A Stitch In Time

Sewing Machines

Sewing Machines are considered one of the first domestic machines to be mass-produced. Tailors and housewives are no longer expected to do tedious hand sewing anymore. While sewing a coat by hand used to take 16 hours, the same work now only takes 40 minutes on their new machines.

The sewing machine was responsible for the first commercial pattern companies and industries needed to provide spare parts. Both were unexpected offshoots to the sewing machine industry in the late 1800s.

Manufacturers hired female demonstrators to show off the versatility of the machine and the ease of mechanical sewing with free instruction to buyers at the home.

Although the invention is not credited to a single individual, many consider Barthélemy Thimonnier, a French inventor, as the first person to patent the sewing machine for commercial use on July 17, 1830. In 1845, he organized the first French sewing-machine company in Paris.

In the United States, many consider Elias Howe as the developer of the first completely successful patented sewing machine in 1846.

Elias Howe's Sewing Machine in Museum Collection

The sewing machine industry came to Canada in the 1860s. Companies located along transportation routes that were close to the shipping centres on Lake Ontario and railroad routes, as well as having easy access to coal, iron and steel. By the 1860s the sewing machine was the leading Canadian export.

The Raymond Sewing Company

thumbnail image of colouring activity sewing machine activity

The Raymond Sewing Company of Guelph was one of the most notable nearby companies of Wellington County. It was originally operated by Charles Raymond and exported its products to Great Britain and the colonies. Charles Raymond was the principle rival of R.M. Wanzer and Company out of Hamilton. In 1858, Charles Raymond and his business partner William Nettleton, started the Raymond Sewing Company in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA.

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By 1862, Raymond moved to Guelph bringing with him fifteen men and by 1869, he owned one of Guelph’s largest factories, employing forty people.

Photo Gallery: WCMA_The Raymond Sewing Company will appear here on the public site.

In 1897, Raymond Sewing Machine Company was sold to the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio and the plant was renamed “Raymond Manufacturing Company” until 1916.

Fergus Manufacturing Company

sepia photograph, factory building, Fergus Manufacturing Company, along St. Andrew Street.

One of the least well-known sewing machine companies in Wellington County was the Fergus Manufacturing Company developed in 1875 and 1877. Very little is known about the company. It produced a simple, sturdy machine called the Barclay and was designed by Robert Barclay, a watchmaker from Paris, Ontario.

Caption: Factory building (Fergus Manufacturing Company) (centre right) along St. Andrew Street.
Credit: WCMA, ph 11037, A1992.90.


Photo Gallery: WCMA_Fergus Manufacturing Company will appear here on the public site.

A Toy Sewing Machine That Will Sew!

photograph of side profile of toy sewing machine

By 1919 the Sears Roebuck & Company catalogue were advertising toy sewing machines that could sew. They were marketed as popular girls’ toys used to make dolls’ clothing. The mechanisms were designed to work easily for a child.

Caption: Toy sewing machine, circa 1918. 
Credit: WCMA, 1996.12.17.



photograph side profile of The Tabitha sewing machine

Many sewing machines were sold not as toys but smaller versions of full-sized models. Small, and durable, this rare brass sewing machine called The Tabitha (made in 1886-1890 by Daniel Judson & Son Ltd., London, England) was used by Edith Holder Durham while emigrating from Birmingham, England to Canada in 1914.

Caption: The Tabitha sewing machine, circa 1886-1890.
Credit: WCMA, 1988.80.3.

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For more information on our Sewing Machine Collection please visit our online collections catalogue link below.

WCMA Sewing Machine Collection

© 2023 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, TF 1.800.663.0750, F 519.837.1909