Sewing shears.

On October 5th 1858 Joseph E. Hendrick patented his revolutionary sewing machine "shears" in the USA. The basic concept of the machine is best explained using Hendrick's own words:

"The nature of my invention consists in the application of sewing mechanism to a device similar to shears, whereby the opening and shutting of the shears performs the functions of sewing. Thereby a very simple, portable, cheap, and efficient machine is constructed, that can be used in the hand in a manner similar to shears, and applied to the work instead of the work being applied to it; or the said shears may be screwed to the table or other convenient place or support and the cloth presented to the 'sewing-shears'."

The simple chain stitch design incorporated a toothed wheel to feed the cloth. The machines were made from brass, this being finished in silver plate. The company of Nettleton & Raymond, Bristol, Connecticut, are attributed as the manufacturers. Production of the machine appears to have been very short-lived.

The basic principle of scissors or shears type was revisited more than 20 years later. W. F. Thompson's patent saw the light of day in the UK on 21st October 1884.
A lockstitch mechanism was featured this time, a tiny boat shuttle carried the lower thread, the whole being reciprocated in a radial arc. Cloth feed was achieved by a walking presser foot. Production machines were made from steel, this being nickel plated. Construction was of a high quality, and manufacture lasted a number of years. Extant examples are stamped "American Hand Sewing Machine Co." There was no provision for a table clamp with these machines, although high quality separate bobbin winders were provided.

Original box

Independent bobbin winder
1888 saw W. R. Goodbody unveil a new lockstitch patent on the "shears" theme. Again of nickel-plated steel construction, a fully functional four motion underfeed was envisaged this time. Production machines were stamped on the cloth plate, with a Sept 4th 1888 patent date, also that of the American Hand 1884, plus a further Nov 10th 1885 patent.
The UK 1888 patent is dated May 23rd.
Observing extant examples reveals two quite distinct types. One of these replicates the patent specification very closely, so we can probably ascribe this as the first model.
The second type underwent considerable changes, i.e. the needlebar head was totally redesigned, and now incorporated a round needlebar instead of the original square section one. A spring loaded rocking action presser foot replaced the more conventional lever lift, and last but not least, the top thread take up system was heavily revised.
An original box from this latter type attributes the marketing of this machine to "The Manhattan Machine and Novelty Company" of New York.

Modified Goodbody
So far we have discussed the well known 19th century production models that today's collectors are familiar with, but it is well worth noting that further early shear types may well have been marketed.

Hughes patent

In 1895 G. Hughes, in communication with H. Strauscheidt, patented a lockstitch shears machine primarily aimed at the leather industry.

One not for the squeamish would be an 1897 model designed by A. Sykes. This offering describes a surgical application for a hand held device.

October 2005

Sykes patent

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