|Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914)|
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.
|Margaret's Paper Bag 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."
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.
Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl