external image thedaviss.jpgIn the 1860's, inventor Job Davis showcased his new sewing machine invention at the Woodruff House in Watertown. His design was a vast improvement over previous sewing machine models. His design so impressed brothers John and Joseph Sheldon that, in 1868, they started the Davis Sewing Machine Company on Factory Street.

external image Davis_Sewng_Bldng_1876.jpgThe company soon became a major employer in Watertown, and the Davis Sewing Machines became world famous. The company soon moved to bigger facilities on Beebee Island, and eventually to even larger facilities on Sewall's Island. Machines for the factory were made by Bagley & Sewall. At the height of the company's success, the company became the largest industry operating in Watertown.

The Davis Rotary Model
The Davis Rotary Model
By the mid-1880's, the company's fortunes soon took a sharp decline. Poor workmanship and assembly in the factory led to many sewing machines being returned. The company couldn't keep up with demand, and so many shortcuts in manufacturing were employed to keep up with orders. Also, the company became embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with the Hat Sweat Company, who were collecting royalties on a product in which the Davis company held the patent on. The company won the suit, but the cost had ruined the company's fiscal portfolio, leading to near financial ruin.

In 1889, stockholders voted to leave Watertown and move the company to Dayton, Ohio. A grassroots movement by the Dayton Board of Trade led to the company being given $50,000 in donations in order to entice the company to move. The loss of the Davis Sewing Machine Company had a devastating effect in Watertown, causing, for a time, considerable unemployment. It is estimated that about 80 employees and their families followed the company to Dayton. In Dayton, the company found renewed success.

external image davis2.jpg In the early 20th century, company president George Huffman began the manufacture of bicycles. So successful was this venture that the manufacture of sewing machines was eventually phased out. In 1934, the company changed its name to the Huffy Bicycle Company. The company ceased manufacturing in Ohio in 1999, moving production to Mexico.

See Also

Jefferson County Industry


Antique Sewing Machine Resource
The Story of the Davis Company

This page was created by AJRII & has been edited 8 times. The last modification was made by - lectrichead lectrichead on Aug 2, 2009 6:02 am.