Elias Howe (1819-1867) was born in Massachusetts, USA. He produced the first sewing machine in 1846. Despite securing his patent it was very difficult to find investors to finance his invention. He travelled to England where he hoped to have a better reception. After two years of seeking finance he returned penniless to Boston. He discovered that in his absence Isaac Singer had stolen his patent and set up a sewing machine factory that was making money out of it. Howe took Singer to court and after a fight that lasted from 1849 to 1854 Singer was eventually compelled to pay Howe considerable royalties on every machine sold. However it is Singer´s name, not Howe´s that is commonly associated with the sewing machine.
In 1851 Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875) and Edward Clark founded the Singer Corporation.
Best known for its sewing machines, Singer was also involved in Manhattan real estate in the 1800s through Edward Clark (Clark had built The Dakota apartments, at 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York , where John Lenon was shot in 1980).
The Dakota apartments
In 1955 one of the heirs of the Singer sewing machine fortune, Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956) and his wife Francine Clark opened the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamsworth, MA. The Clark Collection includes XIX century paintings from French impressionism and works by American masters – Winslow Homer and John Singer Sergeant, among others.