Where Science Meets Muse

This Memorial Day, Remember Russell G. Woodward

Posted by Plish on May 26, 2011

Russell G. Woodward

My wife and I went on a hobbling stroll recently (I’m still recouping from the broken kneecap) and we walked over to the Sand Lake Cemetery, an old, (think mid 1800’s to present) small cemetery down the street. 

Almost in the center of a group of 100 some interments,  under the almost perpetual, mottled shade of multiple trees, one of which is a 6 foot diameter Maple, stands a light charcoal grey, waterstained monument.  The inscription isn’t visible to those that pass by on the road.   But, walk up the small sloped hill and the following words greet you:

Who was Russell G. Woodward and why is humanity indebted to him?

It turns out that Russell was an inventor of  industrial sewing machines.  Originally designed for making bags, (think seed, feed and more) he was instrumental in designing them to efficiently create apparel.

Russell was an innovator, someone who used his head and hands; understood the mechanics of motion and how people worked.  He knew what it was like to get investors, all the while investing time, energy and sweat in something he believed in.  As with many innovators, one of his greatest breakthroughs came not while in the machine shop experimenting, but while relaxing,  reading the Sunday paper.  Leisurely thumbing through the paper afforded Woodward’s mind a chance to disengage from the sticky design problems he was struggling with, allowing concepts to swim around with each other unencumbered deep within his subconscious. The result of the synthesis was a technology to make the “safe-elastic-stitch”.  The knit goods industry was transformed.

I was, and still am, in a state of awe and melancholy. 

The aspirations and dreams of a man: his work, his family and his eternal resting place. 

It’s a reminder of who we are – each person making a difference.

Stitches in fabric,  connected through time and space, by love, by sharing ourselves with a passion and joy. 



Human nature in its essence.

This Memorial Day, in addition to your loved ones that have passed on, remember those who make our lives better by sharing their innovations. 

And if you’re wearing machine stitched clothes, send a thought towards Lat: 42.415278 , Long: -88.050000 . 

I know I will.


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