Before the sewing machine became available to the general public, making clothes was the chief occupation of half the human race. Sewing by hand is time-consuming and a strain on the eyes, so it is no surprise that the publisher of 'Godey's Ladies Book' said in 1856 "Next to the plough, this sewing machine is perhaps humanity's most blessed instrument".
The first truly practical machine became available in 1850 - one did not have to be an expert machinist to operate it. Well constructed, durable machines were made by a number of companies in Ontario, and soon became a leading export from Canada. By the late 1870's, an economic depression and overproduction saw these companies disappear one by one. The heyday of Ontario-made machines only lasted 35 years.
In the nineteenth century, nearly 46,000 patents were issued for some kind of mechanism to do with sewing machines. In the twentieth century, more than 4,000 different kinds of sewing machines were made. In the twenty-first century we take sewing machines for granted, although we are still amazed by all the fascinating things they can do beyond simply sewing a seam