Machine Silk and Thread Cabinets in the Early 1900’s

Imagine living in the early 1900’s and visiting your local haberdashery store and seeing such beautiful cabinet displays as this fabulous sewing machine thread cabinet. I am sure this cabinet would have been one of many situated amongst glass fronted drawer units cramped with braids and ribbons and glass fronted drawer counters displaying all kinds of haberdashery delights.

This particular thread cabinet was specially designed to house the Wreath & Lion brand of the very best of silk and twisted sewing machine threads, a product synonymous with the London wholesaler W. Williams & Son. This cabinet was manufactured from American walnut and featured a highly polished finish. It measured 20 inches in length x 16 inches width and 12 inches high and held between 864 reels and 1008 reels dependent upon the yardage of each reel. This particular Wreath & Lion Machine Silk thread was available in reels containing 50 yards, 12 yards and 15 yards. Retailers purchased this thread for 13/6 per 144 reels, this is equivalent to £0.37 per reel at today’s prices, but with 100+ years of inflation, the thread would be worth £43 per reel today.

Silk Thread CabinetEven in 1910 the retailer would have been expected to purchase this cabinet. It was not free, even though the retailer would have purchased the stock to be displayed within the cabinet. The cabinet cost 17 shillings and 6 pence, which equates to approximately £68.40 at today’s GBP.  However if you take into account inflation over the 100 years+ then the figure of £68.40 would be over £8,000.

W.Williams & Son were very savvy and in 1910 at their annual sales fair they offered this cabinet at half price with an order placed for thread. This meant that they were more or less guaranteed additional repeat orders for thread once this cabinet was in position within the stores.

Machine SilksMachine Silk was manufactured from the very best and brightest Nett silk obtainable at the time with special attention being paid to the strength and smoothness of the silk.

The Wreath & Lion brand of Machine Silk came in 2 different sized reels, a quarter-ounce reel and a one-ounce reel and dependant upon the thickness of the thread this would determine the yardage per reel. For example, a quarter-ounce reel of the finest silk (number 40) from the “Extra Super Locomotive” range would contain 275 yards compared to the thickest silk (number 16) within the same range which would contain 177 yards. It would be the same scenario for the one-ounce reels. The number 40 from within the “Extra Super Locomotive” range would contain 1100 yards compared to the number 16 from within the same range which would contain 470 yards.

Machine Silk threads were also priced in per 1b weight and although the final 1b price for the quarter-ounce reel and 1b price for the one-ounce reel were very similar, it was the weight that determined the number of reels received. Basically, a retailer would have ordered in units of 64 reels and units of 16 reels respectively.