[EAS] Margaret Knight

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Mon Mar 29 17:19:59 EST 2004

Subject:   Margaret Knight

Another interesting bio item from NewsScan Daily. This time no book is
referenced, so let a google search lead you to many relevant links,
such as <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blknight.htm>
and a picture of her machine at
The women inventor patent share of annually granted U.S. origin
patents rose from 2.6 percent in 1977 to 10.3 percent in 1998. See

     "I was called a tomboy, but that made little impression
     on me. I sighed sometimes because I was not like other
     girls, but wisely concluded that I couldn't help it,
     and sought further consolation from my tools."
                                          (Margaret Knight)

(from NewsScan Daily, 29 March 2004)

     Today's Honorary Subscriber is the American inventor Margaret
Knight (1838-1914), who has been called the Queen of Paper Bags for
her invention of a machine that folded and glued paper into the
flatbottomed brown bags used by shoppers. 
     Knight first built a wooden model of her bag-making machine,
which she brought to a machine shop to produce the working iron model
required for a patent. A machinist in the shop appropriated her design
and secured a patent in his name, but Knight brought a patent
interference lawsuit and succeeded in acquiring the patent in 1870.
She set up the Eastern Paper Bag Company and began to earn royalties
from her invention.
     Today Knight's original box-making machine is housed in the
Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Museum. The paper bag-folding machine was
not Knight's only invention. Besides devices that improved her paper
bag machine, her other inventions included a new window frame and sash
design, a numbering machine, an automatic boring tool, and a spinning
or sewing machine. The total number of her inventions is generally
thought to be eighty-nine. They earned her a good deal of money, but
when she died in 1914 her fortune had dwindled down to a mere $300.
     Knight was born in York, Maine in 1838 and came up with her first
invention at the age of twelve. After witnessing a worker being struck
by a spindle flying off its moorings, she designed a covered shuttle
that is still in use today. She was working at the Columbia Paper Bag
Company in Massachusetts when she designed her flat-bottomed paper bag
machine, replacing the envelope shaped bags then in use. Although
Knight was not the first woman to receive a patent, she was among the
most prolific of female inventors, having some 27 patents to her
credit. Her accomplishments were such that one obituary described her
as a "woman Edison."

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