In 1850, Howe removed to New York, and began in a small way to manufacture machines to order. He was in partnership with a Mr. Bliss, but for several years the business was so unimportant that upon the death of his partner, in 1855, he was enabled to buy out that gentleman’s interest, and thus become the sole proprietor of his patent. Soon after this his business began to increase, and continued until his own proper profits and the royalty which the courts compelled other manufacturers to pay him for the use of his invention grew from $300 to $200,000 per annum. In 1867, when the extension of his patent expired, it is stated that he had earned a total of two millions of dollars by it. It cost him large sums to defend his rights, however, and he was very far from being as wealthy as was commonly supposed, although a very rich man.
In the Paris Exposition of 1867, he exhibited his machines, and received the gold medal of the Exposition, and the Cross of the Legion of Honor, in addition, as a compliment to him as a manufacturer and inventor.
He contributed money liberally to the aid of the Union in the late war, and enlisted as a private soldier in the Seventeenth Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, with which command he went to the field, performing all the duties of his position until failing health compelled him to leave the service. Upon one occasion the Government was so much embarrassed that it could not pay the regiment of which he was a member. Mr. Howe promptly advanced the money, and his comrades were saved from the annoyances which would have attended the delay in paying them. He died at Brooklyn, Long Island, on the 3d of October, 1867.
Mr. Howe will always rank among the most distinguished of American inventors; not only because of the unusual degree of completeness shown in his first conception of the sewing-machine, but because of the great benefits which have sprung from it. It has revolutionized the industry of the world, opened new sources of wealth to enterprise, and lightened the labor of hundreds of thousands of working people. Many a pale-faced, hollow-eyed woman, who formerly sat sewing her life away for a mere pittance, blesses the name of Elias Howe, and there is scarcely a community in the civilized world but contains the evidence of his genius, and honors him as the benefactor of the human race.
RICHARD M. HOE.