Elias Howe Jr. (1819-1867) is credited with the invention of the sewing machine, one of the most important innovations of the Nineteenth Century. Though Howe was not the first person to develop a sewing machine, he introduced the first efficient and practical version. In 1846 Howe received the first United States patent for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. The lockstitch remains the most common mechanical stitch made by sewing machines. This particular model also introduced critical improvements that form the basis for the sewing machine design employed today, including a needle with the eye at the point and an automatic feed. The transition from hand stitching to mechanical stitching made possible by the sewing machine revolutionized the garment industry. Click the image to expand.