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Newton Wilson

Sewing Machines

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 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.

 

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Newton Wilson Sewing Machines

144 high Holborn, London

1868

The Great Central Depot


Here are the plush sales offices of Newton Wilson in Holborn, London. They displayed and demonstrated over 100 assorted sewing machines on several floors to agents and the general public alike winning two prize medals at the prestigious Paris Exhibition of 1867.

Newton Wilson has been acclaimed as one of the main founders of the British sewing industry which is a bold statement but his sewing machines including the amazing Princess of Wales sewing sewing machine certainly tick all the boxes for collectors.

One of the most beautifully ornate and decorative cast sewing machines of the Victorian Era was the Princess of Wales sewing machine.

1873 The prize winning Princess of Wales. Claimed by periodicals of the day as the most perfect hand machine yet invented.

The Princess of Wales sewing machine was made to look at home on a ladyís parlour table in Victorian England. This was just one of the great machines produced by the pioneer and genius William Newton Wilson.

Can you see the little dolphin bobbin winder on the machine above? It was this attention to detail that made the Princess of Wales a sought after machine. However it was ten times more expensive than the James Weir machine of the same period! In the long run it was doomed to failure simply because it was too expensive.

Priced out of the market because of its huge cost the Princess of Wales is still one of the most sought after machines of the Victorian period and collected worldwide.

Newton Wilson, 144 High Holborn, 144 Cheapside & 210 Regent Street London

An Early model Princess of Wales MKII sewing machine.


There were three distinct models of the Princess of Wales this is the second model, MKII. It was a case of the ugly duckling later turning into a swan. This model did not sell well and although is much rarer does not fetch the price that Newton Wilson's later Princess of Wales sewing machine does. You can just see the centre three feather on the base. Later these were on each corner.

Newton Wilsonís trademark, the three feathers of the Black Prince, were later cast into the corner of each machine base.

By 1857, Newton Wilson was selling sewing machines from 144 High Holborn, London. Like many of the early European sewing machine suppliers he imported from America. America was a decade ahead of the rest of the world in sewing machines.


The heavy looking Newton & Wilson sewing machine of 1859-60.

Before the Trades Description Act was brought in, you could basically say what you liked about the goods that you sold. Newton Wilson was no exception, calling the Grover & Baker sewing machines and machines from the American Buttonhole and Overseaming Company his own.


This is the Newton Wilson 'American' which was actually made by the American Button Hole & Overseaming Company. The machine was apparently capable of over 100 buttonholes per minute. That is a proud boast and I doubt if it was possible. The machine sold for an amazing price of 20 guineas.

Unfortunately with personalities like Elias Howe and Isaac Singer suing everyone who even thought about making their own sewing machines, when Newton Wilson did make his own machines, he ended up in court.


This is a Grover & Baker sewing machine sold as the Newton Wilson Knotted Stitch sewing machine. In 1868 this machine would have cost you the same as a new motorcycle today, yours for only £10, 10s complete with accessories.

Legal proceedings plagued Newton Wilsons commercial life but it did lead to one very interesting find.


Notice this early advert for the Princess of Wales MKI.

One day as Newton Wilson was sifting through the endless patents at the Patent Office when he stumbled upon the Thomas Saint sewing machine patent of 1790 that had been misfiled. The Thomas Saint Patent had vague similarities to the Elias Howe Patent in America being a machine for stitching leather, though it was a chain stitch machine. in 1874 Newton Wilson took the patent plans of Thomas Saint's and with a little modification actually made the machine stitch.


The Newton Wilson Queen Mab was a single thread chain stitch sewing machine priced at £3, 3s incidentally the same price3 as the Newton Wilson Cleopatra which was also a chain stitch machine.


A super rare Newton Wilson Queen Bess sewing machine.

Had that patent shown up at the Singer-Howe court cases Elias Howe may have lost his claim to have invented the first sewing machine using his special needle. In fact if many details had turned up Elias would have lost. For example sometime before Elias Howe had patented his unique needle in America John Fisher had patented something similar in England. That would in turn have cost him the fortune that he made from sewing machines. Elias Howe became one of the richest men in America and hardly made a sewing machine (then most of his money disappeared). His history is well worth a read.


The Newton Wilson Dorcas sewing machine priced at four guineas. The Newton Wilson Dorcas and the Newton Wilson Penelope sewing machine were both two-thread lock stitch sewing machines.


The Princess of Wales monopod is so rare that I have never seen a real one!

 

By 1867, Newton Wilson had set up his works at 52 Pope Street, Manchester. The Princess of Wales sewing machine, Wilsonís most famous sewing machine, was initially forged at one of Wilsonís factories in Woolpack Lane, Nottingham along with some of the most sought after sewing machines in the world, including the Queen of Scots and the stunning Cleopatra.

The Royal Kilter


The foundry also produced the kilter which as you can see pleated fabric.

At the St Georges foundry they made bearings, bicycles or velocipedes, tools, presses and most importantly sewing machines.

St George's Foundry


The Pope Street, St George's Foundry. Note the various huge advertising on the walls and the small sewing machine department on the side almost as an afterthought.


I love the huge queue that they have added.

To produce these fabulous machines Wilson had one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the sewing machine world. They included James Starley who later produced the amazing Queen of Hearts sewing machine, the needle specialist A. J. Baylis, William Singer and William Hillman. They were all experts in their fields and several went on to form their own businesses. If you take a peek at my Starley history it tells their story.


Newton Wilson 144 High Holborn, London, stamped on many of his sewing machines.

Newton Wilson sewing machines require no fixing to a table and will perform all domestic work. They are so simple to operate that they require no personal instruction.

Newton Wilson's experience was to come together to bring us some of the most stunning British sewing machines we are ever likely to see. Each Princes of Wales sewing machine was hand built and unique, all parts being stamped with an individual number to identify it.


 

In 1873 The Princess of Wales,won the Grand Medal of Merit at the Vienna show in Austria. At the time, this machine was described as the most perfect hand machine yet invented.

Newton Wilson later purchased superb showrooms in the heart of London at 210 Regent Street and 144 Cheapside, London.

Newton Wilson was responsible for importing selling and manufacturing many of these beautiesÖ

The Princess of Wales £6.6s (three models plus Wilson rotary hook))
The Penelope £5.5s
The Cleopatra £4.4s Chainstitch (MkI and MkII)
The Queen of Scots (shaped in the letter M for Mary)
The Queen Bess
The Queen Mab £3.3s Chainstitch, Hamburg import (Made by Guhl & Harbeck with a Newton Wilson base)
The Dorcas £4.4s
The American Button Machine, £20.
The Family Knotted (Grover & Baker) £8.
Jenny Lind (similar castings to the POW)
England's Queen (similar to POW with different base)
Wallace Ash (Once again a POW with a modified base)
The Newton Wilson Braid machine, 100yds of braid per hour, £2.2s.
Englandís Queen An early zig-zag machine

The Princess of Wales Sewing Machine


 

The Princess of Wales had two main versions from 1870, an early plain casting model MKII and the later spectacular one which we all know and drool over the MKIII. On each corner foot are the three feather of the Prince of Wales that Newton Wilson put on many of his machines and became his trademark.

 
This is a Princess of Wales MKIII that I sold to an American collector in 2005 the closer you look at the Princess of Wales the better the machine is. The attention to fine detail is unsurpassed and a credit to the design of Newton Wilson.

Books by Alex Askaroff

Fancy a funny story: Ena Wilf  & The One-Armed Machinist

 

 

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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: alexsussex@aol.com.

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All Alex's books are on: www.crowsbooks.com

Alex's latest 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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As a new collector I have found your site has increased my knowledge in a short time to a degree that I couldn't have imagined.
Thank you again for all the useful information you give freely to us.
Kind regards
Brenda P