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Bishop, J. Leander (John Leander), 1820-1868 / A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 : exhibiting the origin and growth of the principal mechanic arts and manufactures, from the earliest colonial period to the adoption of the Constitution ; and comprising annals of the industry of the United States in machinery, manufactures and useful arts, with a notice of the important inventions, tariffs, and the results of each decennial census
Volume 3 (1868)

Manufactures of Bridgeport,   pp. 434-439

Page 435

The Howe Sewing Machine Manufactory,
Erected in 1883 by a Joint Stock Company, of which the principal stock-
holder and President is Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor of the Sewing
Machine. The buildings were erected under the superintendence
of A. C. Hobbs, the celebrated American Lock-picker, and consist
of a main building two hundred feet long, thirty-six feet wide, four
stories high, and a three-story wing one hundred by thirty, all of
brick. As the visitor passes from the office to the lower floor of the
main building, a long vista of busy machines and their attendants is
disclosed, and if he examine the operations critically he will be aston-
ished at the perfection of the mechanism. Here the heavier parts of
the Sewing Machine are prepared for the other fittings. So automatic
are some of the machines employed that one man can attend eleven,
and execute work that could not be done by hand for less than five
thousand dollars.
It may be proper to remark at the outset that in the construction of
Sewing Machines the system prevails which was first adopted in the
manufacture of fire-arms, of employing special mechanism adapted to
each operation, whereby such accuracy of finish is secured that every
part of the machine, from the smallest to the largest, is the exact coun-
terpart of every other piece of the kind, and may be used interchangea-
bly without any danger of a misfit. Being thus reduced to its ultimate
shape and use, each piece, whether of cast or wrought-iron or of steel,
usually passes through many hands and a series of machines, each
adapted to a particular operation upon it. Thus the little screws used
in the machine are made from rods of iron, and in the process pass
through four or five different operations on as many machines, some of
which cost as much as $400 each, before it is ready for the silver plater.
Another peculiarity of this manufacture is that there is a set of gauges
or duplicates provided for every section, spring, or bar of the machine,
and for each piece there is not only one gauge, but there are also separate
gauges for every variation and curve existing in these shapes, so that
every radius and every angle is precisely similar in each individual ma-
chine. These gauges are supplied to the various operatives, and are
made from originals to which no one has access but the Superintendent
of the Company. By conforming to these rules it is apparent that the
whole factory, however large, can be made to work with entire uni-
formity. Part after part goes through the required operations; passing
from one machine to another in regular sequence, thence to the inspect

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