in the right sidebar where I list those who've visited and commented through A-Z

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  15. Thanks for commenting Sandy., and nice to meet you :) checking your blog next...

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  16. Wow! I did not know this. I guess that is the importance of protecting intellectual property. Thanks for these wonderfully informative posts.. A great theme...

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  17. Thanks for visiting Archana...hope your are enjoying the a-z. I'll check out your blog soon :)

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  18. Very nice post, impressive. its quite different from other posts. Thanks for sharing.
    flipkart coupon

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