International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society
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The Royal Connection
by Graham Forsdyke
(July 1997, ISMACS News)
A rare Wheeler & Wilson-type machine with royal connections is due to break records when it is sold at Christie's in London this month.
Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa (known as Vicky) was born in 1840 and 18 years later married Frederick, Crown Prince of Prussia, who was to become Kaiser Frederick III.
Their first son, born in 1859, was the future Kaiser Willhelm II. Seven other children followed.
To look after this large family an English widow, Mrs. Wakelin, was employed as head nurse with the Potsdam household from about 1862 until some time in the 1880s. In 1886 she remarried after returning to England.
Among the gifts she received from the Imperial household when she left was the Princess's . It had been specially made by Pollack & Schmidt at the comapny's American Sewing Machine Factory in Hamburg.
Obviously no expense had been spared in its construction. The machine was covered with ornamental engraving under a silver gilt finish. It came with a cut glass cover with Prussian and British royal coats of arms.
The oak treadle was carved with Imperial eagles and, as a reminder of home, the stitch plate was engraved with a view of Windsor Castle.
Accessory boxes and instruction manual were bound in blue velvet with gilt brass monograms. Even the ivory cotton reels were carved with a crown motif.
The Princess was said to be enthusiastic about new technology. By the time Mrs. Wakelin retired the machine would have been outdated, but it obviously made a fine present to a much loved servant who had probably used the model as part of her duties.
The most expensive ever sold went for a total of 23,500 pounds sterling -- that's over $41,000 -- in auction in London today (Friday).
The machine, a Wheeler and Wilson clone made for the German Royal Family in 1865 is featured in the current issue of ISMACS News. (Issue 56)
It has been bought by an English eccentric who does not display his machines to the public.
However this silver and gilt masterpiece will be on view at next year's ISMACS Convention together with other examples from this hidden hoard which will go on public view for the first time ever.
Booking forms for the convention will be in the next issue of ISMACS News but make a date in your diary now for the weekend of May 8-9-10, 1998. ~~GF
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