Very important and rare Norton sewing machine - lion
Lot 68W
An important Kimball & Morton gilded cast iron and mahogany 'Lion' treadle lock-stitch sewing machine, The fine and complete example by this Scottish manufacturer, registration marks for 28th December 1868, for the American market,
£15,000 - 22,000
US$ 18,000 - 27,000

Lot Details
Very important and rare Norton sewing machine - lion Very important and rare Norton sewing machine - lion Very important and rare Norton sewing machine - lion Very important and rare Norton sewing machine - lion
An important Kimball & Morton gilded cast iron and mahogany 'Lion' treadle lock-stitch sewing machine,
The fine and complete example by this Scottish manufacturer, registration marks for 28th December 1868, for the American market,
No. 685,
the proud standing lion, with wisped tail to the side, the removable front legs, each stamped with the serial number revealing needle and rise-bar, side of the body with tower lever and circular oiling holes, on shaped figure-of-eight black finished base bearing relief registration diamond, inset within polished rectangular mahogany worktop with moulded edge, the underside with exposed running wheel and crank-shaft, cotton reel rewind bar hinged for friction-wheel contact to main drive-cog to the right-hand side, under-drawer for reels and sewing equipment to the left, bolted to the outstanding base with the opposing ends each of complex pierced castings with the Kimball & Morton crest with sewing machine relief to the centre within shield, below six-point star flanked by rampant lion and eagle, the ribbon-twist matrix incorporating knot-ties and rococo C scroll motifs and legend below declaring STRENGTH AND SPEED, on four hairy lion paw feet toes, the drive from the central pierced and shaped foot paddle bearing marker's title with two rows of five column splats within square frame, finely turned and tapering mahogany connecting rod to the weighted flywheel having tri-cluster C scroll centre, original period gilt to ends and lion base, highly attractive patina to the lion's back and head, (old fracture to right-hand end base repaired with plate, inconspicuous weld to another on left-hand end base) - 38.1/2in. (98cm) high, the width 27in. (69cm), the depth 16in.(41cm), the lion length 14in. (36cm)


  • This is the only known fully complete and period gilt example of a treadle Lion model by Kimball & Morton.

    Little is known about the precise company history, when they started or indeed if or when they were wound-up. However it is clear that they were inducted with producing top-end sewing apparatus capable of breaking through to the overseas market - with America being no exception.

    According to a photo-stated company leaflet cover for the Lion model, they were Glasgow-based, with branches in Manchester at 30 Cannon Street and in Dundee at 52 Reform Street. They first started making floor-standing Lion models in 1867 and it is thought they continued these until around 1875. The table Lion model was released thirty-six years later in 1903. The use of no less than three diamond registration marks, show the precise date as being 28th December 1868 - providing the castings were not done in bulk, then put together when orders started coming in within a few years.

    The lion's front legs are removed before sewing takes place. This instantly causes a problem with predicted loss, as these are small parts which are not confined within the machine, but they are each stamped with the number 685, matching that of the main movement and so guarantees that these belong with the rest of the machine. It is amazing they are still present.
    Coming to the colour of the lion, it is easy to see why the colour has improved to the gilding over the years, as it is very difficult to walk past this piece without stroking the lion's back, as one would do to an affectionate cat in the street. His facial appearance is one of content, whilst keeping a stance appropriate to his bred, with a slight show of teeth.

    Although the drive-belt from the flywheel to the running cam is loose, but present, a quick turn reveals that it indeed still functions and with some minor adjustments, could be in common use once more - if one wished it.
    The main positive condition points to note is the overall retention and colour of the gilding and the unexpected delight of seeing a complete movement. The turned wood connection bar which joins both flywheel and foot paddle for instance, is un-split, non-fatigued and un-bowed - quite something taking into account the wear and pressure exerted through this when peddling away and then suddenly stopping. This is just one feature of many which are to be admired.

    Covering the old repairs to the base ends, these are to be considered purely temporary and are in such a state as to be removed and/or dealt with properly. Their presence has assisted in keeping this sewing machine in the condition it is in today. The first of two areas to note is quite prominent - a steel plate bolted nine times through the base-most corner of the front right end. As crude as it might appear, this has been structural for many years and it was installed because of a crack through the ribbon piercing, resulting in that leg being off completely. It is a relief that it was recovered, saved and bolted, even through a correct restoration would involve hole filling and colour blending.
    On the other end, a discreet weld can be seen on the inside left front area. This is a very small patch and the crack is small enough to be left alone.

    Few people would have seen this sewing machine. Partly as this has been admired in a private house in Essex for nearly forty years, but also with such a period and complete example, it would have been published liberally as being the best Lion floor model for use in reference books.

    Kimball & Morton have certainly gained the respect of many due to their quality and rather impressive designs, of which this has to be considered their very best creation.
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