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James E. A. Gibbs
Inventor, Cofounder, Willcox & Gibbs
1829 - 1902

James Edward Allen Gibbs was an inventor and manufacturer. His attention was first drawn to sewing machines in 1855, when he saw a picture of an intricate two-thread shuttle machine in a newspaper advertisement. He believed a single-thread, simpler machine could be devised and set to work to make it. At length he conceived the idea of placing at the end of the driving shaft, beneath the cloth, a revolving hook which would take hold of the thread after the needle had passed through the cloth and fashion it into a chain-stitch. After months of patient effort he succeed in making a crude wood model with his pocket knife. The revolving hook which it contained was an entirely novel feature and it became the distinguishing characteristic of sewing machines. With this rotary hook the machine is capable of making more than 3,000 loops of thread per minute in the stitch-forming process.

Obtaining letters patent on his invention in June 1857, he went to Philadelphia to find a means for putting it on the market. There he became acquainted with James Willcox, a promoter, and in 1858 the two men entered into a lifelong partnership. With the assistance of Charles H. Willcox, the son of James Willcox, Gibbs perfected his machine and made it ready for manufacture. Its upper framework was shaped so as to resemble a capital G, the first letter in the name of its inventor. A factory was established in Providence, RI, and in 1859 the first Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine made its appearance. It sprang at once into popular favor and has remained one of the leaders in its field ever since. In 1866 they organized the Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Co., of which Willcox was president and Gibbs secretary and treasurer. They obtained patents on the machine in various foreign countries and established numerous foreign agencies. Gibbs made numerous improvements in the sewing machine, being granted twenty-five
patents in all, and until his retirement in 1886 he continued to participate actively in the affairs of the company.

1994 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee