Est. 1874 - 1877(closed)

Franklin Works, Park Road, Soho

Birmingham , England

an extract from Joseph Harris biography

By 1867 Joseph Harris described himself as dealer in sewing machines, and quoted many of the leading marques of the time, for which he was agent.

In 1869 Harris was granted a design registration for an ornamental treadle.

In 1872 Joseph Harris aspired to go further with his sewing machine interests. He made an agreement with Thomas Shakespear and George Illeston, who were trading as The Royal Sewing Machine Company. The arrangement was to supply Harris with a machine to be called "The Challenge".

# 4.264  The Challenge by Joseph Harris
# 4.264 The Challenge by Joseph Harris

It should be noted that the sole exclusivity of design was almost certainly confined to the physical appearance. The mechanics of the machine were, in essence those which were patented by Shakespear and Illeston in 1869, and were used in their own big selling "Shakespear" model. 



In 1874 Harris decided the next step forward for his sewing machine enterprise would be to have his own manufacturing facility. To this end, he acquired the Franklin Sewing Machine Company.                                                     Franklin and other local firm A. Maxfield already produced a similar class of machine, " The Agenoria ".

At this same time, Harris, with the aid of John Judson, redesigned and patented a new shuttle / feed mechanism for his "The Challenge" marque and their sewing machines were then sold under the name of "The Imperial Sewing Machine Co."

            # 21.201  The Challenge by Imperial Sewing Machine Co.          

( pictures from Maggie Snell )

# 21.201  Harris and Judson Patent
# 21.201  Harris and Judson Patent


For few years the business continued to prosper, and in 1876 Harris applied to   register several trademarks for his machines.                                                   As was the case for so many smaller UK sewing machine concerns, the second half of the 1870s brought about fierce overseas competition and a subsequent depression in trade.


1878  London Gazette issue 24550
1878 London Gazette issue 24550



In 1878 circa, it would appear that the sewing machine manufacturing side of Harris' empire was unable to weather the storm, and these interests were sold, perhaps somewhat ironically, to The Royal Sewing Machine Company .




# 4.264   The Challenge by Joseph Harris Co.


# 21.201  The Challenge by Imperial Sewing Machine Co.



by  The Royal Sewing Machine Co. Limited