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Queen Victoria
&
Her sewing machines

  Main Index                           Skylark Country

 

 

                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 world wide. Over the last two decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.

 

 
 

 


Queen Victoria, 1819 - 1901.

It has always been a question that has meandered through my messy mind. How could a plump widow somehow manage to rule over the greatest empire the world has ever known? How could this shy old dear possibly be the head of a country where truly the sun never set on her dominions? During her reign tiny little Britain became the most powerful country in the world, with the largest empire that had ever existed, ruling a quarter of the world's population. How crazy is that!

We need someone to look at the question in more detail. Was it just because we were the first to get the industrial revolution underway? Was it our sneaky way of handing out
honours which aren't really anything more than a title or medal to wear on parade? Was it our brilliant infrastructures of rail and road, ship and steam that built an empire? Was it our blood, a mix of races that were pioneers and travellers from the cold Scandinavian borderlands to the warm coasts of Italy? Or was it a mix of this and a million more things that all came together during that unique period which has become known forever as the time of the Victorians!

Victoria was the only child of Prince Edward (Duke of Kent) and Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg. Queen Victoria was born on the 24 May in 1819 at Kensington Palace, London. Her father died eight months after she was born so she never knew him. Victoria was christened 'Alexandrina Victoria'. However, from birth she was formally addressed as Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Kent.

Queen Victoria's reign spanned sixty four years, from 1837 - 1901. She is the longest reigning monarch in our UK history. She reigned for exactly 63 years, seven months, and two days (June 20, 1837 to January 22, 1901). Queen Victoria was only 18 when she came to the throne and she had lot's to learn but Victoria never went to school. She was taught at home by special tutors.

At the age of 21, Queen Victoria married her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg, a handsome German Prince. They married on the 10th February 1840 at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace.

Victoria had nine children though three died before her which must have been heartbreaking. Also her handsome husband died far too young which led Victoria into a ten-year spell of morning. During that period it was fashionable to wear black like the Queen. It was a severe period for costume.

Queen Victoria had 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren while she was alive. Today her relatives are scattered all over the world and many of her children married into the other royal families of Europe.

Queen Victoria died on 22 January, 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She was 81. She is buried in a mausoleum at Frogmore, Windsor.

She was survived by six children, 40 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren, including four future sovereigns of England: Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII (who abdicated) and George VI.

Although dozens of machines had royal names and connotations during her amazing reign she only approved of one sewing machine company of which I am aware. That company was James Galloway Weir. in 1891. Click on the link to see their full history.

However, many companies had names on their sewing machines such as The Royal made by the The Royal Sewing Machine Company of Small Heath, Birmingham, England. The Jones Sewing Machine Company had Royal approval from the future Queen Alexandra. Also over the decades many have used the name Victoria on their sewing machines. The machines come from all over the world but have nothing to do with Queen Victoria.

  
The Jones Sewing Machine Company of Manchester had Royal approval from Princess Alexandra

Also, many companies sent her sewing machines in the hope that they would get Royal Approval or even a positive letter. Most were sent back unopened to their suppliers. One unique sewing machine is in the Wimbledon Sewing Machine collection owned by my old friend Ray Rushton.

I remember the first time he showed me his sewing machine with the Royal Connection in his amazing collection. He had just won it at auction for around £23,500. The most ever paid for a sewing machine. I looked on in awe at the beauty and all the extra work that had gone into such a special machine right down to glass engraving. Did Victoria ever see it? I bet good money she did.


The Princess Vicky machine sold for £23,500 in 1997. I saw it go.

The machine was made by Pollack & Schmidt at their American Sewing Machine Factory in Hamburg. I am not sure if there was a connection with Taylor Sewing Machines. P&S made Wheeler & Wilson clones including the one that Ray bought from Christies in London in 1997. He paid the highest price ever paid for a sewing machine to date. It was made for the daughter of Queen Victoria, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, Vicky and given to her housekeeper come nanny, nurse and bottle washer on her retirement.  

Another crafty try by Singers in 1922. One of the first electric domestic sewing machines was sent to Queen Mary. Queen Mary sent a polite reply...

It affords me great pleasure to receive this new electrically driven sewing machine which you have so kindly brought me for a wedding present. I thank you sincerely for this very useful gift, and highly appreciate the good wishes you express for my future happiness, Mary, Buckingham Palace.

The good news was plastered over the front windows of every Singer Sewing machine shop up and down the country. Another advertising success for Singers but was it Royal Approval?

 


Many machines have been marked with the Victoria name but only one had her approval. This was not one of them, the name is simply used for advertising.

In all my research the only sewing machine company to actually receive proper Royal Approval from Queen Victoria was James Weir sewing machines which, after 1890, were marked with her royal approval.Their literature from 1891 proudly states:
Sewing Machine Manufacturer to Her most gracious Majesty the Queen.


This is the only sewing machine to my knowledge that had approval from Queen Victoria.

In 1897 Singers, not to be outdone, Singers produced a unique model to mark Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. She had reigned for 60 years and was still going strong. The Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Singer was made in limited numbers, maybe even as low as 100.


Queen Victoria, Empress of India and Dominions. This is the picture of Queen Victoria on the sewing bed of Singers machine just for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Eric Carter, a colleague of mine and a keen collector who ran his sewing machine business in Paignton, Devon, where Isaac Singer bit the dust had more to add.

Eric told me that only a handful of these machines were ever made, in fact only 100 had the picture of Queen Victoria on the bed of the machine. That makes these machines super-rare. I have only seen two in a lifetime of collecting and one was in such poor condition it could have been my granny that I was looking at!

If you ever come across a Queen Victoria sewing machine please do let me know I would love to add a picture to my site.

 

 
  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. Also if you have any information to add I would love to put it on my site.

News Flash!

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

Both books, Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
 are now available instantly on Kindle and iPad.

      

 

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


Alex's stories are now available to keep. Click on the picture for more information.

 

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