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Non-Singer Vintage Sewing Machines
This newest section of the singersewinginfo website is dedicated to vintage sewing machines that were not made by Singer.
Please use the menu on the left to see progress so far, but be aware that we are still in the process of adding content for this area, so it can change quite quickly.
PLEASE HELP US TO BUILD THIS SECTION. Any contributions that you can make with regard to the history of particular manufacturers, details of specific machine models, images for the photo gallery etc. would all be appreciated
History tells us that the first practical sewing machine that actually worked, was patented in America in 1846 by Elias Howe. His machine had a needle with an eye at the point which was pushed through fabric to create a loop on the underside. A shuttle slipped another thread through the loop and a stitch was made. Elias Howe struggled at first to interest people in his invention, then later he struggled to protect his patent rights from other inventers, like Isaac Singer and Allen Wilson.
However not many years went by before Britain’s Victorian inventors saw that the way forward in the garment making business was the sewing machine. Sugden and Bradbury were around quite early on followed by the Pitt Brothers, both starting up factories in the early 1850’s. To start with they made copies of the American machines and men like James Weir passed off imported machines as their own inventions.
The Victorians love of new technology soon saw dozens of companies producing sewing machines for the UK home market. Lots of companies became household names, like Jones and Company, but even more fell by the wayside. The Moldacot Pocket Sewing Machine Company Limited became famous for all the wrong reasons. Thousands of cheap machines were produced that didn’t work very well and the company went bankrupt 2 years later. Many other companies went the same way and there were few British sewing machine companies around by the start of the 20th century. By then the Germans and French were producing good machines, but it was the start of the Great War that damaged the industry beyond repair. The only British owned companies still producing large numbers of sewing machines by the mid 1920’s were Vickers Ltd and the Jones Sewing Machine Co.Ltd. although of course Singer had a huge factory in Scotland.
The American company Singer went from strength to strength, with its first overseas factory built in Glasgow in 1867. Then in 1871 it moved to a larger factory at Bridgeton. In 1884 another factory was built on a 46 acre site at Kilbowie, Clydebank, Scotland. One of the early models produced here was the 15K. The model 15 is the longest manufactured sewing machine in history, with models still being made in China and India today. Later the Singer Company bought out and closed down the Wheeler and Wilson factory and used their expertise to produce the model 66. This lead on to the production of the smaller ¾ sized 99. Singer also opened factories in Canada and Europe. The 1914-18 war saw bullets and guns produced in the factories, instead of sewing machines but at the end of the war, production soon returned to normal.
Within a space of just over 50 years the sewing machine had been invented and become a part of life. Most of the original inventors and entrepreneurs had fallen by the wayside but just a few had gone on to become multi-millionaires and their names part of our day to day language.