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INTRODUCTION OF SEWING MACHINES
Excerpted from the book
Troy’s One Hundred Years 1789-1889
Published in 1891 by William H. Young, 7 and 9 First Street, Troy, NY
In the winter of 1851-1852, Nathaniel Wheeler, of the firm of Wheeler, Wilson, & Co.,
visited Troy to introduce into the collar, cuff, and shirt factories the use of the firm’s recently invented sewing machine. Its simple mechanism, it seems, did not impress the manufacturers favorably, and they were not inclined to make a trial of the machine. In a letter to the author, Mr. Wheeler disclosed the discouraging results of the exhibition of the machine at the Mansion House: “I particularly brought the attention of the manufacturers of collars and cuffs to the machine, most of whom shook their heads, doubting the practicability of stitching collars by machinery.
Among my visitors was Jefferson Gardner, who seeming to be less skeptical, patiently examined the machine, and concluded to give one a trial.” In the spring of 1852, several were sent to him. He afterward visited Bridgeport, Connecticut, and purchased a half-interest in the sale of the machine in Rensselaer County. Besides using about thirty in his own factory, he sold, a large number to the other collar manufacturers in the city.; The Wheeler & Wilson sewing machines have since that time been largely used in the manufacture of collars, cuffs, and shirts in Troy.
The women, who, before the use of sewing machines in the factories, had been earning fifty cents a day in stitching collars and cuffs by hand, were enabled to earn with sewing machines, from two dollars to two dollars and fifty cents a day. In 1855, O. W. Edson, of the firm of Bennett & Edson, was the first of the manufacturers in Troy to undertake to operate the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machines by steam power. In later years, the use of button-hole machines had become quite common in all the factories.