Bendigo, Emu Sewing Machine Co. Pty. Ltd., Ward Brothers and ANA
We would like to name a few people who with out their support, information or assistance our task would have been much harder. Yolanda Collins, Mike Butcher, Rod Aikman, Rob Sanders, Ian Ennor and Neil who without his local knowledge and support we would not have obtained as much as we did. Also all our friends and support crew who sat for hours and listened to us rabbit on about sewing machines for endless hours.
We now have eight confirmed Bendigo's and five are in our possession. They have three different decals the earliest is Singer Gingerbread style then Singer Egyptian style and the youngest has a Jones CS style decal. There is a bit of investigation for us on the decals. Pictures to follow.
Bendigo Sewing Machines Limited
Above is a picture of a Bendigo made sewing machine, believed to be one of the eight confirmed machines known to exist. We have had enquiries from two people who claim to have one but to this point these have not been confirmed. This machine was made in Bendigo (Victoria, Australia) in 1923/24. A company named Cordings Traction Company ( H. Keck MLC, W. Wallace and W. Ewing) who operated out of the former W. Webb & Co. building in Queen St. Bendigo, decided to switch from traction engines to manufacturing sewing machines 1923\24. The actual date is not known but that year's financial report made note of both Cordings and Bendigo Sewing Machines Limited. The switch was made with the government of the day agreeing to a tariff of two pounds per head for every machine head made completely in Australia. The change from traction engines to sewing machines went well. With the government representatives having visited and inspected the Australian made sewing machine (on several occasions) they agreed on granting the tariff to the company. After the first 12 months they built 30, the following 12 months the company had produced 1500 machines. The government then added another condition to the tariff.
The company was funded by the selling of shares to the public for this new fantastic dream of a totally Australian made sewing machine. A huge amount was raised, enough for them to set up the factory with adequate plant, foundry and machinery to produce 1500 machines for the first year.
The Bendigo machines had a cast base - the legs with Bendigo Sewing Machines Ltd cast around the words So-Easy and Trade Mark around a map of Australia with the words Made in cast in the centre of that map. The front cross support of the base had the words WARDANA cast into it and the machine had a decal Wardana on it as well, with the words "Made by Bendigo Sewing Machines Ltd" on the base of the neck below the bobbin winder.
The government's NEW condition was that the company must produce 20% of Australia's requirements for sewing machines. In 1924 they had produced 1500 and taken their financial situation to its limit. According to the government the requirement was 15,000 machines for the next year to qualify for the tariff.
The company, already at its limit, unfortunately folded. There was several attempts to regain government assistance to save this new industry but it was to no avail. Even a promise to open another factory in Sydney was offered, but unfortunately wasn't accepted. Of the four known sewing machines not one serial number is over 1300. The number is stamped under the shuttle plate on the bed.
Bendigo SML then made attempts to sell the plant and building, a huge effort in 1926, then again in 1929. In 1929 a buyer came along, and with an offer from the government Emu Sewing Machines Limited was born.
Should anyone have any information regardless of how minute it maybe, please contact us, we are trying to get as much as we can on these reported Australian first made sewing machines.
Emu Sewing Machine Co. Pty. Ltd.
Above is the two of the four Emu sewing machines known to exist. The one pictured on the left in the Ararat (Victoria, Australia) Museum. The other in our museum thank you to the Deniliquin Historical society.
Not a lot is known of this company. Our research is mainly (same as for the Bendigo) is via newspaper and government archives.
Emu Sewing Machine Co. Pty. Ltd. ( J Jeffrey,T Jeffrey ), was formed in 1930, after purchasing the Queen Street W.Webb & Co. building complete with plant from Bendigo SML. We believe they made the sewing machine above, also we have obtained a copy of an advertisment featuring a rotary bobbin machine. This rotary bobbin machine is the other we have confirmed. So to this stage we know of two in existence. We know how ridiculous this sounds, but this is all the sightings we have. So far, numbers and profit and loss reports for this company have not been found. If anyone has some copies we would love to see them.
So at this stage we have a company formed in 1930/31 and we found in the government journal a letter (dated June 1934) to the owners of Emu Sewing Machine Co. Pty. Ltd. to provide just cause why this company should not be de-registered, or it will be struck off three months from that date .
Ward Brothers and Bendigo Sewing Machines Limited
Ward Brothers (George and Samuel) registered a company (Australian Sewing Machines Limited Pty Ltd) with the head office address in Errol St, North Melbourne and Prahan. The earliest newspaper advertisement we have found for this company was 1897. So sounds like a good starting point. Ward Brothers first imported sewing machines from England and Wertheim placed their own decal on them and mounted them in their own Australian made cabinets.
David Ward later imported machines from Beisolt & Locke in Germany and registered name A.N.A. (All Native Australian), his shop was in Collingwood. Some of these machines had Ward Brothers decals on them as well. The three brothers sold under the same name as Ward Brothers.The early Ward Brothers logo had a map of Australia with a picture of all three brothers on it.
In 1911 The Ward Brothers (all three) decided to share a stall in the yearly Melbourne exhibition. The A.N.A was the machine which got at rave reviews. Australian Sewing Machine Company Pty Ltd decided to add the A.N.A logo to their logo as to cash in on the new found celebrity status that the A.N.A has gained.To cut a long story short . David Ward took his brothers to court (information obtained from court documents) to prevent this from happening.This was a long drawn out affair which took quite a few years. The settlement was decided out of court and nothing was disclosed of the deal. David seemed to leave the scene, then Ward Brothers and A.N.A. combined and then became Wardana. We have many Ward Brothers machines on display - they came also from Japan, England, America and Germany. It seems that where every they got the best deal is direction they went.
This is where Bendigo came into the picture. All imported sewing machines drew a government tax, when Bendigo was announced and with a proposed two pound tariff protection, well why would one not? Ward Brothers purchased a huge number of Bendigo shares in order to get cheaper machines for their cabinets. Ward Brothers then placed one of their company officials on the Board of Bendigo SML and the rest is history.
Ward Brothers had shops Australian wide and most of the major country towns.
Bendigo versus Emu comparisons
Please don't tell me! It's the back of the machines. Yes - we know!
The differences between these two machines are:
1. The Emu has an extended bed on the wheel side, therefore the bed on the Emu is two inches longer. The Bendigo has a sprung plate fitted to the timber work instead where the Emu does not. Maybe a cost factor?
2. The long bobbin cradle in the Emu has a lift button where the Bendigo does not.
3. If you look back to the Emu article you will see the underneath of both machines, two peas in a pod I say. Even the cast finish is the same rough texture that the Germany machines do not have.
4. They both have numbers stamped in the same place under the bobbin plate.
5. The Emu has a wooden stand and the Bendigo a cast iron, again could this be a cost factor?
From this we can be understood to think that with very little alteration the Emu could very possibly be made from the same cast head mould just with an extended bed. As you can see we did venture to Ararat and place the machines side by side and do a very thorough comparison. This actually was a very exciting day for us!
Could the Bendigo be the FIRST MADE sewing machine in Australia?
Judi and I believe it is, from the information we have researched, they had the capability and the plant. It would appear to us that, YES, this is one of those very machines.
words: copyright W & J McKail 2012