Alex I Askaroff
Alex has spent a lifetime in the sewing industry and is considered one of the foremost experts of pioneering machines and their inventors. He has written extensively for trade magazines, radio, television, books and publications worldwide.
Over the last few decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.
Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.
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Collier & Sons
Colliers sold sewing machines for decades and they regularly turn up but there is almost no trace of the once famous stores that dotted the outskirts of London from Victorian times for over 80 years and sold countless thousands of sewing machines.
Job Collier was born in 1817 and by the time he was 35, a skilled draper, he had started Colliers haberdashery and millinery supplies. Job Collier was right at the birth of the sewing machine industry in Britain. I believe that his first premises were at 136 Clapham Road, London in 1852. The drapers shop grew into a large hardware and haberdashery supplier which stretched along Clapham Road buying adjacent shops as they expanded they then proceeded to operate from stores all around London.
Today there is no sign of the huge main store in Clapham Road that once must have been a sight to behold. I have to wonder at its complete disappearance. Was it from bomb damage during WWII.
"All our machines have stood the test of time and come with original Willcox & Gibbs or Wheeler & Wilson needles. Full instruction given at residence free of any charges for any sewing machine purchased from Collier & Son's."
Royal also supplied the Collier Octagonal sewing machine which Job Collier had designed and registered. The last Collier of this type went for over £1,000 in Feb of 2013.
By the 1870’s, Dad, along with the help of his two sons Joseph Ebenezer Collier and Charles Henry Collier ran at least three stores including one in Putney Road, London and they were expanding at a rapid rate to meet the late Victorian boom. Initially they had bought sewing machines that were being supplied form all the big boys like Singer and Howe, Wheeler & Wilson and Grover & Baker. However with sales booming in the London suburbs they had a captive market and looked for their own badged sewing machines that customers could purchase without competition. Both Joseph and Charles became proficient at demonstrating and servicing their sewing machines and regularly delivered, set up and demonstrated the sewing machines in customers houses.
Now Colliers were supplying the complete package from needles and thread to fabric and machines, however they were not stopping there. Basically Colliers eventually supplied just about everything that the area demanded.
You must have noticed on the Antiques Road Show how so many items date from the late Victorian period. It was a time of huge prosperity for Britain. Many city houses had running water, electricity was coming in fast and some even had flushing toilets inside the house! There’s posh.
In 1893, aged 76, Job Collier died and the sons later took on J B Keevil as partner and by the turn of the century expanded to over nine shops supplying everything from pianos to kitchen sinks, stockings and even horse feed.
Before the 1890 Trades Description Act any supplier could clearly mark their items as made by them, which was not the case and misleading. Colliers was one of the countless firms that bought in sewing machines to sell and marked them as ‘made by Colliers’ but I am unaware of any manufacturing ability from the stores.
After the Trades Description Act Colliers simply changed the marks on the sewing machines to ‘supplied by Colliers’ instead of ‘made by Colliers’. This way they applied the letter of the law and described their goods correctly.
There were a whole range of Collier sewing machines such as...
The Collier Excelsior, by Wright & Mann
The Collier Pillar sewing machine.
The Collier Hexagonal circa 1870.
The Collier Swift & Sure, circa 1880.
The Collier Alert, chain stitch sewing machine probably made by the Hamburg Guhl & Harbeck factory.
The Collier Advance sewing machine.
The Collier Victory ,sewing machine which sold for two guineas in 1880.
Collier Silent sewing machine.
Collier Rotary Shuttle sewing machine.
Collier Dressmaker sewing machines models 1-7, which came with great testimonials.
"I have had your Collier Dressmaker sewing
machine for six years and the machine has never been out of order. Not
one fault has presented itself and I would recommend this machine to
anyone wishing to work the finest muslin or the stoutest cloth."
It is Possible that the first sewing machines that Collier's sold under their own name were the Whight & Mann Excelsior followed by the Collier machines from the Royal Sewing Machine Co of Birmingham and then serpentine Princess possibly by Jones. They then started importing and buying from agents selling a whole range of Collier sewing machines from all over the world.
The Collier Advance of 1875
The Collier Advance in my Sewalot Collection, (also sold as the Brunonia Sewing Machine). It was sold around 1870-1880 by Collier & Son’s hardware store which had by then expanded to ten shop fronts from 132-142 Clapham Road, London South West Nine, which is the main A3 road into the centre of London.
"I have owned
the Collier Advance sewing machine for over five years and it has been
in constant use. The machine has given me unbounded satisfaction."
Colliers imported and sold machines for many years from the 1860’s under their Swift & Sure trademark, buying the best that was available at the time and selling them under their own brand. Their shops sold everything from lead paint to asbestos sheeting, things that today have long been banned but were everyday items back then.
They stocked well known sewing machines from British makes from Middle England like Jones from Manchester and Whight & Mann from Ipswich as well as Wheeler & Wilson, Howe and Willcox & Gibbs from America.
Tracking the manufacturer of the Collier Advance sewing machine has been tricky as it similar to the Brunonia, Co-op, Brunswick Special, Howe and Atlas Model A from the Atlas Sewing Machine Co of 82 High Street Camden, London. Atlas imported from Grimme & Natalis Sewing Machines. G&M was formed in 1871 by Carl Grimme and Kaufmann Natalis. The company produced wide range of sewing machines from their factory in Braunschweig, Germany.
Charles Bradbury of 37 Torrens Road Brixton, South West London was the company's Wholesale Agent in Great Britain from 1883 to 1895.
The difference with this early Colliers Advance model is its extremely high quality, ornate castings and early tension device similar to Elias Howe machines.
Bradbury/Atlas was the most likely supplier of several models. They bought machines from the 300 plus German sewing machine manufacturers like Haid & Neu, Bach & Klie, Seidel & Naumann, Adler, Pfaff, Wertheim, Gritzner, and Frister & Rossmann.
Looking at the unique mechanism and superb quality of the Collier Advance sewing machine the most likely manufacturer was Bremer & Brückmann or Grimme & Natalis who were both for a time, prolific German manufacturers of sewing machines.
Early models incorporated the Howe and Grover & Baker principles which would have been used under licence from the American companies. The brass main gear on the Advance is unusual as they were quickly replaced with less expensive steel gears however it makes the machine beautifully smooth and quiet. The ornate castings and lavish detail was only put onto the best machines and the quality of the workmanship from these Victorian craftsmen is a pure delight.
After a while with all the new machines Collier's started to number their models No2, 3, 4, 5,etc. By the Model No4, which was a Jones machine from Manchester, the machines started to look like all the other machines on the market, practical but not so exciting.
Collier No7 Sewing Machine
I am unsure when Colliers disappeared and I would love to finish off this page so if anyone out there in Internet Land has any information please do mail me. It was possibly between the First World War and Second: email@example.com
Click on book for info...
Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
Well that's it, I do hope you enjoyed my work. I have spent a lifetime collecting, researching and writing these pages and I love to hear from people so drop me a line and let me know what you thought: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also if you have any information to add on the elusive Collier machines I would love to put it on my site. Bye for now.
Oh how I wish I could get time to stand still, my hair is mostly grey now! I call it distinguished...
Alex's Book: Tales from the Coast
Fancy a funny read: Ena Wilf & The One-Armed Machinist
A brilliant slice of 1940's life: Spies & Spitfires
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new collector I have found your site
has increased my knowledge in
a short time to a degree
that I couldn't have
I have a Collier and I can't thank you enough for your time and effort in producing such a wonderful site for all us 'newbies'.
Good day Alex
Best site by far.
B. J. Duncan
I must thank you for taking the time to do so much research and share it for free with the rest of us.
Veronica T, U.S.A.