By Nancy J. Farrier
|Paper Bag Folding Machine Patent Model|
Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource
|Patent Paper Bag|
1870 M. E. Knight
Margaret E. Knight was born in Maine in 1838. Her father died when she was a young girl and her family moved to New Hampshire. Margaret received some formal education but may have had to quit school to work. She had a particular love for her father’s toolbox and spent a lot of time making and fixing toys for her brothers.
When she was twelve, Margaret was at a cotton mill where her brothers worked. Stories vary, but she may have been working there or was taking lunch to her brothers who were employed at the mill. While there, she saw an accident. A shuttle from a weaving loom flew off and hit a worker, injuring him. This happened fairly often, but Margaret determined to figure out how to fix the problem.
|Patent M. E. Knight 1890|
In 1867, when she was 18, Margaret moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. She got a job at the Columbia Paper Bag company bundling paper bags. These were flat bags, more like an envelope. The flat bottomed bags had been designed, but had to be made by hand and were too expensive to mass produce.
For two years, Margaret worked on her design for a machine that would cut, fold and glue the paper bags, thus making them affordable for everyone and available to all. Her design model was made from wood first and then she found a machinist to help her with the working model. They also hammered out some design flaws to improve on her original design.
In 1870, Maragaret applied for a US Patent only to find that someone else
already owned the patent for her machine. One of the men who used to come into the machine shop stole her idea and got his patent before her. Margaret was not to be outdone. She gathered up her diary, her designs, patterns and some friends as witnesses and headed to Washington to plead her case.
|Compound Rotary Engine|
Patent 1902 M. E. Knight
Charles Annan, the businessman who stole her idea, said she couldn’t have designed this machine because she was a woman. Nevertheless, Margaret won her case in July of 1871 and the patent became hers. She went on to open her own company, the Eastern Paper Bag company. Her bags were very popular and became the most used way to carry items from stores.
|Sole Cutting Machine|
1890 Patent M. E. Knight
She later developed an interest in the automobile trade and worked on parts for their rotary engines. By the time she died in 1915, Margaret held 26 different patents for machines she designed. She did not make much money from them though. She never married, but spent her whole life doing what she could to make life easier for others.
|Boring Tool Patent|
1903 M. E. Knight
Have you heard of Margaret? I’m sure you’ve used paper bags, right? Please leave a comment below for a chance to win an ebook copy one of my books, The Ranchero’s Love or Bandolero. If you already have the book, I can gift the copy to a friend of your choice. Please leave your email address to participate in the giveaway.
Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.
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