Margaret E. Knight

Margaret E. Knight

American inventor
Date of Birth: 14.02.1838
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Margaret Knight
  2. Early Life and Work
  3. The Safety Stopper
  4. Invention of Flat-Bottom Paper Bags
  5. Battle for Patent Rights
  6. Recognition and Legacy

Biography of Margaret Knight

Early Life and Work

Margaret E. Knight, an American inventor who was nicknamed the 'Edison in a skirt' for her numerous patents, was born in 1838 in York, Maine. She grew up in a family with her father James Knight and mother Hannah Teal. After losing her father at an early age, Margaret started working in a textile factory at the age of 12. It was there that she first came close to her first invention.

The Safety Stopper

A workplace accident that resulted in someone getting injured deeply affected Margaret, and she couldn't get it out of her mind. As a result, she came up with a stopper that would halt the machine if anything unwanted entered it. Later, this invention found its application in mills to stop grinding stones. This device saved many lives, as accidents in mills were common during that time.

Invention of Flat-Bottom Paper Bags

After the Civil War, Margaret worked at a paper bag factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. As she observed the bags being produced, she contemplated how much more logical and practical bags with a flat square bottom would be. She decided to improve the machines and embarked on her inventive journey once again. After numerous experiments, Margaret successfully created a machine to manufacture flat-bottomed paper bags, which are still widely used today.

Battle for Patent Rights

Unfortunately, there was a case of theft involved. While Margaret was working on her wooden machine, a man named Charles Annan stole her idea and attempted to construct a steel version of the machine to obtain a patent for himself. However, Margaret refused to give up without a fight. She took the thief to court and filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The case was risky and costly, but Margaret was so outraged that she preferred to spend her resources rather than accept such a monstrous injustice.

Recognition and Legacy

It is worth noting that the evidence Annan presented at the time would be considered laughable now. His main argument against Knight was that she was a woman and, therefore, incapable of inventing anything. In response, Margaret presented all her drawings and notes to the court, which she meticulously kept throughout the development stages. The court ruled in favor of Margaret Knight. In 1871, she received her patent and later sold her machine to the 'Eastern Paper Bag Co.' for a considerable sum of money.

Today, paper bags are produced almost exactly as Margaret envisioned them. They are widely used worldwide and are considered the most environmentally friendly packaging for products. After her triumph, Margaret did not stop inventing. She went on to create nearly 100 different inventions, obtaining patents for 20 of them.

When Margaret Knight passed away in October 1914 at the age of 76, her obituary referred to her as the 'Edison in a skirt'. She never married or had children. In 1871, Knight was made a chevalier of the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour, awarded by Queen Victoria herself.

In 2006, Margaret Knight was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.