London 1885


South Kensington Exhibition

The Exhibition at South Kensington this year differs materially from either of its two predecessors and if we may characterise it as a whole, it is a display of military weapons, musical instruments and printing machinery. That is to say, these are the three most prominent features. There is a great show of miscellaneous goods and there seems to have been a desire to give preference to inventions introduced within the last three or four years.

The exhibition of sewing machines is not so large as last year and those shown were not present in 1884. Amongst the firms represented are:

Messrs. Bradbury & Co., the eminent British manufacturers of Oldham, who claim to be the "oldest European makers".

Mr. J. Warwick, of City Works, Manchester.

The Howe Machine Company (Elias), who trade as "the original inventor" and whose works are at Glasgow.

Messrs. Shepherd, Rothwell & Hough, manufacturers of the "Eclipse" machines, Oldham.

Messrs. W. F. Thomas & Co., the old established firm of sewing machine manufacturers of Birmingham.

The above exhibitors are all together, having their stands in the East Quadrant, or Crescent Annexe, near the great Music Hall.



A remarkable invention and one which possesses great novelty in addition to very acceptable practical advantages, is the Patent Eclipse Reversible Sewing Machine, manufactured by Messrs. Shepherd, Rothwell & Hough, of Oldham. It is the only machine that will sew when turned in either direction and what is gratifying, this advantage has been secured without the sacrifice of any of the usual facilities or appearance. There is, therefore, no necessity to turn the work round when sewing, nor to slacken the thread as has always to be done with other machines when the work is drawn out or removed from under the arm of the machine.

This improvement is obtained by the shuttle having an equal motion, a feature which adds to the simplicity of the parts rather than in any way tending towards complexity; indeed, the "Eclipse" machine is remarkable for the fewness and simplicity of its parts and this is an advantage freely commented on at the stand where it is shown. As known to all operators, a machine which is simple of construction and having few parts, is less liable to derangement and is quicker and easier in its motion. From what we saw of this machine, we are of opinion that it only requires to be known in order to get into extensive use. The stitching is very neat, regular and firm and is made at a high rate of speed without noise. The manufacturers have also studied to associate with it the best of all its other parts. It also has a high arm, a good easy treadle and is prettily finished and therefore suitable for a drawing-room. The improvements include a patent automatic winder, which requires no attention whatever on the part of the operator; a self-threading shuttle; the fast and loose driving wheel, which, as every practical operator knows, effects a great saving in the wear of the machine.

These are improvements by the firm and we also noticed an improved tension releaser, enabling the operator to remove the work without danger of breaking needles. This tension apparatus indicates much thoughtful care in its construction and will give popularity to the use of this addition to good sewing machines, as we have known sewing machines to be rejected, no matter how excellent their other parts or general construction may be, when the tension, or automatic tension as it was first known, was on a principle requiring more watching than could be given to it. We are therefore glad to find that Messrs. Shepherd, Rothwell & Hough have produced a tension which requires no watching. As all operators know, if a piece of work is put under the foot of the machine and it draws up, there is no tension to regulate it in the automatic machine, but in this new apparatus the tension releases itself.

The stand of this firm. No. 1638, is in the Crescent Annexe near the Albert Music Hall. It is called the East Quadrant in the Visitors' Guide.

June 1885


The Awards at the Inventions Exhibition

The oracle has spoken and prize list has appeared. Exhibitions are not altogether novelties and as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, there will always be a host of dissatisfied, disappointed exhibitors prepared to rise and curse the "idiots" who have passed over their exhibits in favour of those of hated rivals. One result of this plethora of grumbling has of necessity been a disregard of complaint and a general feeling that all grumblers see through spectacles of proverbial green. We wish the complaints as to the "Inventions" awards could be passed over in this easy fashion; but they certainly cannot. The titled aristocrats who sauntered round the exhibitions and occasionally touched an exhibit or two with their gloved hands, have been tried in the balance and found wanting. We are not saying this as disappointed exhibitors, because we had no pecuniary interest in any stall or its contents, but because we know it to be the truth. This was to be an "Inventions" exhibition and in the loud sounding preliminary notices, exhibitors were taught to believe that ingenuity and useful inventiveness would be rewarded. Taken generally, this is not so and many medals have been awarded avowedly for "excellence of workmanship". What on earth, we would ask, has "excellence of workmanship" to do with inventions, at an Inventions Exhibition ? Obviously the answer is "Nothing". But the gentlemen who hurriedly judged the exhibits were glad to fall back on this hackneyed phrase and give awards in many instances for elaborate finish and highly polished silver-plate. Goods shown for stock had little chance in such a contest and as an instance of this we would point out how Mr. Dunnett received a silver medal only, while Mr. Hitching received a much higher award. The exhibits of these two gentlemen were in the same line and while the former were remarkable for their novelty and bona fide improvement, the latter were, as far as we could see, honoured simply because they were excellently constructed and beautifully furbished and polished. High qualities these latter, we admit, but strange recommendations for award at an Inventions Exhibition. The following comments by a correspondent of Invention are well worth reading:

"One wonders in reading the above whether it is any good for men to spend their time and brains in endeavouring to preserve the lives of their fellow creatures. To devise machines to get rid of them, to shoot them, to blow them to atoms, appears to be in the eyes of jurors a much more laudable undertaking than to provide for their protection and safety. This reflection is suggested by the extraordinary treatment accorded to the life-saving apparatus at the present Exhibition. Gold medals in abundance have been bestowed upon Nordenfelts, Gardners and other kindred murder machines, but beyond a diploma of honour to the National Lifeboat Institution and a few bronze medals to fire-escape exhibits, little or nothing has been done to recognise or encourage the would-be preservers of human life. Is this as it should be? The spirit and tone of your journal answers, I think, emphatically no. Taking that particular class to which I belong, viz., domestic fire escapes, with every respect to the powers that be, I most earnestly submit that there has not yet been any practical trial of the various appliances for the saving of life from fire. Nothing short of actual trial from a structure thirty or more feet high can satisfactorily establish the relative merits of the exhibits submitted to their judgment. Such a test was, I believe, applied to escapes exhibited at the Healtheries. Why not to those at the present Exhibition? Such a trial was expected and without it gold, silver, or bronze gives no satisfactory guarantee as to safety and efficiency. No better opportunity for such a test than the present exhibition has ever presented itself and could be carried out without any very great trouble or expense. The public surely look for thoroughness in this jury work, especially when directed to apparatus for the saving of lives. What good, then, can come of a mere hop, skip and jump inspection of exhibits? Is it of any value in determining the efficiency of appliances designed for saving life under circumstances the most trying and critical? Let a test be arranged under conditions approximating as nearly as possible to those in which the appliances would have to be used if in actual operation to save life and whatever the result to individual inventions, the public and all concerned would feel that a sound, honest and practical test had been applied".

We do not propose to give a long list of awards, but simply to quote such as strike us of most importance. To give a complete list is really all but impossible, seeing that the numbers of the published list of awards differ in many instances from those given in the catalogues.





A small exhibit, as we have stated earlier in the season, only two of the standard firms showing.

Bradbury & Co. (Limited), Oldham, Gold medal, for their Rotary Shuttle Sewing Machine. This award was an obvious one, the machine being beyond all competition. One cannot help rejoicing at a good old English firm carrying off the palm.

Shepherd, Rothwell & Hough, Oldham. Gold medal, for their sewing machine with forward and backward motion and their circular knitting machine. We have recently described these genuine novelties and anticipate an enormous sale for them both so soon as the firm are prepared to supply the trade ad. lib.

W. F. Thomas & Co., 48, Holborn Viaduct. Silver medal, for sewing machines.

Unicum Patent Automatic Button-Hole Machine Co., 31, Paternoster-square. Silver medal, for the machine from which the Company takes its name. This novelty will be in the market shortly and will be fully described in these columns in due course.

The Howe Sewing Machine Co. (Limited), Glasgow, a Bronze medal. We give a few notes as to this Company's machines in another column.

September 1885

Name of Exhibitors

at the International Inventions Exhibition, London 1885


1.875.  Barlow Robert  ....................... Sewing machine needles

1.628.  Bradbury & Co. Limited  ........... Rotary shuttle sewing machine

2.301.  Brehmer, Augustus .................  Thread book-sewing machine

1.975.  Daldy, F. R. ............................. Smyth's book thread sewing machines

1.638.  Howe Machine Co. Limited ........ Sewing machine

1.640.  Shepher, Rothwel & Hough ........ Sewing and circular knitting machines

1.622.  Tester, John & Co. .................... Improvements in sewing machines

1.630.  Thomas, W.F. & Co. .................. Sewing machine

1.636.  Unicum Patent Automatic Buttonhole Machine Co. ........ Automatic                                                                   buttonhole cutting and sewing machine

2.562.  Ward, B. G. (U.S.A.) ................ Treadle for sewing machines