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Foley & Williams
Incorporating
 Goodrich Sewing Machines

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 Alex I Askaroff

 

 

 

Alex has spent a lifetime in the sewing industry and is considered one of the foremost experts of pioneering machines and their inventors. He has written extensively for trade magazines, radio, television, books and publications worldwide.

 

Over the last two decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.

 

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The Foley and Williams Manufacturing Company
incorporating
The Goodrich Sewing Machine Co.


 

 

Researching the toy or small Foley & Williams sewing machines has been incredibly frustrating. After years of digging I still have very little information about a company that was around for decades and made some of the most spectacular small sewing machines in history. 

So, I have put everything that I have learnt onto this page in the hope that someone will take the flag forward and complete my work.

William Foley tribute printed in Chicago after his death

William Foley, one of our finest and most respected businessmen, was a fine fisherman and hunter. He exhibited, brightness, aptitude, patience and indomitable perseverance with a cheerful and sanguine temperament from an early age, coming to Chicago as a youth of 16 to seek his fortune. William Foley brought business and prosperity to our town and deservedly resided in one of the finest residents in Chicago at Grand Boulevard and Forty-sixth Place which he furnished lavishly with statues and fine works of art.

So what do we know about Foley & Williams the company and the men?

William C Foley was the son of Thomas & Bridget Foley both immigrants from County Cork in Southern Ireland. Thomas Foley Snr was born in 1803 in Mount Uniacke, Cork. He was a carpenter by trade and moved to America during the Potato famine in Ireland which had caused mass starvation and disease in Ireland.

Thomas Foley Snr died 13 October 1882. His wife, Bridget Foley, Nee Mc Grath, was born in Castlemartyr in Cork in 1820. She died 27 October 1894 in Hamilton.

There was a terrible tragedy in the Foley family in 1856 when Thomas and Bridget lost three of their family at sea, Denis Foley 13, John Foley 11, and Thomas Foley who was just 9. The family are all mentioned on Thomas & Bridget's grave at Hamilton cemetery.

Now let us get back to happier events with William Foley. William C Foley was born on 2 June 1854 in Ontario, Canada. William moved to Chicago at the age of 16 to seek his fortune.

There is a connection with E P Johnson who possibly established the original piano company around 1870 in Chicago that later became Foley & Williams. He may have also established the E P Johnson Piano Co in Illinois and Ottawa. Both companies were dissolved around 1930 during the Wall Street Crash when thousands of companies went to the wall.

They made high quality Pianos (Northwestern brand), reed organs (Pipe-Tone and Peerless brand), bicycles, phonographs (Wondertone brand) and best of all for us, sewing machines.

After a period William Foley went to work in the offices of H B Goodrich wholesale dealer in Remington, Estey and Goodrich Sewing Machines. They were also engineering jobbers making all kinds of parts for sewing machines and other devices. To make things more confusing Goodrich, along with their attachments manufacturing, may have originally only supplied machines from another source and made parts, not manufacturing the bigger sewing machines till later. I will explain more about in a mo. Anyway here William Foley moved up step-by-step through the company.

In 1879 William Foley was in Cincinnati working at a new branch of the company when he was offered a partnership in Goodrich (a year after his wealthy marriage).


The Foley & Williams $5 Automatic. It was their best selling model circa 1900.

In 1880 the Foley & Williams Sewing Machine Co was formed and by 1882 Foley & Williams had bought out the giant Goodrich Company Cincinnati branch and formed his own company with his new partner Williams.

Foley & Williams are intertwined with Goodrich sewing machines as I will try and explain later. By the early 1880's Goodrich's, run by Herman Barnum Goodrich, was the largest manufacturers of sewing machine attachments in the world. With their main salesroom at 70-72 Adams Street, Chicago.


The Foley & Williams Automatic was small sweet and sewed a treat.

But letís look just at Foley & Williams sewing machines. The main address that I have for Foley & Williams is 121 to 123 Fifth Street, and West Sixth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. Hang on there is another address later...


Cheapest of the range the $2.50 Pony. Very sought after today and identical to the Triumph.

I know the Midget and Reliable sewing machines came from 46 East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois. Was this a manufacturing plant or main showroom?

I know their later, Empire Sewing Machine, had a metal badge on the body saying...

 Foley & Williams Mfg. Co. Cincinnati & Chicago.

Now, there is a possibility that Foley & Williams did not make any complete sewing machines until they acquired the Goodrich sewing machine business Cincinnati Branch in 1882.

Foley & Williams sewing machine attachments
 46 and 48 East Jackson Blvd, Chicago, Ill

Originally W C Foley was employed at the Goodrich sewing machine business and he teamed up with D W Williams in order to purchase the Goodrich company. By 1883 William Foley had succeeded in also purchasing the main Goodrich Chicago Branch.

Foley moved to Chicago and Williams stayed in Cincinnati to run that branch.

How they came into the enormous wealth so quickly need explaining as things don't add up here. Somehow Foley went from a dogsbody at Goodrich to owning his own, and the the Goodrich Company! How?...A lot of money came from somewhere and suddenly. From my research it is most likely to have come from a marriage.

A wealthy marriage

William Foley seemed to come into a large amount of money and financial help and was able to make the huge leap from employee to business entrepreneur and owner. It is quite possible this sudden wealth came from William's marriage into the substantial McNamara family.

 


 Mary McNamara was in her youth a local Chicago school teacher

William Foley married Mary Josephine McNamara, daughter of Patrick McNamara and Mary Brazell. Patrick McNamara was originally from Ireland and a self made man.

The couple married in Chicago in 1878. They had 10 children including Hazel Foley and Florence Foley.With the marriage William possibly came into enough wealth to follow his dream.


A copy of the marriage certificate of 15 Oct 1878 of William Foley aged 23 to Mary Josephine McNamara, aged 21, in Cook County.

Now things move on a pace. From 1882 & 1883 the Goodrich Sewing Machine Company became Foley & Williams. However it's not that simple for a few years later after William Foley bit the dust Williams decided to revert back to the Goodrich name. I'll explain later. Got a headache yet?

William & Mary Foley

William Foley is seen here seated proudly on the right with Mary now with ten children. The poor girl must have been exhausted! Hazel & Florence Foley are the only two children's names I have so far uncovered. They were always told not to smile in the pictures as they could not hold the smile during the long exposure, leading to blurred pictures. That is one of the reason no one seems to smile in old photos. Many thanks to Christine Poindexter for this excellent family photo.

 

The perfect chain stitch machine, small but substantial


A rare Foley & Williams wooden box showing the clamp that came as standard.

Foley & Williams branched into small sewing machines as well as the normal Goodrich large-range at this time. William Foley also bought up other patents to do with sewing machines such as the Nicholas A Hull sewing machine tabletop patent.

Foley & Williams stocked and supplied throughout Australia

 


The Foley & Williams Pony. At only $2.50 it was a great but sadly made of wood so only a handful survive today.

The Foley and Williams Manufacturing Company working out of the old Goodrich Sewing Machine Company sites ran their premises at Cincinnati, Ohio from 1882 to 1926. When the company peeked they were manufacturing over 1,000,000 dollars of machines a year. However William Foley also invested heavily in real estate around Chicago.

1867-1882: H. B. Goodrich, Chicago, Illinois


1926-1955: Goodrich Sewing Machine Company, Chicago, Illinois


Back of the Yankee Sewing Machine, similar to the Pony sewing machine. Simple metal structure supporting the wooden outer-circle. This is how they could make the machines for the price they did.


the Goodrich Sewing Machine Co started with the Model 1 and then the improved new Goodrich ball bearing sewing machine from 1885 to 1890. The Goodrich Model A was manufactured from 1890 to 1911. The next was the Model B. Many of the Goodrich sewing machines were made for mail order and catalogue companies and had a variety of different company names on them.


The Foley & Williams Pony was sold with different bases and a steal at $2.50

The model 29 or Goodrich B was advertised as the best selling sewing machine that they had ever placed on the market. No big boast if the other machines were poor! Only kidding.

The combined companies of Goodrich sewing machines and the Foley & Williams Manufacturing Company carried on between 1880 and 1926 selling big and small sewing machines capturing both ends of the market and mail-order.

 


The Tourist Sewing Machine was all metal and rare today.


Foley & Williams made a range of chain stitch machines advertised as perfect chain stitch machines, small but substantial. More importantly they were amazingly cheap compared to Singer machines and larger machines of the period.

Foley & Williams produced a range of toy sized sewing machines like the...

Yankee

Practical

Triumph

Victor

Pony

Reliable

Midget

Liberty

Tourist

The Touristy was an oval cast iron machine, some of the other were in wood and circular like the Triumph, Victor and Pony.

And to make things even more confusing F&W were also agents for other companies such as Remington and Springfield.

Foley & Williams, 46 Jackson Boulevard, Chicago.

Several of the Foley & Williams toys were very similar. For example the Midget, Gem and Liberty look similar. The only difference with the Gem was the lack of automatic tension which was a real drawback. I can only assume it was even cheaper than the $2.50 Midget.


The Goodrich Sewing Machine Trademark, the Griffin

The Foley &Williams Reliable is almost the same as well but with a complete hand-wheel (rather than cam-handle) that allowed three stitches for each revolution rather than one.


The Foley & Williams Reliable Sewing Machine, identical to the Midget save for the better hand-wheel which cost a whooping $1 more.

The most expensive of the toy machines was the Foley & Williams $5 Automatic which managed four stitches per revolution.


Don't confuse the New Home Midget with the Foley & Williams Midget.

In 1905 the Reliable and Foley & Williams Automatic were sold through the Montgomery Ward Catalogues and sold well enough to be included up until 1908. It was advertised as a portable machine ideal for travelling and Practical and light, perfect for the ladies! Superior to any sewing machine ever offered at this price. Probably true, they were little diamonds. Sear's & Roebuck also stock the machines.


The Foley & Williams Midget was their cheapest machine but still came with a quality stitch. How did they manage it for the price?

The machines were often sold and sometimes given away. If you could get enough subscribers to a periodical of the day like Casinoís Little Folks you would get a sewing machine for free. This was a similar strategy used by several companies the best known being the Beckwith Sewing Machine Co.

Liberty $2.50

Midget $2.50

Reliable $3.50

F & W Automatic $5

Several of the Foley & Williams machines with automatic tensioner have a similar mechanism to the Willcox & Gibbs machines just smaller and interestingly take the same Willcox & Gibbs needle with special grooved needle bar shaft. I have some Willcox & Gibbs needles. Mail me: alexsussex@aol.com

The most successful F & W model was the Foley & Williams $5 Automatic which ran for 20 years from around 1890 to 1910.

The Foley & Williams portable machine ,ideal for travelling. Practical and light, perfect for the ladies! Superior to any sewing machine ever offered at this price

 

Notice the different hand wheels but little else on these two. The hand wheel on the Reliable cost an extra dollar but you got more stitches per revolution for your money.

I spotted the Midget on Ebay and grabbed it against stiff opposition. It sews like a dream using Willcox & Gibbs needles.

Back to the Goodrich sewing machines. Sears & Roebuck, one of North Americaís most successful supplier of sewing machines featured Goodrich sewing machines in their 1893 catalogue. In 1894 they sold the Goodrich Mercury Sewing Machine.

Goodrich sewing machines had an early connection to a company called June Sewing Machines which were the Standard Sewing Machine Company of Chicago. Apparently Goodrich got some of their complete early machines from these/this company.

Wooden sewing machine


End view of the Foley & Williams Triumph sewing machine, super rare today. They say the Triumph sewing machine was designed by William Stewart.

In 1881 Singers were taking them to court for trademark infringement. The Standard & June sewing machines were clearly marked as Singers and Improved Singers. How crazy is that! To copy the biggest manufacturer in the world who just loved taking competitors to court. Needless to say Singers won.

So far all this is as clear as mud but I shall struggle on.


The Foley & Williams and Goodrich sewing machines were sold through Sears & Roebuck as well as other mail order firms. They were light and cheap to post.

Back to Foley & Williams. As far as I can find out, originally, the Foley & Williams Manufacturing Company had two manufacturing bases one in Chicago and one in Kankakee. It is possible that one factory made the toys, or small models, and one factory the full size main-stream models like the Empire Sewing Machine and later the Goodrich model B, below.

Foley & Williams Goodrich Model B circa 1890


This is one of the standard or full size Goodrich Foley & Williams machines vibrating shuttle sewing machines circa 1890-1910. Pretty much a standard machine of its age except for the superb decoration.

Kankakee is a city in Kankakee, Illinois, once home to the Potawatomi Indians. The Kankakee River, part of the upper Illinois River was perfect to transport goods to and from the factory.

In 1896 the full sized Improved New Goodrich sewing machine or their No2 model sold for $26.50 a princely sum of around eight weeks wages. The Improved Goodrich Sewing Machine was also sold as the New Treasure Sewing Machine and was guaranteed by Foley & Williams for 10 years.

One of the retailers for Foley & Williams and Goodrich sewing machines was W C McKenzie & Co of Piedmont, South Carolina.

It leads the world.


The New Goodrich No1 circa 1905 made by the Foley & Williams Manufacturing Company of Chicago and Cincinnati.


The decoration for the Goodrich sewing machine was spot on and a delight to see. Their later sewing machine motto was, It leads the world.

In 1917 W C Foley died and in 1926 the Foley & Williams went bust and were reorganised solely as the Goodrich Sewing Machines Co. So that is where we will end of our little journey.

Apparently the Goodrich Sewing Machine Co still manufactured machines and parts under the Goodrich name right up into the 1950's! How amazing, if true... I would love to see a later model. I have not come across anything later than 1917 so far...

 


The 1907 Foley & Williams

Values

All Foley & Williams toy machines are highly collectible and look great in a collection. The last one I saw on Ebay went for $1650 however it was in superb condition with its box.

Some of the rarer Triumph and Pony machines just don't turn up. One went at an auction in Britain for over $1000. Not bad for a machine that cost $2.50 when it was made!


This is the imposing Foley residence in Chicago (now in Martin Luther King Boulevard but formerly the address was 4635 Grand Boulevard).

 

 
 

Well, that it. Letís hope that some genius comes up with some information to fill in the blanks. I do hope you enjoyed my work. I have spent a lifetime collecting, researching and writing these pages and I love to hear from people so do drop me a line and let me know what you thought: alexsussex@aol.com.

Also if you have any information to add I would love to put it on my site.

 

 

 

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 Skylark Country

 

This is a very useful clue sent to me by  Yvonne Marten Ebstein
 
Dear Alex

Thanks for the information on WC Foley of Chicago. He was my Great Grandfather.

 
William Foley married into the wealthy McNamara family-big bucks.
 
Florence Foley Beauvais Born in 1885 was the Daughter of WC Foley and she was my Grandmother.
 
Jeanne Beauvais Marten, daughter of Florence Foley is my Mother. She was born in 1927 when Florence was 42.

Kind regards, 
Yvonne Marten Ebstein
bonnielouise48@gmail.com

 

Dear Alex,

William C. Foley was my great great grandfather. I am the granddaughter of his granddaughter Jeanne Beauvais Marten. I have recently started researching my genealogy and I am finding out all kinds of things.
Thank you for all of your research. I have a better idea of where I come from after viewing your site.

Thank you again!

Sincerely,

Nicole S. Yalowitz.

 

Dear Alex

My Great Grandfather was William C Foley and my paternal Grandmother was Hazel Foley.

Thank you so much for your site and information,

Betty Mower Potalivo

 

Dear Mr Askaroff
I am delighted to find your website on these little sewing machines. So informative and amusing. I was lucky enough to come across a F&W automatic recently and now know all about it. Thank you for your efforts.
Julie

 

Hello Alex -

I read your website when I was trying to research my little F & W Automatic Sewing Machine,
thank you for putting up the site with all the valuable information it is greatly appreciated.

Sandy DeCeault

Dear Alex,
I have tried several times to find information on the little sewing machine I have. It was given to my aunt in Chicago IL when she was a child; she was born in 1900. Her grandfather bought it for her.
You have spent a great deal of time and energy to research this company and I sincerely appreciate your efforts!

So, thanks again!
Karen Knoll USA

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Triumph Sewing Machine

 

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As a new collector I have found your site has increased my knowledge in a short time to a degree that I couldn't have imagined.
Thank you again for all the useful information you give freely to us.
Kind regards
Brenda P