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 world wide.
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The Ideal Sewing Machine Co Ltd
1921-1925 or was it...
The name 'Ideal' has been put on many sewing machines over the years but on this page we are going to talk about the British Ideal Sewing Machine.
It is rare that as late as 1910 a complete sewing machine patent application is filed and approved. By then over 60 years had passed and thousands upon thousands of patents had been issued all over the world. This made patenting a brand new, complete, sewing machine almost unheard of. From 1840 when sewing machines were almost unknown to 1900 (just 60 years later) the world was producing over 20 million machines a year. Germany had over 300 factories making machines and North America had 200 plus. There were factories in almost every major country in the world producing sewing machines. Then along comes the Ideal...
On December 30th 1910 Leslie Salter applied for his improved Portable Chain Stitch Sewing Machine. Patent application Number 30,264.
Leslie Salter of 50 Copthall Avenue London was an engineer by trade. Perhaps he had hoped to make his millions from this superb art deco model.
The company premises were at 66 Broad Street Ave, London EC2.
It was so different to anything on the market that the patent was granted.
Ideal Sewing Machine, known as Salter’s Improved Portable Chain Stitch Sewing Machine.
The Ideal Sewing Machine patent application of Dec 1910
US Patent 1,200,675
Little else is known about the British made Ideal
patented by Leslie Salter. The company chairman
was H. Stone and the later workshop, Sandycombe Works, was near
Kew in London. What
we do know is a bit of an enigma. Harry Stone
was chairman of the company from 1919 until 1922 and ran the
company from their offices at 66 Broad Street Avenue, London.The well-engineered small tin
plate machine was first patented before The Great War, the
patents being issued in December 1910 and accepted on the 8th of
June 1911. Hold on though, because that is not
when the machines were made. read on...
A quick bit of extra information. Do not confuse the British Ideal sewing Machine with the much earlier American Willcox & Gibbs chain-stitch copy, (also called the Ideal sewing machine). There were actually several American Ideal machines. They were produced by Davies, White's, and New Home. Confused? Read on it gets worse...There was also a German manufacturer.
New Ideal Sewing Machine
Now back to the British Ideal
Patents were issued and each surviving machine is stamped across the bed with the 30264 United Kingdom patent numbers. Such a bold display across the machine was intended to scare away competitors.
We do know that Salter also had German, American and French patents showing that he had intended to market his machine to a larger European and world markets. Little did he know that just around the corner was a devastating World War!
Although patented in 1911 there is some confusion about the start of manufacturing. Some records state that it was not actually manufactured until after the Great War as late as 1921, Though there are reports of them being used during WW1.
There was a launch of shares in 1921of 2,000,000 shares of one shilling per share.
There is also another curious point. In January of 1914 Herbert Westcott of Adelaide Road, London, patented an almost identical machine to the Ideal except that it made a lock-stitch not a chain-stitch. Patent No 1459. If you were to look at the two patent applications together they would look like twins, not identical ones but instantly recognisable as from the same stock. This may be connected to the ISMAK Sewing Machine, more of that later.
Was Salter's machine held up due to a copy trying to come onto the market or was there another reason? The similarities are way too close for chance!
The Ideal Sewing Machine is only 10 inches long. An Art Deco engineering masterpiece of style and performance.
The machines were made at their London factory at Sandycombe Works, Kew and 66 Broad Street Avenue. EC2.
So we are not sure about the actual start of manufacturing and there is no evidence of the time it was stopped. Not too good eh! But great fun to collect.
Let's look at the facts. We have the patent date of June 1911. From 1914-19 we have the Great War and of course it did not just finish overnight. Then we have the dreaded Spanish Flue killing millions and then by 1921 things settle down. There are facts to back this up mainly from their advertising. So we can make the assumption that along with the share launch the big Ideal sewing machine launch was also in 1921.
The machines were small, light, and easy to use. Why they did not manage to get a better foothold in the market is curious. It could not have been poor marketing as I have never seen so much advertising for a sewing machine that only lasted a year!
The machines came in a tin, black, with a dome metal
and there were slight changes to the machine so we have Models A &B.
Note the different ends.
and there were slight changes to the machine so we have Models A &B. Note the different ends.
The Model B also had an adjustable presser foot and a slightly improved lifter cam.
I have been told that the machine manufacturer,
Salter, may also
have a connection to Salter's family, the
famous British scale makers but I have found no evidence to
Salter scales and pressure gauges
The patented walking foot mechanism is very similar
to the very early 1850’s Pillar or Fire Hydrant machines made by
American manufacturers such as Shaw & Clark.
It was easy to copy these long out-of-date
mechanisms without fear of patent infringement.
It was easy to copy these long out-of-date mechanisms without fear of patent infringement.
The machine produces a single chain stitch, using a hook beneath the plate to capture and hold the thread, a simple and effective method used by many early sewing machines like Raymond and Muller.
There were several improvements made to
the machine and several surviving models show these slight
variations. They had 10 years from 1911-1921
for the launch so they had time to get it right!
There were several improvements made to the machine and several surviving models show these slight variations. They had 10 years from 1911-1921 for the launch so they had time to get it right!
We know that by late 1922 The Ideal Sewing Machine
Company had all but disappeared.
After what seems to be the longest beginning of
any sewing machine company from 1911 to 1921 it also had the
shortest production run. The Ideal sewing machine was a one-year
After what seems to be the longest beginning of any sewing machine company from 1911 to 1921 it also had the shortest production run. The Ideal sewing machine was a one-year explosion!
ISMAK sewing machine
Interestingly there is a rumour that just before the company closed they messed around with a lock-stitch machine. A report in the Daily Mail on 23rd October 1922 stated that Mrs Kemp had won £100 for suggesting the name ISMAK for Ideal's new and remarkable lock-stitch sewing machine. The machine obviously did not catch on as some time later in 1924 an Australian company were selling off the ISMAK sewing machines at less than half price.
The instructions sheets also arouse curiosity for the Ideal as in each corner of the original instruction sheet is a small swastika?
Pre-war I believe this was an ancient Asian peace sign.
It was not until 1920 that Hitler adopted the swastika.
These machine instructions seldom turn up today.
These tales may be true. I have no doubt that a few sample were kicking about before the big official start date of 1921.
I heard one story
that cannot be confirmed and blows the 1921
manufacturing start date to pieces. It was a story of a soldier
who took one of these little
machines to war with him in 1916. In the trenches he repaired his uniform
on the Ideal sewing machine all through the hostilities. The man and his machine
survived and the Ideal was put up for auction a few years ago.
I have been told stories like this several times and there is another tale at the bottom of the page.
Apparently the Ideal Sewing Machine was purposely sold to Batmen who carried the lightweight machine about with their kit and repaired the Master's clothing when needed. "James fetch the ideal. I seem to have ripped-me-pants."
Harrods & Selfridges
To my knowledge,
in Britain, they were only sold from two
Coming from those stores they may have been
expensive for a chain stitch machine. Much more costly than the
Singer 20 or similar machines of the age. This may have
contributed to its short life.
Coming from those stores they may have been expensive for a chain stitch machine. Much more costly than the Singer 20 or similar machines of the age. This may have contributed to its short life.
The engineering is to a very high standard with
unusual square cut steel gears and clever adjustable shafts around
the machine that allow for timing, feed and tension adjustments.
The engineering is to a very high standard with unusual square cut steel gears and clever adjustable shafts around the machine that allow for timing, feed and tension adjustments.
and well made the Art Deco Ideal sewing
machine was perfect for the period.
The pinnacle of Art Deco in a sewing machine and with a walking foot or vertical feed as some call it. No teeth underneath for this baby.
The British Ideal is a true classic collectors
dream, small, elegant and unusual. They fetch excellent
money in good condition and are well worth grabbing if you get the
chance. Unfortunately the metal tin and thin
nickel plating is prone to corrosion so if you do spot one of
these beauties make sure it is in nice condition.
They fetch excellent money in good condition and are well worth grabbing if you get the chance. Unfortunately the metal tin and thin nickel plating is prone to corrosion so if you do spot one of these beauties make sure it is in nice condition.
The last sign of the Ideal was in 1925 with Stephen Rowe in control. Then the business and this unique sewing machine disappeared with little trace.
The Ideal Sewing Machine
I hope you liked my little piece about Ideal.
It is an accumulation of 25 years of snippets that hopefully will
one day grow into a more complete jigsaw puzzle. Do
let me know if you have information to add or
ask before copying, I don't bite!
I hope you liked my little piece about Ideal. It is an accumulation of 25 years of snippets that hopefully will one day grow into a more complete jigsaw puzzle. Do let me know if you have information to add or spelling!
Please ask before copying, I don't bite! email@example.com
Fancy a funny read: Ena Wilf & The One-Armed Machinist
A brilliant slice of 1940's life: Spies & Spitfires
All Alex's book are on a dedicated website: www.crowsbooks.com
Both Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
Copyright © Alex
What a great page! Thank you for
May I say a big Thank You for putting so much time and effort into your Ideal sewing machine page. It is by far the best I have found.
Alex, you have the best sewing machine site I have ever come across how many hours do you spend on it?
Ruth K, South Africa.
Well done and supa pictures.
F G CANADA
I was given an Ideal sewing machine and after finding your site I will cherish it all the more.
Once again, thank you for the information on
your website, I've found it extremely helpful.