Weir sewing machine, 1872.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This small, inexpensive chain-stitch sewing machine was manufactured in London by James Galloway Weir (1839-1911) from 1872, the date of his patent for certain improvements to its design. Weir's improved machine featured a redesigned thread tension device, needle bar, and new spiral gears. The looper used to form the stitch was, however, patented by Frederick W Parker of Sheffield in 1859. The machine was called the '55S' because on its introduction it was sold for 55 shillings. At this time, sewing machine manufacture was an important industry and produced more than 700,000 machines annually.