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Part 2: Canadian Sewing Company Manufacturers.

R.M. Wanzer and Company

The first sewing machine factory in Canada was established at Hamilton in 1860-1861 by Richard Mott Wanzer who, during the late 1850's, seems to have had a small sewing machine shop in Buffalo, N.Y. which manufactured Singer machines. For some unknown reason, he left this business and shortly thereafter settled in Hamilton to begin anew. It took a week to turn out his first machine. During the next 30 years, however, R.M. Wanzer and Company grew to the largest and most successful of all Ontario's sewing machine manufacturers.

The earliest sewing machines manufactured by the Wanzer company were Singer (models 1 & 2) and Wheeler & Wilsons and were proudly advertised as such. However, in 1862, Wanzer began to advertise a new home-manufactured sewing machine that was patented in Canada. It was called the Family Shuttle Machine and actually combined the best qualities of both the Singer and Wheeler & Wilson machines. The Family Shuttle machine was delicately hand-painted with floral and scrolled designs in gold leaf, came with a stand completely of iron -- a rare feature -- and sold for forty five dollars. The markings on the front shuttle race slide read

R.M.Wanzer & Co.

Sewing Machine MFT'Y

Hamilton, C.W.

Patented Feby 19th, 1862

The second home-manufactured sewing machine introduced by Wanzer was known as the Little Wanzer. Hailed as the " most Perfect of all Sewing Machines," the Little Wanzer's immediate popularity is evidenced by the claim that over 4,000 were sold in its first year of manufacture. By 1874, nearly 200,000 of these lock-stitch machines had been sold. The Little Wanzer's compact size, simplicity, and low price made it an instant favorite, and it became a leading export to such countries as England, France, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, and Brazil.

The Little Wanzer, which came mounted on a marble slab, could either be set on a table and driven by hand, or placed on an iron stand and driven by foot. In 1870, it sold for twenty-five dollars by itself, or thirty dollars on a stand. All the cast parts of this machine were japanned and hand decorated in gold leaf with flowers and vines. "Little Wanzer" was generally written on the center of the arm, and often an hourglass trade mark with the works "Time Utilizer" appeared on the side.

In its general shape, the Little Wanzer is similar to other American hand-operated sewing machines of the late 1850s and 1860s. It also incorporates a number of American features such as the vertical piston operating the needle, the manner of feeding the thread through the needle, the yielding presser foot, and the shuttle. Unlike most other contemporary machines, the shuttle moves in a vertical arc rather than on a horizontal race.

In 1874, R.M. Wanzer and Company had expanded its line of sewing machines to include four additional models: Wanzer A, Wanzer D, Wanzer E, and Wanzer F. Both the D and E models were for tailors and manufacturers of heavy goods such as leather. The Wanzer A, for foot or hand operation, was quite similar in construction to the Little Wanzer, but did not seem to be quite as popular. Very few of these machines have survived.

The Wanzer F was one of Wanzer's most successful sewing machines of the 1870s. It was foot operated or treadle machine with heavy castings that completely encompassed the upper shafts, gears, and other working parts. Its most significant feature was the introduction of the reversible feed, which enabled the operator to sew both forward and backward without stopping the machine. This development was a tremendous aid for it not only enabled the operator to fasten or secure the threads at the beginning and end of each seam, but also facilitated the strengthening of any part of a seam by double stitching or backstitching with a quick and easy motion.

The last family sewing machine manufactured by the Wanzer Company was the Wanzer C, introduced sometime between 1877 and 1881. Although it was patterned after the Wanzer F, it was a deluxe model. The principal features of the Wanzer C were the large and roomy space under the arm, the adjustability of all its parts, a steel feed on both sides of the needle, a case-hardened triangular needle bar, a nickel-plated balance wheel, a self-threading shuttle, and an automatic bobbin winder.

Fortune seemed to smile on the Wanzer company during its long and productive history. Ingenuity and sharp business acumen rapidly carried Richard Wanzer to success. His sewing machines, which were exhibited in Canada and Europe, were awarded more prizes and diplomas than any other Canadian machines. The string of laurels attached to the Wanzer company was long and impressive, the most notable being the Iron Cross conferred upon the owner at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873 by the Emperor of Austria. Unfortunately, overproduction and a sharp drop in demand put a severe strain on the company in the 1880s, and in 1890, the Wanzer sewing machine company, one of Canada's most important manufacturers for over a quarter century, passed out of existence.

 

Charles Raymond:

For over 30 years, Charles Raymond of Guelp remained the principal rival of R.M. Wanzer and Company. Like Wanzer, Raymond was an American but one who had already established himself as a leader in the sewing machine industry. In 1858, he and William Nettleton were manufacturing a chain-stitch sewing machine in Brattleboro, Vermont, that Raymond had invented. In 1862, Raymond moved to Guelph, bringing with him fifteen men to form the nucleus of Guelph's first sewing machine establishment. By 1869, he owned one of Guelph's largest factories and employed forty people. An incredible rate of expansion is evident from the following description printed in the 1871-72 County of Wellington Directory.

"In manufactures Guelph will compare with any town in the Dominion. Among which, mention may be made of Raymond's Sewing Machine Factory, these extensive works were established in 1861 and are situated on Yarmouth Street and Yarmouth corner or Woolwich streets, one building being wood 106 feet x 96 feet, two stories high with an engine of 15 horsepower, the other wood 90 x 30, two stories high with 8 horsepower. The works have a capacity of turning out 500 machines a week, 165 hands are constantly employed."

The earliest Raymond sewing machine manufactured in Canada was called Raymond's Family Sewing Machine or Improved Family Sewing Machine. It came in a little metal box and was hand-operated, portable, chain-stitch machine which would be clamped to any type table. It bears a patent date of 30 July 1861 on the throat plate, and this refers to Raymond's last American patent for an improved sub-platform looper.

This machine was manufactured with two objectives in mind. Most early sewing machines were combination machines (meaning they could sew on both course and fine material), but they generally required a skillful workman to put them in order for the weight of the material to be sewn. The aims of the Raymond machine were to be so simple that anyone could change it to accommodate almost any weight of fabric and "at the same time make it at so small a cost as to be within the means of everybody." This machine sold for twelve dollars and was possibly the cheapest one on the market throughout the 1860s.

A single-thread machine has one major drawback. The chain-stitch is not always sufficiently secure stitch for domestic sewing as it unravels easily, and for this reason the lock-stitch machine is more desirable. On 18 April 1872, Charles Raymond took out his first patent fro "an improved sewing machine called the Raymond Household Sewing machine." This is the earliest Raymond machine known to exhibit a beaver, which became the Raymond trademark.

By 1871, Raymond's line of machines had grown to include a series of three more lock-stitch machines: the Family No. 1, No 2, and No 3 Shuttle machines. Both the No. 2 and No. 3 machines were adapted for heavy manufacturing. The No 1 was a heavy machine bearing two patent dates (22 September 1879 and 7 May 1880) which refer primarily to improvements to the spooler spindle. Raymond manufactured another machine quite similar to the No. 1 except that it was considerably smaller. The only markings on this machine is the name "Chas Raymond" stamped on both the shuttle race slides. It is possible that this was an early edition of the No. 1 but more research would be necessary to prove it.

Like the Wanzer company, Raymond exported many machines to Europe. However, production was severely curtailed in the late 1870s and by the early 1890s, competiton from giant American sewing machine companies like Singer and White began to squeeze Raymond out of the market. In 1879, he finally sold his company to the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Renamed the Raymond Manufacturing Company, this firm continued producing sewing machines until 1916. The New Raymond, based in part on Charles Raymond's patents of 1879 and 1880, was the last type of the machine the company produced.

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