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W. F. Thomas & Company

128 and 129 Cheapside, London and Birmingham, England

W F Thomas was born in the City of London in 1829, and studied at University College, London. Even as a young man he showed inventive powers. His father, William Thomas, owned a factory in Cheapside making corsets, umbrellas, valises, carpet bags, boots and shoes. All these required sewing, and it was all done by hand.

In 1845 an American named Elias Howe came to London with a sewing machine he had invented. William Thomas saw the possibilities, and got Howe to adapt his machine to make umbrellas and corsets. He then bought the machine for £250, and patented the rights to it.

Young William Frederick Thomas further adapted the machine to sew button-holes, to fix hat-bands, to sew soles on boots and shoes, and to stitch ships' sails. The Thomases then set up factories in London and Birmingham to manufacture sewing machines for home use.

(When Isaac Singer arrived in this country from the USA he found that the Thomas patents prevented him from making sewing machines in England, and he was forced to set up a factory in Scotland at first).

In 1885 William Frederick Thomas retired, handing over the business to his employees, and allowing them to continue to use his name.

In 1919 (at the age of 90) Mr. Thomas presented the Elias Howe sewing machine, the source of his wealth, to the London Science Museum. It remains on display there.

from an article by Ken Pearce of the Uxbridge Historical Society

Thomas Machines



Original picture supplied by the South Kensington Museum to T Allen and W Vincent for The Sewing Machine

"Mr. W. F. Thomas, of Cheapside, London, patented a lock-stitch sewing machine in 1853.

Previously he had purchased the English interests of Howe's patent."

The Thomas Hand Freearm Machine


Courtesy of Marco

Thomas Treadle Freearm

A free arm lockstitch machine with a wooden platform.

The treadle base has two foot pedals with a rear wheel


circa 1870


Family Home of Thomas

Taken in 2004