W. Avery & Son
Headless Cross, Redditch
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W. Avery & Son was a needle manufacturer during the Victorian Era from Headless Cross, a small village on the southwest side of Redditch, England. Redditch is located 15 miles south of Birmingham, the English city recognized as the centre of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century the Redditch area produced the majority of the world's needles. W. Avery & Son is best known for their figural brass needle cases which were created by the company between 1868 and 1889. Since they produced the majority of these items, collectors refer to all brass needle cases manufactured during this time period as "Averys". Today they are highly collectable and are usually sold on auction websites such as eBay or by antique dealers online, in shops or at antique shows. Most needle cases produced by the firm have W. Avery & Son Redditch engraved on the case as well as a design/patent registration stamp.
From 1865 until 1899, the time period in which needle cases were created, the company was headed by William Avery (1832–1899). Earlier, from approximately 1832 until 1865, the firm was headed by William's father, John Avery (1807–1865). According to William's 1899 obituary, the company was founded in 1785. In addition the words "Established 1782" appear on several pasteboard needle cases produced for W. Avery & Son in the late 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. Although no definitive data has been uncovered to prove when and by whom W. Avery & Son was established, it seems most likely that the firm was founded by William Avery (1758-1840), the grandfather of the creator of fancy brass needle cases. One of the earliest references to the company was found in Pigot & Co.s 1828-1829 directory where it was listed as William Avery & Son, fish hook and needle manufacturer from Redditch.
The company was listed as a needle and fish hook manufacturer in many business and trade directories throughout the Victorian Period (1835, 1839, 1842, 1850, 1855, 1861, 1865, 1870, 1872, 1875, 1876, 1878, 1879, 1879, 1879, 1892, 1896, 1896-97 and 1900). After William's death in 1899, his sons inherited the needle business which they subsequently sold to John English & Son Ltd, another needle manufacturer in the area.
On 7 January 1868 W. Avery & Son patented their first brass needle case in Great Britain, GB 58/1868, a flat single packet case named The Golden Needle Case. By November that same year they patented the Quadruple Casket which contained slots for four different sized needle packets. Two years later in 1870, the Quadruple Casket and a Demi-Quad needle case were also patented in the United States. Within eight years the firm had created at least twenty-seven needle case designs, mostly figural, which were displayed at the London (1873), Vienna (1873) and Paris exhibitions.
In 1875, the company was highly praised not only for their quality and workmanship, but also for the artistic appeal of their needle cases which were mentioned in exhibition reports sent to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Several years later in 1878, W. Avery & Son appeared in an exhibition catalogue as Needle and Pin Manufacturers and Inventors from Headless Cross and as Needle, Pin and Needle Case Manufacturers from 192 Great Hampton Row in Birmingham.
By the time the Liverpool Exhibition opened in 1886, the firm had added at least 30 more designs to their repertoire, including a souvenir Quadruple Casket needle case with a drawing of the exhibition hall embossed on its exterior.
During the Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester in 1887 their booth was noted for another invention, a machine that could stick pins in rows of paper.
A year later the firm won a gold medal for their participation in the 1888 World's Fair in Brussels.
At the Exposition Universelle, 1889 in Paris the W. Avery & Son booth displayed needles, pins and fancy pin and needle cases, as well as the machinery for sticking pins into paper. Also for sale in their booth that year was a new brass needle case in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, a miniature scale replica of the exhibition's main attraction, the architectural masterpiece of French structural engineer Gustave Eiffel.