In 1846 Elias Howe patented the lock-stitch sewing machine producing a primitive working example, unable to find funding to develop the machine commercially in America, his brother took the prototype to Great Britain with Elais following in February 1847. William Thomas of London employed Howe to make the machine a practical proposition, when these efforts failed Elias Howe returned to America in April 1849 where he found others had been producing working sewing machines which infringed his patent.

Following the outcome of legal action in 1854 Howe was able to claim a Royalty payment for each machine sold. However for sewing machines to be really practical they needed to use several other patented inventions, so in order to reduce disputes in 1856 Elias Howe, I.M. Singer & Co (est 1851), Grover & Baker (est 1852) and Wheeler & Wilson (est 1853) who owned the various patent rights formed the Sewing Machine Combination to licence manufacturers. The Combination held sway over the sewing machine industry in America until the last Patent expired in 1877.

The need to pay what was a hefty licence fee does not seem to have deterred the expansion of the industry, although production remained small, in the late 1850's and 1860's a multitude of small producers began producing a wide range of machines. Firms with now unfamiliar sounding names such as Weed, Shaw & Clark, Florance, joined an ever increasing list of manufacturers.

The Willcox & Gibbs machine working on a totally different principle meant that the Company (est 1857) was not beholden to Patent Combination and so it's cheap chain stitch machine proved extremely popular.

In the 1870's and 1880's companies such as White, Domestic, New Home, Davis became established as major producers of sewing machines. Competition became fierce and gradually through bankruptcy's and mergers the number of companies steadily dropped until today just White and Singer still produce sewing machines.

Please click on the links on the right to see various American produced sewing machines. Note: Machines produced by The Singer Sewing Machine Co. and The Howe Machine Co. are also listed under British as our examples were all made in Great Britain.


If you come across a period advertisement, price list etc (dated or not) this may provide further information which would help enhance the accuracy of this site and it would be helpful if you could let us have a copy.


Many American sewing machine manufacturers sold machines in Great Britain either from their own depots or through agencies. We are seeking additional machines to preserve, especially early cast base or unusually shaped ones not currently represented in the collection.


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Sewing Machine
American B.H.O. &
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Sewing Machine Co.
Sewing Machine Co.
Gold Medal
Sewing Machine Co.
The Howe
Machine Co.
Sewing Machine Co.
New Home
Sewing Machine Co.
Sewing Machine Co.
Sewing Machine Co.
Wheeler & Wilson
Manufacturing Co.
Sewing Machine Co.
Willcox & Gibbs
Sewing Machine Co.
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