Although the sewing machine was developed in America it did not take long for entrepreneurs in Great Britain to see the potential and a fledgling sewing machine industry developed with first Sugden & Bradbury then the Pitt Brothers both establishing factories in 1852. These early pioneers produced copies of the industrial machines being made in America and although production was small - as each part had to be hand made, the machines were successful.
In 1853 The Thomas Sewing Machine Co. was established and William Sellers started production in 1854 but it was during the late 1850's and 1860's the sewing machine industry really blossomed driven by the Victorians love of technology and the introduction of models suitable for the household market, firms such as Whight & Mann, Newton Wilson & Co., Edward Ward, Starley & Co., The Royal Sewing Machine Co., Kimball & Morton, Gresham & Craven became household names as did Jones & Co. which would eventually become Britain's best known home grown sewing machine manufacturer.
The American company Singer established a factory in Glasgow in 1867 but in 1871 moved to larger premises at Bridgeton producing up to date Family sewing machines on a hitherto unimaginable scale, a further move to Kilbowie increased the company's production still further. The Howe Machine Co also established a factory in Bridgeton in 1872 and started mass production. Unable to compete many smaller firms closed or merged with others to form new companies.
In the 1880's there were scandals - the Moldacot Pocket Sewing Machine Co. Ltd produced tens of thousands of cheap machines but sold very few and went bankrupt within 2 years and the Cookson Lockstitch Sewing Machine Co Ltd didn't fair much better producing few machines and leaving it's investors out of pocket.
Few British sewing machine manufacturers made it into the 20th Century those that did faced stiff competition from German imports, but it was the First Word War that permanently damaged the industry and by 1925 just Vickers Ltd and the Jones Sewing Machine Co Ltd were the only home grown firms producing machines on any significant scale.
We are seeking additional machines to preserve, especially early cast base or unusually shaped ones not currently represented in the collection. Please click here to see the list of machines we are particularly looking for.