Helen Blanchard

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Helen Augusta Blanchard (1840-1922). Source: Willard and Livermore, American Women, Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897, 97

Helen Augusta Blanchard (25 October 1840 – 1922) was an American inventor who received 28 patents between 1873 and 1915. She was known for her numerous inventions dealing with sewing machines and sewing technology.

Early life[edit]

Blanchard was born in Portland, Maine. Her father was Nathaniel Blanchard, a shipowner and businessman; her mother was Phoebe Buxton Blanchard. She demonstrated an inventive turn of mind at an early age, but did not receive her first patent until she was over thirty.

First inventions and move to Boston – 1870s[edit]

Her father suffered financial losses as a result of the business panic of 1866, resulting in the loss of the family homestead. Helen Blanchard moved to Boston, Massachusetts and patented several inventions relating to sewing machines in 1873 and 1875.[1]:518

Philadelphia and New York – late 1870s–1890s[edit]

After developing techniques for zigzag stitching and overseaming, Blanchard moved to Philadelphia, where she established the Blanchard Overseaming Company to market her inventions in the late 1870s or early 1880s. She also founded the Blanchard Hosiery Machine Company in 1882. She moved to New York in the early 1890s, and continued to patent a variety of inventions, including a pencil sharpener (U.S. Patent No. 304,900 issued September 9, 1884) and a hat sewing machine.[1]:520

Later life[edit]

Having profited from her commercial ventures, Blanchard was able to buy back the family homestead in Portland, and moved back there in 1901. She continued to patent inventions until suffering a stroke in 1916. She died in Providence, RI, in 1922 and is buried in the family plot in Portland.[1]:520[2]


  1. ^ a b c Stanley, Autumn (1993). Mothers and Daughters of Invention. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. 
  2. ^ Day, Lance; McNeil, Ian (1998). Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology (1. publ. in paperback. ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 0415193990.