Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society

Men of Vision

by Graham Forsdyke
Issue 27

FOR OUR Man of Vision spot this issue we turn not to an inventor but to an entrepreneur -- those men with the foresight and courage to risk their all for the benefit of the public good.

A case of point is one Charles A Dearborne, a Canadian who, after spending some time with that area's Wheeler & Wilson distributor, decided that Britain was ripe for his business flair.

He did a deal with a local manufacturer who produced the Empress machine and set sail for England. On his arrival he lost no time in contacting the various trade magazines to demonstrate the work of the Empress. And then, according to the Journal of Domestic Appliances and Sewing Machine Gazette, used parts of private conversations to head up his publicity campaign.

Offices were taken at prestigious Queen Victoria Street, London and the Empress installed in a demonstration room where examples of other manufacturers' wares were provided for comparison.

Certainly the Empress appeared to work well when compared to the opposition, but one visitor was heard to suggest that had the Empress not been the only machine to benefit from a little oil, the comparison might have been less invidious.

But now Dearborne was ready to share his dream with the public and a company was formed with the aim of bringing in £100,000 in £1 shares.

Much play was made of the fortunes enjoyed by the White, Wheeler & Wilson and Singer companies and the public was pressed to join in the bonanza by buying Empress shares.

The prospectus was issued and the shares list was opened on the 17th March, 1888, and Dearborne and his fellow directors sat back with their clerical staff ready to count the applications. Just five days later the share lists were closed with a subscribed capital of absolutely nothing.

Not one single farthing was received from the public and not surprisingly the financial press of the time declared the whole affair a complete failure.

Ten days later Mr. Dearborne was back on the steamer for the New World taking with him his Empress machine but leaving the oppositions' models to be oiled and sold off. GF