by Graham Forsdyke
Issue No. 28
BACK IN the late 1880s the whole sewing-machine trade in Britain was agog at the news of a wonder machine which was said to be set to revolutionize the industry.
The story started in 1887 when a Mr. C Noble announced a new form of sewing machine and said that he was taking premises in Notting Hill, London, to build it.
Nothing was heard for a full year but then Noble, who had floated a company and was its chairman, invited the press to his factory for a tour before production proper began.
In the words of one reporter "I was astonished at what met my view. The several workshops were filled with machinery specially invented for the Noble machine and costing beyond doubt some thousands of pounds".
He went on: "Some of this machinery showed exceptional ingenuity and, as the whole of it was either designed or invented by Mr. Noble, its excellence quite prepares us to expect to find in the Noble sewing machine merits of a higher order than we first expected".
The reporter said that everything about the factory inspired confidence and the considerable outlay on premises and tooling would enable 100 machines a day to be produced.
But what of the machine itself?
From reports it would seem to have diverged from the accepted methods of producing a lockstitch.
There was no shuttle or hook to produce the under thread but another needle under the bed plate which would cross the path of the conventional needle and thus produce the stitch. This lower needle came upwards from beneath the machine and went through the fabric in the same way as the conventional needle. Therefore, at any one time, one of the two needle was in the fabric.
Removing the finished work was accomplished by the aid of a lever which drew both needles away from the work.
Each needle had its own full-six-reel of thread.
A contemporary account of a prototype describes the machine thus: "In shape the Noble differs from any other machine produced. The whole of the mechanism is enclosed in a G-shaped japanned iron case, the only parts exposed to view being the needles and the tensions, which can be adjusted at any time whilst the machine is in motion".
Even before the machine was put on the market it was lauded as a "decided advance in sewing mechanism from Noble", said to be a sewing machine expert of long standing,
But the big question is -- whatever happened to it?
As yet I've found no later references to the company or the machine. Research continues and more may be found.
At the moment the only tenuous clue could be from America.
There was a Noble Sewing Machine Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, in the early 1880s but this went out of business around 1887, the very year that Noble started promoting his company in Britain. And just four years later, after Noble appears to have disappeared from the British industry, another company bearing his name was formed in Weeping Water, Nebraska. That, too, folded after a remarkably short time.
There may be no connection . Only time and a lot more digging will tell. GF