We take common household items like shoelaces, chewing gum, and Velcro for granted, but someone had to invent them. Margaret Knight invented the flat-bottomed paper bag we use for lunches and groceries.
- Margaret was born in 1838 in Maine. Her father died when she was very young and her mother struggled to raise her and her siblings.
- From the time she was little, Margaret liked to fix and invent things.
- When she was twelve, she saw an accident in a cloth factory. She invented a device that would automatically stop a machine if something were caught in it. The factories began using the device soon after.
- Later, Margaret worked in a paper bag factory. At that time, paper bags weren’t flat on the bottom. Margaret thought about how much easier they’d be to use if they were flat and she went to work creating a machine that would make the bags.
- Charles Annan spied on her and tried to steal her invention, getting a patent for himself. Margaret took him to court. Charles said that women were incapable of being inventors, but Margaret offered proof that the bag machine was really her invention. She won the court case and got a patent.
- Margaret is most famous for her bag machine, but she went on to make 100 inventions and receive 20 patents.
- Device: a machine or tool
- Patent: a type of copyright for inventions that makes it illegal for other inventors to copy
Questions and Answers
Question: Did Margaret go to college?
Answer: Margaret attended school when she was young and learned to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. She left school at the age of twelve to work in a cotton mill.
Watch a video about Margaret.
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Tobin, Declan. (2020). Margaret E. Knight Facts. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/margaret-e-knight/