Walter Hunt

Walter Hunt (1796–1859) was an American mechanic. He lived and worked in New York state. Through the course of his work he became renowned for being a prolific inventor, notably of the lockstitch sewing machine (1833), safety pin (1849), a forerunner of the Winchester repeating rifle, a successful flax spinner, knife sharpener, streetcar bell, hard-coal-burning stove, artificial stone, street sweeping machinery, fountain pen, the velocipede, and the ice plough.

Walter Hunt did not realize the significance of many of these when he invented them; today, many are widely-used products. He thought little of the safety pin, selling the patent for a paltry sum of $400 (roughly $10,000 in 2008 dollars) to the company W R Grace and Company, to pay a man to whom he owed $15. He failed to patent his sewing machine at all, because he feared that it would create unemployment among seamstresses. (This led to an 1854 court case when the machine was re-invented by Elias Howe; Hunt’s machine shown to have design flaws limiting its practical use). In seeking patents for his inventions, Hunt used the services of Charles Grafton Page, a patent solicitor who had previously worked at the US Patent Office. Like Howe, Hunt is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

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