Thursday, February 14, 2013

Margaret Knight

Patent model for Knight’s paper bag machine.

Born this day in 1838: Margaret Knight (1838–1914), inventor

Paper or plastic?

If you chose paper, thank Margaret Knight, who was born this day in 1838. She invented the flat-bottomed paper bag and the machine to manufacture it, receiving a patent in 1870. She was a gifted inventor, reportedly making her first invention at the age of 12 (inventing a safety device to prevent common accidents at the mill where she worked). She went on to receive many patents, including several designs for rotary engines.
Her patent for the flat-bottomed bag machine was nearly stolen out from under her. A man named Charles Annan witnessed her wooden model being cast in iron, copied the idea, and reached the patent office before her. Knight contested his patent. Annan’s argument was that a woman couldn’t have made the invention because she was, you know, a woman. Knight proved her case, however, and the patent was rightly issued to her.

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