hooked needle machines.
design and production of small and inexpensive hooked needle machines
first appeared in the USA in the late 1850s. A number of inventors
and engineers applied their talents to this class of machine during
the subsequent decade. Cheap, practical models were certainly
produced, but it is fair to conclude that commercial success was
only very limited at best. Surviving machines of this type are
scarce today, and this, combined with their diminutive size has
ensured that many of today's enthusiasts are keen to add at least
one of them to their collections.
What follows is a brief look at some of the designs that are known
to have made it into production.
H. Hook's table clamp machine was patented in November 1858. A
barbed needle penetrated the stitchplate and fabric from below,
and a guide positioned the thread close around the needle. When
the needle descended, the barb caught and carried down a loop
of the thread through the cloth, which was then fed forward one
stitch. The needle again ascended, leaving the loop on it, and
by the same process caught the thread and drew another loop down
through the first. This was repeated as the sewing proceeded.
When manufactured, the machine was extremely tiny - only approximately
2 inches by 2 inches above the clamp.
Two years later Jason W. Hardy patented a very similar looking
machine, but the design incorporated modifications with the method
of activating a swinging movement of the thread guide. Production
machines were approximately double the size of the Hook model.
D. Jackson's 1858 patent once again addressed the design of thread
guides, in this case the guide was to attached directly to the cloth
presser. Machines using this patent were subsequently made and marketed
by the Bartlett Company, New York.
towards the close of the 1850s Edward S. Boynton patented his
own distinctive "clamp-on", barbed needle machine. With
cost cutting in mind, Boynton attached his needle directly to
the crankshaft, thereby creating a simple feed. A variable needle
guide was included, this allowing stitch length adjustment.
Boynton also made provision within his design for the attachment
of an additional larger crank wheel, which when linked by belt
to the existing drive, enhanced the speed of operation.
As with the Hook, Hardy and Jackson designs, the needle still
penetrated the worked fabric from below.
1867 Henry J. Hancock patented a small "clamp-on" machine
which spawned a number of improvements from others. Hancock's design
saw the needle penetrate the fabric from above, unlike the previously
mentioned machines. Although distinctive in appearance, the patent
only claimed one specific feature, this being an adjustable height
stitchplate, employed "to secure a sufficiently firm yet free
and readily adjustable hold of the cloth".
year later, using Hancock's basic model, Henry P. Lamson claimed
a new spring thread guide to yield against the pressure of the
needle, which then carried the thread across its path. Also included
was a second guide piece to control the path of the thread as
well as close the flexible needle barb. Lamson's design boasted
a ratchet device to prevent accidental reverse motion, together
with a thread tensioning provision. Despite all these improvements,
Hancock's adjustable stitchplate was retained.
close on Lamson's improvements was George H. Fox and Joseph Hubbard's
August 1868 patent. In this machine, the rather fussy concept of
lifting the entire stitchplate was dispensed with, a new adjustable
height "stripper plate" being incorporated instead.
1870 saw further developments, this time by Jennie L. Lake. The
improvements consisted of, and I quote:
"A thread guide and needle closure of a rigid character,
but hung so as to be capable of sliding and pressed outward by
a rubber, or other suitable spring, on its back, whereby, while
all requisite elasticity is secured as regards the working of
the needle over or in contact with said device, a more positive
and effective action is obtained than is attainable by a thread
guide and needle closure of an elastic wire construction."
Hubbard's 1868 patent.
examples of the Hancock inspired design have surfaced with many
slightly different features included, therefore it seems reasonable
to speculate that a number of manufacturers produced variants of
this class of machine from the late 1860s for several years.
It is of interest to note that Henry J. Hancock did not lose total
heart with this type of machine, for in 1901 he initiated a patent
for a very similar model. The toy market was clearly in mind this
time around, and the resulting "Soeze" model manufactured
by Batchelor & Stenson did achieve modest sales.
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