Margaret E. Knight
Margaret Knight invented a machine that could automatically cut, fold, and glue flat-bottomed paper bags. Knight's invention revolutionized the paper bag industry by replacing the work of thirty people with one machine.
Born in York, Maine, Knight went to work in a New Hampshire textile mill following her father's death when she was still a child. After witnessing a serious accident caused by a malfunctioning loom, Knight was inspired to create her first invention, a safety device that became a standard fixture on looms. That device was the first of many technical innovations that would touch a wide range of industries.
Before Knight invented her paper-bag machine, flat-bottomed bags could only be made manually and at great expense. With her innovation, flat-bottomed bags could be mass manufactured, replacing less useful v-shaped bags. Her invention was used worldwide. An updated variation of her machine was still in use at the end of the twentieth century.
Knight founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Between 1870 and 1915, the inventor was granted patents for at least twenty-six inventions, ranging from a window frame, to a sole-cutting machine for shoemaking, to a compound rotary engine.