NORTHERN CLOTHING EMPORIUM
THE SEWING MACHINE AND THE INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION
TO THE EDITOR OF THE BELFAST NEWS-LETTER
Sir. Following passage appeared in a leading article of the Times newspaper, on the 7th inst., relative to the Queen's visit and the sewing machine:
In its direct practical influence upon industry, the Dublin Exhibition yields two very great and practical results, which alone are worth all the cost, one is the invention of the power-loom into the manufacture of linen, the other the invention and practical application of a sewing machine; the former, it is expected, will immediately produce great changes in the North, the latter does the work of thirty or forty tailors and far more efficiently.
The agents here of Messrs. Nicholl (Nicoll), the extensive clothiers of Regent Street, exhibited to her Majesty and the Prince coats entirely completed by this machine (the buttons and button-holes alone excepted), which were perfect marvels of workmanship; it will do from five hundred stitches a minute and enable a pair of trousers to be cut, basted, and finished in a single hour.
Being the first to apply the machines practically in the clothing business in this country and the only bona fide exhibitor of the sewing machine (which the official catalogue will prove) and also garments infinitely superior to anything yet produced by any one else, on reading the above, I felt, that, as an individual, I had cause of complaint and that, justice to the public demanded some explanation relative to the positive capabilities of the machines and also as to what did and did not, occur during the Royal visit in connexion therewith. I therefore addressed a letter of explanation to the Editor of the Times, on the 10th inst., but having failed to procure admission to its columns, I throw myself upon your- well-known love of fair play for that justice which has been denied me by the leviathan of the English press and as it is as much a matter of public as well as private interest, I hope other journals will copy this communication.
Your obedient servant, W. SPACKMAN
Belfast News-Letter - Monday 26 September 1853
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Sir. I have been highly gratified by your correspondent’s remarks, in connexion with the Royal visit to the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin, relative to the sewing machine and its probable results; but as I am the first in the United Kingdom to apply machinery practically in the manufacture of clothing and having exhibited the sewing machine and garments far superior, in design and work, to anything else yet produced by it since the opening of the Exhibition, I feel that your sense of justice, as well as your desire to promote Irish industry and enterprise, will induce you to favour me with the insertion of the following facts, which, I think, will show that I have been unfairly treated in this matter.
The patentee, Mr. Judkins, was well aware of the difficulties I have had to contend with in the introduction and practical application of the sewing machine since January last, viz., a strike of the operative tailors and the usual placarding pro and con, assaults, law proceedings, &e., incidental to such things, the prejudices of the ignorant (fostered and encouraged by false statements relative to the work done by the machine), industriously circulated by parties in the trade, who have allowed themselves to be intimidate from using the machines by the conduct of the operatives and that I have been the first to bring the machine into public notice by extensively advertising it (all at my own expense); yet, with a full knowledge of all these facts, he (Mr. Judkins), after the close of the Exhibition the night previous to the Royal visit, brought into the building an “improved” machine and coat made by it, which I was informed by him was to be presented to Prince Albert. On my remonstrating on this injustice, I was then told :
“the machine and coat had been show to Prince Albert, at Buckingham Palace, a few days ago and had been both presented to him and that it was his special request that the machine and coat should be conveyed to the Exhibition to meet his Royal Highness there”.
From facts and statements which subsequently came under my own observation, I have every reason to doubt the truth of the greater part of these assertions; the consequence, however, was, that I did not receive that attention from the Royal visitors, I otherwise, probably, should have had, as the bona fide exhibitor of one of the most useful, novel and interesting articles in the Exhibition. The fact is, neither her Majesty Prince Albert, nor any of the Royal attendants paid any attention to the machine exhibited in the hall of the Messrs. Nicholl's (Nicoll’s) agent; but his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, the Duchess of Wellington and others accompanying her Majesty, did stop and examine minutely and with great interest, the machine and work exhibited by me, the “improved top coat”, having the rose, shamrock and thistle worked on the cuffs, with other beautiful devices on the outside; on the lining, the Irish harp and wolf-dog, surrounded by wreaths of flowers interspersed with shamrocks, all done by the machine (which is, indeed, “ a perfect marvel of workmanship”) elicited very marked attention and I feel assured, had H.R.H. Prince Albert been aware of the above facts, he would not in the slightest degree countenance, or allow his name to be mixed up with, such unfair proceedings.
I may also remark , as a matter of much importance to the public, as regards the relative merits of the work produced by the machines in use by me and that said to be exhibited by the Messrs. Nicholl’s (Nicoll’s) agent and called “ an improved machine”, the latter working with a needle above and a “circular needle” below, producing on the one side a good stitch, but on the other a continuation of loops, or what is technically termed a “chain-stitch”, which may be used for merely ornamental purposes, but a very dangerous one for anything else, as if one stitch is broken the whole may be drawn out; while the machine in use by me are “shuttle and needle” machines, a combination of weaving and sewing and produce a perfect backstitch on both sides, which is beautiful in appearance, permanent and applicable to almost every kind of work.
W. Spackman Belfast, 10th September, 1853
The production of a Sewing-Machine, which for many years has been attempted without success, has at length been accomplished by the Lancashire Sewing-Machine Company. The automaton may be seen in operation either of their depots, No. 2, Lawrence Lane, Cheapside, London or 36, Corporation Street, Manchester. Independently of the table upon which the machine rests, it is composed of a flat iron disc, about twelve inches square. From one side of this surface an arm rises erect, to the height of about ten inches and then passes over to the opposite side.
From the extremity of this arm descends a moveable bar, to the bottom of which is fixed a needle, the eye being about half inch from the point and on the top of the arm is fixed a reel, or bobbin, filled with silk or other thread. Fixed to a main shaft is a wheel, turned by handle (which also can be worked by a treadle or steam-engine), that gives motion to lever within the arm and which moves the vertical needle up and down. Beneath the visible surface or base is a second reel of thread, supplying another needle, which, in place of being straight, is circular and works horizontally and, consequently, at right angles to its stitching companion which descends from the arm. Supposing the threads to be passed through the eye of each needle and the apparatus set to work, the process is thus performed:
The vertical needle descends and passes through the two pieces of cloth to be united, carrying with it the thread, to perhaps half-an-inch below the under side of the cloth. As the needle rises, the thread is left behind in the form of a noose or loop, through which the horizontal needle passes; the horizontal needle instantly reversing its motion, leaves loop, into which the vertical needle descends. Both needles thus progress, forming series of stitches ; each stitch being quite fast, even should its neighbour be severed. The apparatus stated to produce as much work as twenty skilful hand-sewers. The tightness of the thread is regulated by screw and as each stitch is of equal tension, a great advantage is secured in the regular appearance of the work. The length of the stitch, by turning a small nut, can be increased or diminished to any degree of fineness and perfect uniformity secured. By a simple contrivance, which it would require too much space intelligibly to explain, the cloth is moved forward at every stitch and the operator, by directing its approach to the needle, can cause the sewing to be straight, angular or circular. We have stated that each stitch is independent of the one on each side of it. In this respect differs from a French invention introduced few years ago, in which only one thread employed. In that case, when the thread broke, the rent extended. We understand that a considerable number of these machines are already at work in various houses and that their operation is entirely satisfactory. Some early specimens of the clothing made by the Sewing Machine may now be seen in the Dublin Exhibition, where they are exhibited in the space allotted to the agents of Messrs. Nicoll, of Regent Street, London; but the sleeved cape, new garment invented the above film is the first properly completed sample of the workmanship of the machine. The material of this garment is an improvement on the blue cloth, which obtained an Exhibition Prize in 1851 and is richly lined with silk, which, with the borders, cuffs, collars, seams. &c., of the cloth, are simply but elegantly ornamented and secured by wonderfully exact and fine sewing, in which respect its chief merit is professed to exist. On a carefully-made calculation, it appears that, although the garment is free from unnecessary seams. &c., yet the extraordinary number of 300.000 stitches have been made in its construction. It has been purposely prepared for the inspection of his Royal Highness Prince Albert, being the first perfect result of machinery so applied and which will, without doubt, tend to diminish, if not entirely remove, the unhealthy nature of the employment of the mechanic. At the same time, it seems to be clear that, as the sewing machine will do much in the way of increased strength and appearance, at present quite out of the reach of hand-power, it will not interfere with the numbers or immediate interests of the workmen, as Messrs. Nicoll, the employers of many hundreds, distinctly assert that they will not, consequence of its introduction, discharge a single hand ; but on the contrary, they believe it will be the medium for increasing the demand already existing in the export trade, the supply for first-class goods not meeting present demand. They expect, therefore, by the machine, to add to the number and comfort of their work people who will, its use, avoid the numerous ill effects of a constant sitting posture.
Illustrated London News - Saturday 1 October 1853
THE SEWING MACHINE
Among the many remarkable inventions we have almost daily to record, the subjoined lately patented instrument is one of the most interesting and the same time one of the most generally useful. The simplicity of the sewing machine and the rapidity with which it works, are both recommendations in its favour; indeed, so simple is it in its construction and action that may be worked by a child and will sew a circle, curve, or turn square corner, equally well as straight line. It is only twelve inches square and is driven by the hand or foot. The machine well adapted for stitching every part of any garment, except the buttons and button-holes, whether the work be light or heavy, coarse fine; also for gaiters, boots, shoes, corsets, sacks, bags, sailcloth, tents, &c., &c. With moderate labour, about one yard of cloth may be stitched per minute, more neatly and securely than it could be effected by hand and as each stitch is distinct in itself, any one of them may be cut without affecting the others.
The cotton, a reel a time, is affixed to the top of the machine; the needles are threaded close to the point and when the wheel is turned which gives them motion, the one works horizontally and the other vertically, while the same action causes the cloth to move over the machine. The invention is exhibited daily, No. 2, Lawrence Lane, London City.
Hereford Times - Saturday 27 August 1853