Budget hooked needle machines.

The design and production of small and inexpensive hooked needle machines first appeared in the USA in the late 1850s. A number of inventors and engineers applied their talents to this class of machine during the subsequent decade. Cheap, practical models were certainly produced, but it is fair to conclude that commercial success was only very limited at best. Surviving machines of this type are scarce today, and this, combined with their diminutive size has ensured that many of today's enthusiasts are keen to add at least one of them to their collections.
What follows is a brief look at some of the designs that are known to have made it into production.

Albert H. Hook's table clamp machine was patented in November 1858. A barbed needle penetrated the stitchplate and fabric from below, and a guide positioned the thread close around the needle. When the needle descended, the barb caught and carried down a loop of the thread through the cloth, which was then fed forward one stitch. The needle again ascended, leaving the loop on it, and by the same process caught the thread and drew another loop down through the first. This was repeated as the sewing proceeded.
When manufactured, the machine was extremely tiny - only approximately 2 inches by 2 inches above the clamp.
Two years later Jason W. Hardy patented a very similar looking machine, but the design incorporated modifications with the method of activating a swinging movement of the thread guide. Production machines were approximately double the size of the Hook model.

Hook's 1858 patent.

Hardy's 1860 patent.

Timothy D. Jackson's 1858 patent once again addressed the design of thread guides, in this case the guide was to attached directly to the cloth presser. Machines using this patent were subsequently made and marketed by the Bartlett Company, New York.

Also towards the close of the 1850s Edward S. Boynton patented his own distinctive "clamp-on", barbed needle machine. With cost cutting in mind, Boynton attached his needle directly to the crankshaft, thereby creating a simple feed. A variable needle guide was included, this allowing stitch length adjustment.
Boynton also made provision within his design for the attachment of an additional larger crank wheel, which when linked by belt to the existing drive, enhanced the speed of operation.
As with the Hook, Hardy and Jackson designs, the needle still penetrated the worked fabric from below.

Jackson's 1858 patent.

Boynton's 1859 patent.

In 1867 Henry J. Hancock patented a small "clamp-on" machine which spawned a number of improvements from others. Hancock's design saw the needle penetrate the fabric from above, unlike the previously mentioned machines. Although distinctive in appearance, the patent only claimed one specific feature, this being an adjustable height stitchplate, employed "to secure a sufficiently firm yet free and readily adjustable hold of the cloth".

One year later, using Hancock's basic model, Henry P. Lamson claimed a new spring thread guide to yield against the pressure of the needle, which then carried the thread across its path. Also included was a second guide piece to control the path of the thread as well as close the flexible needle barb. Lamson's design boasted a ratchet device to prevent accidental reverse motion, together with a thread tensioning provision. Despite all these improvements, Hancock's adjustable stitchplate was retained.

Hancock's 1867 patent.

Lamson's 1868 patent.

Following close on Lamson's improvements was George H. Fox and Joseph Hubbard's August 1868 patent. In this machine, the rather fussy concept of lifting the entire stitchplate was dispensed with, a new adjustable height "stripper plate" being incorporated instead.

1870 saw further developments, this time by Jennie L. Lake. The improvements consisted of, and I quote:
"A thread guide and needle closure of a rigid character, but hung so as to be capable of sliding and pressed outward by a rubber, or other suitable spring, on its back, whereby, while all requisite elasticity is secured as regards the working of the needle over or in contact with said device, a more positive and effective action is obtained than is attainable by a thread guide and needle closure of an elastic wire construction."

Fox & Hubbard's 1868 patent.

Lake's 1870 patent.

Surviving examples of the Hancock inspired design have surfaced with many slightly different features included, therefore it seems reasonable to speculate that a number of manufacturers produced variants of this class of machine from the late 1860s for several years.
It is of interest to note that Henry J. Hancock did not lose total heart with this type of machine, for in 1901 he initiated a patent for a very similar model. The toy market was clearly in mind this time around, and the resulting "Soeze" model manufactured by Batchelor & Stenson did achieve modest sales.

January 2004

Hancock's 1901 patent.

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