Sewing machine, Wilcox & Gibbs - Victorian Collections
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Sewing machine, Wilcox & Gibbs
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I Wouldn't like to meet him in a dark alley! Descriptions at the time comment on his large nose and piercing blue eyes. Gibbs later recounted, "I was in Philadelphia in selling the first of my first two inventions in the office of Emery, Houghton and Company, when James Willcox came in.
He remarked that he was a dealer in new inventions, and he asked me to come to his shop in a Masonic Hall and build a model of my machine for him". It was C H Willcox who patented the Automatic tension, patentfeed improvements, patent and in Willcox also patented the method of removing the twists in the thread that caused so many missed stitches on the early models.
Patent was for his hemming feet and patent was for noise reduction on the feed. The patents related to the formation of a twisted chain stitch by a rotating hook and straight eye-pointed needle. Another simple stroke of genius.
He was on his way to becoming a rich man. I am guessing that around this point he must have bought back his rights to his invention from John J Ruckman as there is no mention of him to be found later. They are still one of the premier precision engineers in America, though the last of the family connections finished in the 's. Lucien Sharpe joined the business as an apprentice in and became a full partner in J. Although they were a small company, working out of little more that large sheds to begin with, they were about to expand at a phenomenal rate.
Originally working out of small buildings by the 's they had expanded into a purpose built manufacturing factory in Providence. This is the birth of mass production at the company as orders rocketed. They visited several small arms manufacturers to get ideas of mass production and used them in their setting up. The cost of specialist metal lathes were the biggest outlay but that soon became irrelevant as orders exploded.
The biggest problem that they encountered was producing and perfecting the hook mechanism that James had originally carved out of mountain ivy. However this, like all the other problems, were eventually overcome. This meant extraordinary production figures could be met as each sewing machine could be assembled in less than half an hour.
The first sewing machines were started in the spring of and finally finished in November and by the outbreak of the American Civil War they were producing thousands of sewing machines a year.
This helped take away some of the losses of the huge set up costs that had spiralled to ten times their original figures. The orders then went up to 1, then 10, Profits soon started to roll in. One cannot but admire the beauty and accuracy of the machine's movements, and the entire absence of all noise, even when it is running at the rate of two-thousand stitches and upwards per minute.
It was these points that were later to produce the wonderful machine collectors seek today. Also their training schemes were so good that unskilled apprentices were enrolled and slowly taught their skills over a training period of five years. The adjustment of the needle is an important feature and often falls to untrained women and children employed as machinists to try and accomplish this. It has long be desired to accomplish this by an automatic action, without failure and with no need of skill.
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Among those who worked on Willcox and Gibbs machines at the Brown and Sharpe factory was one Henry Leland who was in charge of the sewing-machine assembly department from until See a little note of interest I have added at the bottom about Henry Leland. And so inthe company had finally began the manufacture of a chainstitch sewing machine which gained popularity at once.
Half the price, half the size and half the threading. Incidentally that was double what Richard Mott Wanzer would later sell his Little Wanzer lockstitch for. Don't forget the weekly wage was little more than a few dollars in The machines were a great success as they were cheaper than the competitors and generally regarded as the most reliable of any single thread or chainstitch machines.
Gibbs advertised his machines as having an elastic chain stitch and they certainly handled many different fabrics with ease. Early Machines have a wealth of patent info on them. This one is very unusual as having an date. In fact there are five pre dates! Once all these patents expired it was no longer necessary to have them on the plates. And then inthe brainwave of all sewing machine brainwaves, an automatic tension.
The only sewing machine in the world without a tension. This was truly mass production on a superb quality and scale.
Willcox & Gibbs Survey
Their machines were much lighter and smoother than the competitions and were ideal for such difficult tasks as hat making. Offering Free trials at home was another stroke of genius as no one would want to give a machine back once they had used it. The Automatic No Tension Sewing Machine possesses features and advantages which make it the most valuable sewing machine in the world.
It is superior and in advance of every other machine. It is the only sewing machine in the world without a tension. Ladies careful of health should have no other. Let us go back a little and look at exports in the early years of the company. The wood base was also added. Due to the weight of shipping the machines to Europe and England, the firm had special hand wheels cast, originally in Coalbrookdale, England, been there it's great. These hand wheel or hand crank versions were completely different to the large cast iron treadle ones that sold in the States and have proved a great favourite with collectors.
Coalbrookdale Coalbrookdale has been referred to as the one of the most extraordinary places in the world.