Dr. John Ireland Howe

1793 - 1876

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John Ireland Howe was born in Ridgefield, Connecticut on 20 July, 1793 and died in died in Birmingham, which was a borough of Derby, on September 10, 1876.

He initially studied medicine and served as a physician in a  almshouse in New York for several years. Bu 1829, he had moved to North Salem, New York.

During his residence in New York he experimented on India rubber, and in 1828 obtained a patent for a rubber compound. He built a factory for the manufacture of rubber, which proved unsuccessful. Mr. Howe says: "So far as 1 know, I was the first person who attempted to utilize rubber by combining other substances with, it, but I did not happen to stumble upon the right substance."

He then started to experiment with a machine for the production of pins, and, by 1832 had patented a machine which resulted in the award of a silver medal by the American institute. A second machine was completed early in 1833, he headed to Europe to obtain patents for his new machines. He was not successful in producing  a profitable business and returned to the U.S. and  organized the Howe manufacturing company for the purpose of making pins with the machine he had invented. Dr. Howe was appointed general agent of the company, and continued in that capacity until 1865, having the management of the manufacturing department. Production was started in New York in 1836, but the factory was moved to Birmingham in 1838. Late in 1838 a new "rotary machine" was invented by Dr. Howe, which he patented in 1840. For upward of thirty years this machine was used without any material improvement or alteration, and in 1842 Dr. Howe was awarded a gold medal by the American institute for the "best solid headed pins," which were made on this machine. Subsequently he invented improvements in the methods used for "sheeting" pins, and was associated in the invention of means by which japanned "mourning pins" were made.

Howe's machine is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. He lived on Caroline Street in Derby. The building is currently owned by the derby Historical Society and hopes are that it will one day be converted into an industrial museum for the Valley with Howe's machine being returned from Washington for permanent display in Derby.



This rare photo shows Dr. Howe standing in front of the Howe House on Caroline Street.

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