Sewing machines were one of the first machines to enter the family household and during the 19th century they came in a large array of distinctive shapes as manufacturers sought the ideal design. This model from the Worcester City collection was used in Worcester’s renowned glove-making industry during the early 20th century.
At the turn of the century sewing machines were starting to look more alike – partly influenced by the success of the Singer sewing machine. The foot pedal, called a treadle, succeeded the former hand-cranked models. The treadle took a while to catch on in Britain, where it was seen as an unladylike movement and bad for the ankles, but would have made larger-scale production significantly easier.
Early machines were beautifully decorated, and this one has a dark finish with contrasting golden floral designs on the base, the arm and the wheel and an unusual sailing ship motif on the base. One theory is that machines were associated with industry and engineering, so the ornamentation made the sewing machine feel more appropriate in a domestic setting.
F. J. Cock was a distributor with branches in Birmingham and Coventry. He sold many ‘badged’ machines which were models made by other manufacturers but specially labelled for the shop or department store that sold them.
This machine is mounted onto a treadle table with cast iron sides that read “Cocks” and has no model name on the arm or company trade-mark revealing its maker. However the central decal of a schooner (sailing boat) at sea reveals it as the ‘Original Victoria’ made by the German firm Mundlos & Co., manufactured from 1896 onwards.