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Albert Moll

Antique Sewing Machines – the Bonita

More commonly known under the name Moldacot, the Bonita sewing machine slots neatly into the antique sewing machines category.

Have you heard of it? Probably not, unless you’re a super sewing machine geek (and there’s nothing wrong with those fine folks, we answer to the name of sewing machine geek with pride).

Sometimes described as a “mechanical marvel”, the Moldacot was patented in December 1885. The company was formed by Albert Moll and John Cottam in London – can you see where the name comes from? – and the machine (a small pocket sewing machine) was introduced in July 1886.

Antique Sewing Machines – Sales

The company did not make it themselves, but subcontracted instead to manufacturers in Birmingham, Manchester and Germany. The company also sold its product in the colonial countries – Australia and New Zealand.

The UK version was, at the time of production, the smallest sewing machine designed specifically for making tacking adjustments during fittings. How did it work? As you can see from the picture, the machine has a clamp which secured it to a table. Then, the needle bar pushes down and there is a spring return.

Some 60,000 machines were produced in total altogether (although the company had made rather more ambitious projections what they could sell), and even these did not sell well. The company lost £50,000 in two years – a small fortune in those days.

Failed to Sell

Why were the sales so bad? Unfortunately, the machine design hadn’t been fully developed, and it just didn’t work well. Luckily for its creators, Moll and Cottam, when it initially came out, the machine received favourable reviews. The two men sold their interests in the company not long afterwards so they could pursue other business interests. It soon became clear that the machine was…er, c**p and it failed to sell in the expected numbers.

The company eventually became the United Sewing Machine Co., but it went into liquidation not long afterwards.

Where does the ‘Bonita’ name come from? Some of the machines were renamed Bonita (beautiful) in what sounds like a shrewd re-branding exercise. Nothing like changing a name to pretend something is new and improved, huh?

IMG_4565A Collector’s Dream

As with many rare things, the scarcity of the machine makes it much sought after nowadays. Collectors love it – and not just people who like to add a sewing machine or two to their homes. If you’re into Victoriana or you’re an engineering enthusiast, you probably covet the Moldacot too.

There are lots of stories and legends surrounding the Moldacot, its production and the company behind it, helping to add to the antique sewing machines mythology.

Sewing4Everyone stocks a wide range of used and refurbished sewing machines. Check our shop to find your perfectly priced used model.



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