Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society

Stuart Sewing Machine Company
Henry Stuart

by Graham Forsdyke
Issue No. 29

IF ANY READER has a Stuart sewing machine dating from around 1879, it could very well have an interesting history.

The story starts in New York one Saturday afternoon in April of that year when the Steamship Bolivia was about to depart for Glasgow. One of the passengers was Henry Stuart who told his friends that he wanted to see the strange countries of the world.

Just before the ship was due to leave, one John McCloskey appeared on the scene complete with the forces of law and order.

McCloskey claimed that Stuart was fleeing a legal action and had secreted 500 sewing machines in the hold of the Bolivia.

The accuser went further saying that he had a court judgment for ownership for one half of Stuart's New York business and that, therefore, one half of the machines in the hold belonged to him.

The deputy sheriff approached Stuart, showed him his arrest warrant and suggested that all three men should travel to his office to discuss the matter.

All went well until the trio approached West Street, busy at that time with carriages and goods vehicles. In the crush, Stuart slipped away, and took off flat out towards Broadway.

According to reports at the time, the sheriff was a portly character and had to give up the chase after a couple of city blocks. Not so McCloskey. Stuart had picked the wrong man to defraud because his victim was a noted marathon runner and immediately set off in pursuit.

The scene, as described, must have been worth seeing. In the front was Stuart dodging between vehicles and avoiding pedestrians on the sidewalk. At his heels was McCloskey, now accompanied by a "clamour of small boys excited by the sport" and a number of "currs of low degree barking as they ran".

Eventually McCloskey overhauled Stuart and dragged him to the offices of Stuart's lawyer and then onto the sheriff's department, where Stuart was held for a short time until his family signed a bail bond.

After that formality Stuart was discharged, despite the fact that McCloskey was attempting to get a second arrest order for further monies owed to him.

Armed with the second order, McCloskey and the sheriff again boarded the Bolivia and searched the ship, but in vain. As they left, the gangplank was hoisted, the mooring slipped, and the steamship set off for Glasgow.

As the ship edged out into the Hudson River a small figure appeared at the rail waving in a friendly fashion. Yes it was Stuart bidding Adieu to his tormentors. GF