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.


    Sewing machine said...

    Have been selling sewing machine for a while, didn't know the history at all. Good job.

    Josiane said...

    I love how dedicated you are to documenting your process so as to help other people who might eventually do research on that topic. Good luck finding more info to complement and clarify what you've already collated here!

    Unknown said...

    I am the proud owner of a New Williams. However, when it was delivered, all the parts on the bottom were missing. Gutted!! Heartbroken. I have been on a journey trying to locate replacement parts - met so many wonderful people out there - all so willing to help me out - Nova Scotia seems to be my best bet :)or :( I am going to clean her up, put her on display until I can locate the parts necessary to get this old lady up and running. She is pretty and well worth my efforts. Haven't come up with any new info on this machine (despite many many bleary-eyed searches). When I do, I will post them here.

    barbara said...

    have just purchased a sewing machine cabinet, no machine, was suprised when went searching to find it is a New Williams cabinet, has 27 stamped inside the doors, is the same as the one in your picture.I think I got a bargain for $50.00 aus dollars.

    raven said...

    That is a real bargain. Congratulations on your new find.

    Wonder what the 27 means.

    barbara said...

    I guess it means this is cabinet 27 as it is on the doors and cabinets, do you know the value of these cabinets not that I want to sell mine I bought it to use as a sewing machine cabinet and I liked the style. the cabinet is in fantastic condition, i have sanded back and revarnished it looks great.

    raven said...

    I can't say much about the value of these machines and cabinets. The cabinet I have is really well made, better made than any other sewing machine cabinet I've seen. Given the quality and that there aren't many of them around... I'm guessing better than average.

    I know with the old Singers, the value (aka, what someone is willing to pay) varies DRASTICALLY from coast to coast. In Canada, you are looking at about $400 difference for the same machine from one coast to the other.

    I would love to know how much the New Williams are worth, but I would hate to be the one guessing the price.

    barbara said...

    that is was impressed me was the qualty of the cabinet, i have not seen a piece of furniture that is screwed together not nailed, I noticed in the picture that yours has a piece missing on the bottom of one of the doors, and one door is hanging lower, mine has locks on the doors and lid but no keys, they are a beautiful pioece of furniture, i still can't beleive my luck

    Norm said...

    First time on you site. Saw picture of NEW WILLIAMS sewing machine in Automatic Cabinet. I HAVE SIMILAR MACHINE.serial # 326498. From THE WILLIAMS MANUFACTORING CO. MONTREAL PAT JAN//1884..
    have pictures/not sure how to send. Looking for info and any type of value.Norm

    Audrey said...

    I just bought one at a yard sale last week. I paid $45 for it with all the accessories. I am so excited to have this and can't wait to learn how to use it!!
    I found the manaual on line.

    Bikerhen said...

    Thank you for your research on this. When my m-i-l was cleaning out her house she asked me what I wanted and I took this machine. I didn't know anything about it, other than what is stamped on the face plate. It has it's parts and is in working order. A beautiful working piece of history. I am SO lucky. Thank you to Audrey for the manual. Enjoying your blog also.

    kathy said...

    Thank you for your research on this. I also have a New Williams sewing Machine I purchased from estate sale back in Montreal area when I was a teenager. I know it is over 100 yr old only. The cabinet has nice carved woodworking on it and it still works today. No one seemed to know much about this machine.
    Kathy @

    Meriem Rebbani-Gosselin said...

    Just Saw your post on the New William. I have found someone who is selling the table (machine is not in it anymore) for 60$ Canadian. Not sure which model it is though

    rachelle kudjick said...

    I got one and I see that it is written..mlt on it ..mine is black and it has it s cabinet..and electric...

    rachelle kudjick said...

    got one of my own..still in good condition..and in it s black with gold writtings...

    Heather Williams said...

    I have a New Williams machine that my great grandmother bought new... the only thing I don't have is the receipt, I have the original manual and all the attachments she had. There are no dates on anything so I'm not sure how long ago it was purchased (She was born in 1890). Trying to find out how old my machine is... it still has her ball of thread ends in one of the drawers. :)

    Anonymous said...

    i just had a 1884 new williams given to me. very glad to read this page ive been looking for info thanks for the start.

    Carey Gladden said...

    1920, my great grandmother's just bought a new Williams sewing machine. She kept the manual rolled up in a drawer. Owner's certificate and an add for the electric motor attachment, the needle won't move. The insides are gunky from disuse & a house fire. Suggestions on diagram & repair techniques. Appreciated.

    Anonymous said...

    Would any of y0u be willing to scan and post your manuals for these wonderful machines? I for one would love it, thanks.

    Kit Lang said...

    Hello! I just found your post while doing research on my recently purchased New Williams model. Thank you so much for doing all of this work - I now know so much more about my machine. :)

    I wondered, have you been able to find a source for needles for this machine?

    Please let me know at

    Thank you so much!

    R Dean Cowan said...

    I have a set of New Williams drawers for a sewing machine that I am willing to sell.

    LilysMom said...

    April 17, 2015; I just got back from the dump (a.k.a. "waste disposal site) with a New Williams sewing machine that was made in Montreal. Steal of a deal for ZERO dollars! Machine still there and hasn't seized up, actual table is a bit bunged up but I'm going to turn it into an accent table. If anyone wants the actual sewing machine part perhaps we can figure something out to get it to you. I live in Manitoba.

    Three Star Tailor Composite Machine - Geminy said...

    I never seen such type of machine in my life. Just first time on your blog. Its performance should be good and work comfortably. Industrial Stitching Machine

    Kelley said...

    I just won one of these in an auction.. it has the machine but in rough shape but you can still see the gold in it, and the cabinet which is still solid but I might need to refurbish it and the cast iron base and foot peddle. It also has the box cover for the sewing machine. It has 1881 stamped into the bottom of it

    Laura said...

    This post was so helpful, thank you! I just dug out an antique machine that has been sitting in my parents basement. It is also a New Williams machine. I am going to try to find out a little more about it but I have posed some initial pictures here:

    Christin said...

    Acquired one of these from a family member's basement and unfortunately it is in rough shape. Was able to restore the table for use, grind off the rust and repaint it, but I think the machine I'll have to find another home for. Thanks for putting together all this info, always interesting to read up on the history of things.

    For those looking for manuals here's a good resource!

    Anonymous said...

    I just got my hands on what I assume to be a 50s era New Williams Mfg Co. Ltd electric machine. Model 55 I assume from the stamp on it. However there seems to be no information whatsoever on these "newer" New Williams sewing machines online.