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Attachments and Sewing Machines

By Claire Sherwell

The beginnings of this article were originally presented as a short quiz within the NB Forum

If you have any new information about the Goodrich family and businesses, or if you have a Goodrich machine, please drop a line into the NeedleBar Forum to continue to add to the knowledge of the sewing machine fraternity.

For more pictures and further information please visit the NeedleBar Picture Library


In the 19th century attachments were almost as large a business in their own right as sewing machines, especially after the end of the Sewing Machine Combination monopoly in 1877 with the establishment of many new sewing machine manufacturers, a decrease in prices and increased demands of customers.

By 1881 H C Goodrich owned the largest manufactory of attachments in the world.

It was established in 1867 with a starting capital of $40, needed to purchase materials for manufacturing. In the 1880s Goodrich was purchasing fifty tons of sheet brass and wire each year.

H C Goodrich's principal invention and highest earning attachment was the Tuckmarker. By the end of 1868 Goodrich was selling up to 10,000 tuckmarkers and by 1881 he was selling 300,000 tuckmarkers.

Hemmers and binders were attachments of less value at that time. In 1881 the combined total of hemmers & binders that H C Goodrich manufactured was an astonishing 2,000,000+.

This article deals with the history of the two brothers, Harry Clinton Goodrich and Herman Barnum Goodrich, and their companies.

Business-wise they went their separate ways, H B primarily into sewing machines and supplies, while H C appears to have been more successful and is better known for attachments but with a string of differing patents to his name, and went on to be a shoe sole manufacturer.

Information concerning Frank L Goodrich, will be found in the National Sewing Machine History Album and in the extensive topic covering National's History in the NeedleBar Forum. F L Goodrich was the son of H C Goodrich. He was an inventor and patentee in his own right and worked as Assistant Manager and Secretary for the Goodrich Manufacturing Company of Chicago, before becoming Purchasing Agent for National in Belvidere, Ill. The National Sewing Machine Company, under the leadership of Barnabas Eldredge, manufactured his Goodrich attachments. Yet before then, in 1879, the case of H C Goodrich vs Barnabas Eldredge was heard by Judge Drummond, for infringement of his tucker patents by the use of the Johnston tuckers. An injunction was denied, but the defendants, Johnston Ruffler Company, were required to make monthly reports of sales to the court, under bonds, pending the hearing of the case.

The Goodrich Family History

Levi Goodrich was the father of H B & H C Goodrich and moved his family out west from Potsdam, NY to Chicago in 1837.

Although H B Goodrich was young he remembered Chicago of that time as a miserable collection of shanties, a small outpost on the North Side. The steamer arrived off the mouth of the river, anchored in the lake, and passengers were taken ashore in a scow, as there were no docks in the harbor, and no larger vessel could pass over the bar into the river.

Levi Goodrich was so disappointed with the place that he decided to buy a wagon and team of oxen and drive across the prairie to the more promising town of St. Charles.

Here he bought land and built a small house. Unfortunately, his health suffered from the climate and within 18 months he died. This was a severe blow to his wife (née Hortense Barnum), who was alone in a new area with her two little boys. Her health suffered also, compounded by the loss of her husband and trying to cope on her own. Within a short time of Levi's death she too died.

A few months before she died, some friends had placed her sons with two different families, as their mother was no longer well enough to look after them. Having to give them up was hard on her by all accounts. Both sons were some twenty miles away from her and never saw her again after they were re-homed.

After a while H B Goodrich was bound apprentice to a man who lived on what was then known as Dunlap's Prairie, a few miles west of the city. Not satisfied with his life, H B ran away and went to the city on foot, via the track of the old Galana railroad.

With only $1.50 in his pocket, H B Goodrich decided to learn the carpenter's trade, and began by sawing hard wood at $1 a cord, for which price he had also to split and pile it up.

He next worked as a driver on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, this was before railroads, and the travel to all the Southwestern river towns was by packet steamboat. Goodrich continued this occupation for four months and finally quit it in disgust; but the memories of that short period gave him many stories with which to entertain his friends.

Harry (H C Goodrich) was about six miles away from his brother, but rarely got to see his brother for months at a time. The family Harry was with treated him badly. He worked hard for his keep, was punished frequently and had little freedom or spare time. After six years, at the age of 13, he ran away and made a home with a relative who had since moved into the area.

That winter he was able to attend the country school and did chores around the house for his board. Although he was keen to learn at school, he was very much behind the other boys in his class and knew he would never make a scholar.

His saving grace was that he was mechanically minded; making models, watching how things worked, discovering different ways of making them work. He was said to take his jack-knife with him everywhere.

By spring, when school closed, he got a job paying $50 with a nearby farmer for seven months. He was now 14. In this family he found the warmth, kindness and stability he had been lacking. The farmer and his wife were aware of his history and made him one of their family. Harry later said this was the happiest time of his life.

The following winter he was back at school and it was the school exhibitions at the end of term that stood out in his memory. The recitations gave him the opportunity of listening to the lives, deeds and characters of famous people. He said it was these that inspired him more than any other learning.

When he was nineteen, although unskilled, he decided to go to Chicago to pursue a trade in mechanics. His natural ability with woodwork secured him a position at full journeyman's wages. He made many sketches of various agricultural, mechanical and engineering applications, rather crude, and considered worthless by others. Years later, of course, he could see his ideas incorporated in many new inventions.

In 1864 H B Goodrich's attention was first called to sewing machines by the advertisement selling the "Common Sense" hand machine. The brothers bought a dozen of them and set out on their first trip.

Their route was down the Illinois Central Railroad to Tolono, then on the Wabash Road to Danville and Covington, Ind. They met with the usual mixed success, but on the whole the trip was profitable. They continued sales in central Illinois and expanded into other makes, including Willcox & Gibbs.

In 1867 Harry C Goodrich's tuckmarker was patented and both brothers started manufacturing them. Although it was not the earliest patent, it was the first practical tuckmarker on the market with an easy to use shape and was originally designed for use with Willcox & Gibbs machines. Making tucks in clothing became far quicker, easier and affordable for everyone.


This is Israel M. Rose's tuckmarker, originally assigned to J Willcox in 1863. When it was re-issued in 1878 it was under the name of Isaac W Barnum, the attachment maker. It was this re-issue that required many tucker makers, including Goodrich, to take out licenses.


This was H C Goodrich's original tucker from 1867, which was renewed in 1875. These tuckers were first applied to Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines. They were the first practical tuckers for sewing machines that were offered for sale.

The success of the tuckmarker made them a fortune.

H B Goodrich, however, only continued with his brother until 1868 when he sold out his business and patent interests to H C, and established his own business.

H B Goodrich - Sewing Machines


In 1880 the salerooms of Mr. H B Goodrich were at 70 Adams Street, Chicago (expanding to No. 72). The company was said to be engaged in the manufacture of the "Goodrich" sewing machine, the Goodrich and Barnum tucker, Diamond hemmers, and the Universal castors (4-wheel) for sewing machines. His sewing machine, known as the Goodrich Singer, sold by 1879

The company was said to be of sound reputation within the trade and with other sewing machine agents. H B was cited on the re-issue of James Cowles; lamp patent in 1876.

H.B. Goodrich offered a re-japanning service in the 1880s. He even went so far as to promise machines would be "japanned and ornamented exactly like the company's machine".


The arrival on the market of the Goodrich Machine Needle caused quite a stir with speculation that the source of this quality product was in England, however they turned out to have come from the National Needle Factory, Springfield, Mass.

In 1875 Walter Scates (later of Tryber & Sweetland fame) was appointed manager at H B Goodrich.


In 1879 when Farmer & Gardner began building the "D B Wesson" sewing machine at Springfield, Mass., they appointed H B Goodrich as their sales agent for ten of the Western states. However, they only made that machine for about six months (by which time they discovered it wasn't the same as making revolvers!). D B Wesson resigned, L J Powers became President, the company was re-organized and changed the name to the Springfield Sewing Machine, said to be similar to the New Home.

Also in 1879 Standard Manufacturing Company of Chicago (who become June Manufacturing Company in June 1881) began manufacturing sewing machine heads and sold exclusively to H B Goodrich. Serial numbers had three extra digits bearing no relation to numbers produced. By 1880 other companies were also supplied by Standard. In addition, in the fall of 1881 treadle stands were manufactured by Standard.

In 1877 and 1878 Tryber & Sweetland sold the entire production of their Chicago Singer through W C Foley. Foley was dissolved in January 1879 and Foley & Williams was established in 1880, being incorporated in 1883 with a stock capital of $1,000,000.

In 1882 creditors of H B Goodrich held a meeting at the offices of Fairchilds & Blackman to receive a proposition for settlement. A statement of the assets and liabilities was given and a proposition to pay 50 cents on the dollar in three and six months was made. This was accepted by a unanimous vote of those present, who represented three quarters of the total indebtedness.

Foley & D W Williams had put together enough money to buy the Cincinnati branch of H B Goodrich for 1500 pounds(around $6000). Foley in particular was very driven, having started as an errand boy at Goodrich's sewing machine supplies department. Eventually the rest of the Goodrich Company was bought.


By 1882 Foley & Williams were advertising as successors to H B Goodrich's Cincinnati branch from the 149 West Sixth Street address (Foley & Williams also took over Kingsbury & Co.). Foley & Williams were known as jobbers and wholesale dealers in the Improved Goodrich machines with the lately invented and already celebrated check-lever adjusting springs or Noise Killers. Foley & Williams also offered exclusive territories to agents of the Improved Goodrich.

The Improved New Goodrich No 2 was advertised as manufactured by Foley & Williams (offices & salesrooms at 45 & 47 Jackson Street, Chicago, Ill. and 149 West Sixth Street, Cincinnati, OH) and warranted for ten years. It used a patent date of October 6, 1891, that of William Stewart's feed mechanism (with gyrating movement ball bearings). See Minnesota (sold by Sears) and machines listed under Goodrich (Model A) in the NeedleBar Picture Library. In 1894 a three drawer, drop head table with cover and attachments cost $18, the top of the range writing desk drop cabinet was $27.

The New Goodrich illustrated is a Jennie June model, made by June Manufacturing Co. and badged as New Goodrich

By 1885 Foley & Williams were representing the following sewing machines: Estey, Leader, Noble, Remington, Springfield and calling themselves Proprietors of the Goodrich Machine.

The company had branches in Chicago, Cincinnati and London. On January 15, 1901 Foley & Williams closed their London export office, saying it had fulfilled its purpose in developing trade in the UK, Europe and other countries. Business had shown a satisfactory increase, both in sewing machines and reed organs. In future all business was to be conducted from their US factory and they welcomed large buyers wishing to buy direct at keen prices.

By now the company described themselves as manufacturers and wholesale dealers in sewing machines, pianos & organs, bicycles and general merchandise.

The factory was in Kankakee, Ill. from where machines were shipped. Treadle tables were built from seven layers of wood, machines were guaranteed for ten years and supplied with a set of attachments. A range of machines from treadles to hand and iron based machines was sold. The company also sold miniature machines, such as:

Foley & Williams Automatic/Marguerite
Courtesy of Bruce McMillan
This automatic chainstitch machine using the Willcox & Gibbs system sold for around $5.

Courtesy of Don Shepherd.
The Midget was sold under a variety of different names for around $2.50

Midget/Pony/Practical/New Century/Triumph/Victor/Yankee
Courtesy of the Harry Berzack Museum, photo by Claire Sherwell.
This was another William Stewart design from 1900, sold by Foley & Williams for $2.00 or less.

Stewart also designed an elliptically shaped toy machine (sold as Reliant) shortly afterwards. Stewart began his sewing machine engineering career in Brooklyn, NY and St. Louis, Missouri.

To keep down costs Foley & Williams didn't employ traveling salesmen. Instead, 'confidential' circulars and mailings costing only a few cents to produce were mailed out to flatter and encourage potential new agencies into taking machines. In arranging deals with prospective agents, the company would offer tempting introductory below regular wholesale prices, with free shipping and ten days' approval and return at Foley & Williams' expense if not up to expectations, so nothing was lost in trying the machines. If the agent accepted the deal Foley & Williams would grant an exclusive sales territory. Another tactic would be to offer $2 off per machine for orders placed within a short time.

Around 1908 Foley & Williams were pushing the Sealed Bid Selling Plan to agents taking their machines. This was a silent auction where customers saw a machine demonstrated and were invited to place the price for which they would be willing to buy the machine in a sealed envelope. When asked what the regular price was some agents gave an inflated price e.g. $25. Potential customers were thereby lured into bidding slightly under this. Agents were delighted with the extra interest in their machines and the higher than usual prices obtained!

The list of known badged names supplied by Goodrich (i.e. machines sold in quantity with the seller's choice of name) is extensive and was well known in the trade: HERE.

It was only sometime after the President, W C Foley, died in 1917 that the company was said to have reverted to the Goodrich name. However, the company was known as the Foley & Williams Mfg. & Supply Co. in 1922. General Manager was Hector L. Bel-Isle and machines supplied were Goodrich and Bel-Isle machines.

H C Goodrich - Attachments


H C, as he was known, was born in Potsdam, Saint Lawrence County, New York, March 22, 1832.


Like his original tucker, some of his early tension device inventions relate to Willcox & Gibbs class machines.

He had plenty of patents to his name, including inventions for horse shoes, boot soles, safety elevator, noiseless slate for schools, bicycles, curling iron heater for lamps, baking or roasting oven, water heater. And attachments used by many different sewing machines.

Goodrich hemmers designed in 1876 for use by such companies such as Remington, Domestic, Wheeler & Wilson, Singer, involving only a slight change in the form for other makes. Pictures courtesy of David Gillingham and Tamara.

Some of the sewing machine related patents were in connection with Russel Barnum. As previously mentioned, his mother's maiden name was Hortense Barnum.

As a successful businessman he was a great horseman and owned several horses, including a trotting horse named Bodine, who was apparently well known in racing circles.

In 1896 Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house for him in Oak Park, Ill. His large family of children went on to move in interesting circles, particularly his actress daughter, Adelaide.

Although H C and H B Goodrich stayed in related, but separate and competitive businesses, they were said to have remained very close due to their experiences in earlier life.

© Claire Sherwell 2008