Willcox and Gibbs chain-stitch sewing machine, c 1890.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In 1857, James Gibbs (1829-1902) patented a rotating hook for sewing machines. He incorporated the invention in a sewing machine of his own design, which he marketed in collaboration with Charles Willcox. This particular machine was made using the principles of the 'American system' of manufacture by its contracted makers, Brown and Sharpe. For example, all components were checked with highly accurate gauges to ensure that all of a type were easily interchangeable if replacement was needed. The machine was mas produced and, being very cheap, sold widely.