From 1857 to the turn of the century, the style of the Willcox and Gibbs sewing machine changed very little (fig. 39). It was the most popular and the most reliable of the many chainstitch machines. In addition to the basic mechanical patents, Gibbs also patented the design of the sewing-machine head in 1860. In the specifications, he described it as an open ring set on a base or pedestal. The lower part of the open section supported the cloth plate. The design of the head, intentionally or not, formed a perfect letter G, the initial of the inventor. Later the machine head as a letter G was incorporated into the company’s trademark. Additional patents were also granted to James Willcox for a leg and treadle design and to Charles Willcox for mechanical improvements.


It has not been possible to secure information on records of serial numbers from the late 1870s through the 1920s to aid in dating machines of that period. For the preceding years, however, the machines may be dated approximately as follows:

Serial Number              Year

1-10000                       1857

10001-20000                 1858

20001-30000                  1859

30001-40000                 1860

40001-50000                 1861

50001-60000                 1862

60001-70000                 1863

70001-80000                 1864

80001-90000                  1865

90001-100000                1866

100001-115000               1867

115001-130000               1868

130001-145000               1869

145001-160000               1870

160001-190127               1871

190.128-223.766                1872

223767-239647                1873

239648-253357                1874

253358-267879               1875

267880-279637                1876

Although the Willcox and Gibbs company is still in existence, for the past several decades the company has limited itself to the production of specialized manufacturing machines rather than family machines.

(Smithsonian photo 58986.)