Elias Howe is credited with receiving the first patent for a modern, practical sewing machine on Sept. 10, 1846. Records show that patents were applied for before this date; the earliest was on July 17, 1790 by Thomas Saint.
Walter Hunt applied for a patent in 1854 and showed that, since 1834, he had been selling sewing machines that featured a pointed needle and a shuttle. His application was denied by the patent office for abandonment. The courts upheld that the patent law protects inventors who introduce their inventions to the public. They believed an inventor was foolish to allow a practical invention to not be patented until the same result was achieved independently by another inventor.