The Internet is awash with links of Willcox & Gibbs machines, including some very dubious dating information.
However, this is a rather special machine so let’s get into some detail.
Back in the 1860s, when the Willcox & Gibbs Company in the USA decided to branch out and sell their machines in Europe, they were faced with one big problem. European homes were traditionally much smaller than those in the US and, therefore, hand-crank machines were expected to be more popular than the W&G Company’s only model – a treadle.
To counter this, the Company approached the Ironbridge Works in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, the premier iron-casting company in the world – it had produced the first cast-iron bridge amongst other pioneering work.
The brief was to produce a gantry and wheel so that the treadle head could be operated by hand. A number of examples, four I believe, were produced at Ironbridge, and submitted for approval to the W&G Company.
The eventual winner was a fairly plain design with just a little embellishment, probably chosen because it did the job and the price would have been reasonable.
This machine has one of the failed designs fitted to it and I’m pretty sure it will be the only one of its kind in the world.
From the intricacy of the casting, I’m guessing it wasn’t chosen because the failure rate in producing such a delicate piece of work would have been fairly high. It is, of course, one of the earliest forms of Willcox with glass tension and the deep walnut base.
The serial number dates the machine to 1862. And check out that fun box which is, of course, the original.
The tray carrying the accessories is so designed that the machine will sit over the top of them, with the tool tray located in the recess in the machine base.
Many years ago I was at the Ironbridge Museum site and checked out the drawing which was submitted with the gantry and wheel arrangement. I did make a copy but, sadly, it’s disappeared over time.

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Willcox & Gibbs 1862