This 1891 W.I. Betts flyer is notable for several important things. It could very well be the oldest advertisement in the archives. It is a very, very early advertisement for the People’s Knitting Machine, later to be known as the Gearhart Knitting Machine. I have many older unpublished items, but I have found only one other descriptive item this old, which is known to have been published for the general public. The other descriptive item is also from W.I. Betts, and it is an instruction manual for the same machine. I wrote about W.I. Betts and the earliest instruction manual in a post titled The First Instruction Manual (click here). These two documents describe the very first machine, which is the same as originally patented by Joseph Gearhart in April 1890. Refer to posts Twelve Patents (click here) and Gearhart Knitting Machine, Serial #1 (click here) for details about this first machine.
This 1891 flyer also contains a reference to Canada. As I dig further into the archives, I am starting to see several interesting references to Canada. It appears that the Gearhart Knitting Machine company not only played a role in starting up the Auto Knitter Company (which had a presence in Toronto as well as Buffalo, NY) and Dundas Knitting Machine Company, and supplying machine components to both, but it also had a hand in several other Canadian interests. Richard Candee, in his book The Hand-Cranked Knitter and Sock Machine has noted the Canadian connection as well. As I uncover more information, I will make it available. Emory Gearhart attached a note to the 1891 flyer mentioning Canada, which reads as follows:
W.I. Betts had this circular made up and [?] agency for Canada. One Stitch At A Time Machine, about 1891
I can’t quite make out the [?] word(s). If you can make a guess, I would be very grateful.
Another interesting piece of information in this flyer is the price of the machine. At $5.00, this is possibly the first price ever set. Previously, I had seen an 1892 price of $8.00 (click here) and thought this was the first price. However, I hadn’t seen the W.I. Betts flyer. So $5.00 establishes a good starting point for a price trend unless I find something even earlier.