Elias Howe invented a mechanical sewing machine in 1846, but for the most part, users had to improvise suitable needles for the next 20 years. Then, in 1864, Hopson and Brooks made inventions under the concept of a wire-pointing-and-compressing machine and, in 1866, the Excelsior Needle Company was organized in Torrington. Through WWI, that company manufactured a variety of items, such as wheel spokes and surgical needles. Then, in the Great Depression of 1929, engineer Edmund Brown was charged with dreaming up new products that the company could produce. His creation was a way of trapping needle rollers in a thin outer race whose ends were crimped over the pointed ends of the needles, holding them in place.