Willcox & Gibbs Rival From the Big S
Singer's Automatic Model 24
by Graham Forsdyke and Martin Gregory
(January 1997, ISMACS News)
Say "chain stitch machine" and everyone immediately thinks of the Willcox & Gibbs which dominated the market for 80 years.
But Singer also produced a successful chainstitcher, albeit always overshadowed by the Willcox & Gibbs version.
Singer's Automatic -- the company even stole the name from Willcox & Gibbs -- was introduced in the early 1890's and continued in various forms for 40 years.
The 24 featured automatic tension and a "self setting" needle and at the Colombian Exposition was displayed by Singer in three styles -- a handcrank and two treadle variations.
Slightly different castings were used. The treadle heads had the spool pin mounted over the drive wheel on an extended lug. This would have interfered with cranking on the hand driven version where the lug was simply removed and a spool pin hammered in the wooden machine base.
On later models, including electric versions, the spool pin, with a curious, captive collar, was moved to a position almost above the needle head. One curiosity of the 24 is that it was, I think, the only singer produced in near mirror image so that the machine could be mounted head to head for manufacturing purposes.
Because of the simplicity of the design, when the machine went electric it was relatively simple for Singer technicians to mount the motor under the bed of the machine. Many industrial variants turn up today, often on a cone shaped cast iron stand.
Most 24s were highly decorated with a floral pattern and in good condition are highly prized by collectors -- witness the $610 paid for a Condition 8 example at this year's ISMACS auction.