In 1860-61 the first sewing machine factory in Canada was established at Hamilton by Richard Mott Wanzer who, during the late 1850s, seems to have had a small sewing machine shop in Buffalo, New York, which manufactured Singer machines. For some unknown reason he left this business and shortly thereafter settled in Hamilton to begin anew. It took a week to turn out his first machine. During the next thirty years, however, R.M. Wanzer and Company grew to be the largest and most successful of all Ontario's sewing machine manufacturers.The earliest sewing machines manufactured by the Wanzer company were Singers (models number 1 and 2) and Wheeler and Wilsons  and were proudly advertised as such.

In 1862 however, Wanzer began to advertise a new home manufactured sewing machine that was patented in Canada.

It was called the Family Shuttle Machine and actually combined the best qualities of both the Singer and the Wheeler and Wilson machines. The Family Shuttle Machine was delicately hand-painted with floral and scrolled designs in gold leaf, came with a stand made completely of iron - a rare feature - and sold for forty-five dollars. The markings on the front shuttle race slide read:

                                           R.M. Wanzer & Co.                                                                                     Sewing Machine MFT'Y                                                                                        Hamilton, C.W.

                                      Patented Feby 19th, 1862

The Family Shuttle Machine, manufactured by R.M. Wanzer and Company, was the earliest machine made in Ontario (height 26.5 cm, length 19 cm, width 28 cm).Collection: Elgin County Pioneer Museum, cat. no. 638.
The Family Shuttle Machine, manufactured by R.M. Wanzer and Company, was the earliest machine made in Ontario (height 26.5 cm, length 19 cm, width 28 cm).Collection: Elgin County Pioneer Museum, cat. no. 638.


The second home manufactured sewing machine introduced by Wanzer was known as the Little Wanzer. Hailed as the "most Perfect of all Sewing Machines" the Little Wanzer's immediate popularity is evidenced by the claim that over 4,000 were sold in its first year of manufacture.

In 1870 it sold for twenty-five dollars by itself or thirty dollars on a stand. All the cast parts of this machine were japanned and hand-decorated in gold leaf with flowers and vines. "Little Wanzer" was generally written on the centre of the arm and often an hourglass trademark with the works "Time Utilizer" appeared on the side.

By 1874 nearly 200.000 of these lock-stitch machines had been sold. The Little Wanzer's compact size, simplicity, and low price made it an instant favourite, and it became a leading export to such countries as England, France, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, and Brazil.

The Little Wanzer, which came mounted on a marble slab, could either be set on a table and driven by hand or placed on an iron stand and driven by foot.


The Little Wanzer was one of the most popular machines during the 1860s and 1870s (height 26.5 cm, length 30.5 cm, width of base 15 cm).

In its general shape the Little Wanzer is similar to other American hand-operated sewing machines of the late 1850s and 1860s. It also incorporates a number of American features such as the vertical piston operating the needle, the manner of feeding the thread through the needle, the yielding pressure foot and the shuttle. Unlike most other contemporary machines, the shuttle moves in a vertical arc rather than on a horizontal race.

The Wanzer F (height 23.5 cm, length 30.5 cm). This was the first sewing machine which could go forward and backward.

By 1874 R.M. Wanzer and Company had expanded its line of sewing machines to include four additional models: Wanzer A, Wanzer D, Wanzer E, and Wanzer F. Both the D and E models were for tailors and manufacturers of heavy goods such as leather. The Wanzer A, for foot or hand operation, was quite similar in construction to the Little Wanzer, but did not seem to be quite as popular. Very few of these machines have survived.


The Wanzer F was one of Wanzer's most successful sewing machines of the 1870s. It was a foot-operated or treadle machine with heavy castings that completely encompassed the upper shafts, gears, and other working parts. Its most significant feature was the introduction of the reversible feed which enabled the operator to sew both forward and backward without stopping the machine. This development was a tremendous aid for it not only enabled the operator to fasten or secure the threads at the beginning and end of each seam, but also facilitated the strengthening of any part of a seam by double-stitching or back-stitching with a quick and easy motion.

The last family sewing machine manufactured by the Wanzer Company was the Wanzer C, introduced sometime between 1877 and 1881. Although it was patterned after the Wanzer F, it was a deluxe model. The principal features of the Wanzer C were the large and roomy space under the arm, the adjustability of all its parts, a steel feed on both sides of the needle, a case-hardened triangular needle bar, a nickle-plated balance wheel, a self-threading shuttle, and an automatic bobbin winder.


Fortune seemed to smile on the Wanzer company during its long and productive history. Ingenuity and sharp business acumen rabidly carried Richard Wanzer to success. His sewing machines, which were exhibited in Canada and Europe, were awarded more prizes and diplomas than any other Canadian machines. The string of laurels attached to the Wanzer company was long and impressive, the most notable being the Iron Cross conferred upon the owner at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873 by the Emperor of Austria. Unfortunately, overproduction and a sharp drop in demand put a severe strain on the company in the 1880s.



















In 1878 the Company bought out the Canada Sewing Machine Co. which shortly thereafter discontinued the Webster machines and expanded its factory on the site of the former Canada Sewing Machine Company works.







In 1884 The Wanzer Sewing Machine Company took out a new model of sewing machine.




In 1890 the Wanzer Sewing Machine Company, one of Canada's most important manufacturers for over a quarter of a century, passed out of existence.





The Plant and Building To Be Sold at Auction

The sewing machine factory of the Wanzer Sewing Machine Company is to be sold. The date of the sale has not yet been fixed. The factory and fixed machinery is valued at $ 201.000. The tools, which originally cost $ 60.000, are valued at $ 23.000 and there are unfinished portions of machines valued at $ 21.000. The building and fixed machinery is to be sold under a mortgage by S. C. Mewburn, who is acting for the mortgagees. The chattel property is to be sold by F. H. Lamb, assignee, for water rates, taxes and the arrears of interest due the Canada Permanent Loan Company.

Sewing Machine Time April 25, 1891