Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Williams Sewing Machine - a bit about the history

My New Williams Sewing Machine has kindled my excitement.

I've been able to find very little information about this machine on-line and even less about the company that made it. But there are a few snip-its here and there. I've gathered together what I've found, although, I'm sorry to say that many of them contridict eachother. Hopefully this might provide a starting place for the next person to research this topic. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment. I would love to learn more.

I know, I know, this is all going to be very boring, and rather unorganized. I'm sorry. The goal is to get the history bit out of the way before focusing on the fun part: the restoration.

  • The New Williams Sewing Machine was made by the Williams Manufacturing Company (W.M.F.C.Co. - as it says on my treadle base). The W.M.F.C.Co. began in 1863, but sources cite different dates when this company ended. Here we are told that the company lasted until 1899, however, I suspect that they have confused the dates. At the McCord Museum we are told that the fine fellow that did this beautiful engraving died in 1899. And here we are told that the W.M.F.C.Co. liquidated in 1929.
I'm inclined to find in favour of the later date because in earlier research I saw references to the W.M.F.C.Co. in the records of the Canadian Houses of Parliament post 1900 - mostly talking about how companies reacted to some new import/export taxation that the government imposed.

So, I'm going to (tentatively) say that The Williams Manufacturing Company lasted from 1863 - 1929.

  • A list of models (and dates) made by The Williams Manufacturing Company 'borrowed' from here:

C. W. Williams Manufacturing Co. Est 1863
Williams Manufacturing Co. by 1877 1885 +
Williams Manufacturing Co. Ltd by 1893 - liquidated 1929
  • Factory: Plattsburgh, New York. 1878 also at 347 Notre Dame Street, Montreal, Canada. (destroyed by fire 1882)
    Machine Made:
  • Williams' Singer
  • Williams' Improved Singer Family 1871 - 1877
  • Williams' Improved Medium
  • Williams' Hand machine
  • Williams' No. 2
  • Helpmate No's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 1884 - 1893
  • New Williams 1884 - 1902
  • Where we also learn that the W.M.F.C.Co existed under two previous incarnations giving us a more detailed history. However, it's good to note that I haven't found any data on-line that confirms these dates.

    This list here also says that the Montreal Factory burnt down in 1882 - two years before the earliest date that my machine could have been made. But my machine claims to be manufactured in Montreal. I need to do more research on the Montreal connection.

    According to the above list, in 1885 the Williams Manufacturing Co became the the Williams Manufacturing Co Ltd. There is no sign of a Ltd. on any of my parts, machine, cabinet, or the tin case that came with the machine.

    As I said before, the patent date on my machine is 1884 which gives us the earliest date it could have been manufactured. That there is no sign of the Ltd anywhere, gives us a good (not a perfect one mind you) change that the latest my machine could have been manufactured is 1885.

    • The Williams Manufacturing Company were in direct competition with Singer, and as far as I could tell, took quite a gouge out of the market in certain parts of Canada and the US.
    • Here is a nifty story about Mr Simkins who use to sell New Williams sewing machines in Canada.
    • I saw at least one example on the internet of a New Williams electric machine (a clone of the Singer 15 series) from post 1940 - this conflicts with everything we've seen so far. Could this be a different incarnation of the W.M.F.C.Co? Or, could this be another company using the title New Williams for a specific line of machines?
    • The Smithsonian Institute has an interesting collection relating to the Williams machines. Some of these are for the Williams Singer machines - not sure yet what that is. But it is advertised as being 100% Canadian with all the parts and materials coming from Canada or the UK - very slightly anti-US advertisement.

    One of the biggest problems I had researching this is that there have been several different Williams Manufacturing Companies over the years, including one in the 1940's that made fortune telling and gaming machines. It's also possible other companies just used that title for their own machines. This just goes to show you how limited googling around the internet in search of historical data really is. A lot of forums that talk about New Williams machines appear to confuse data from other companies. I need to find a better source of information.

    Hope you guys are not as confused as I am at this juncture. I'm off to get a library card and hopefully find some more solid leads.

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    New Williams Antique Sewing Machine

    These are the photos that were on the add.

    The cabinet is very unusual - especially for a treadle sewing machine.

    I've had a lot of fun the last year or so repairing and using old sewing machines, but never have I had a chance to play (um, I mean work) with one this old before. This machine dates from the 1880'ish. The patent is 1884, so we know it was made on or after that date.

    Considering these guys were some strong competition for Singer Sewing Machines back in the day, there is surprisingly little information about them on-line. So I plan to post my adventures here. Maybe it will be helpful for the next lucky person who comes across one of these machines.

    If anyone else has a machine like this, please leave a note. I would love to hear about your experiences.