Born in 1838 in Maine, Margaret Knight showed an interest in machinery even as a young girl. At the age of twelve Knight went to the cotton cloth mill where her brothers worked in New Hampshire. While she was there an accident occurred which severely injured a worker. Concerned for the safety of the workers, she returned home determined to make the mill a safer place. She created a device that stopped the action on the machines at the mill should something go wrong. The mill owners put her invention to work immediately.
Paper bags have been around for hundreds of years. They have been used for many different things. Even the famous artist Pablo Picasso painted pictures on them. For a long time these bags did not have square bottoms and they were cut and glued by hand. Later a paper feeding machine was made which greatly improved their production. However, it wasn’t until Margaret Knight invented an improvement to the paper bag machine that the bag we recognize today was made. Knight worked to develop machinery that would produce a square bottom to the bag gluing it automatically. She succeeded in 1867 at the age of twenty-nine.
Before her death in 1914 Margaret Knight had received 27 patents including advancements in shoe manufacturing machinery, new window designs, improvements to tin can productions, and a "silent" automobile motor.
Try the activity "Paper Bag Play" and come up with your own ideas for using a paper bag.
Books for Children
- Brainstorm! The Stories Of Twenty American Kid Inventors by Tom Tucker - This book is inspirational for children 10 years and older. It highlights the success of inventions by children and real patents they have earned in short interesting biographies. One of the biographies included is Margaret Knight. ( amazon.com has it)