Monday – Saturday (all Bank Holidays) 10:30am – 4:00pm (Last entry) Pop-Up closed until 22 February 2022.
The main museum is closed but please visit our Pop-Up Museum. Pop-Up closed until 22 February 2022.
Pop-Up Museum: Merchant’s House, 11a High Street, Launceston, PL15 8ER
Wilcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine
A German patented the first sewing machine in 1755, but the first practical machine was made in 1829 by a French tailor. The first lockstitch sewing machine, the sort used today, was invented by an American Walter Hunt in 1832 but it was unreliable and Hunt lost interest.
The first machine to combine all elements of the previous half-century was built by English inventor John Fisher in 1844, a little earlier than the very similar machines built by Isaac Merritt Singer an American. However, due to the botched filing of Fisher’s patent at the Patent Office, Singer won the legal dispute over priority and John Fisher did not receive due recognition for the modern sewing machine.
In 1857 James Edward Allen Gibbs, a farmer in Rockbridge County, Virginia patented the first chain-stitch single-thread sewing machine. A company was formed between James Willcox, his son Charles and James E. A. Gibbs to make the machine for domestic use. London offices were opened at 135 Regent Street in 1867; then 150 Cheapside, London and later 20 Fore Street, London. An English company was founded in 1908.
The Willcox & Gibbs machine had considerable success. However, chain-stitch had the disadvantage that a seam could easily be undone and the pulling of a stray thread could lead to the undoing of a whole seam with embarrassing consequences!