I suspect that I’ve just acquired the only original Gearhart Knitting Machine sock in existence. If any others exists they may be tucked away in an attic somewhere, or they may be an article of clothing on one of those very old Smithsonian exhibits. We’ll never know, because I don’t think there is any way to distinguish a 1920’s sock as having been made by a Gearhart Knitting Machine.
Just think, this sock was made when Calvin Coolidge was President, and when my 90-year-old barber was only 6-years-old, and when everyone probably wished for a brand new 1925 Ford Model T for Christmas! Its amazing to think, that by whatever kind of fate, this last surviving sock could have made it over so many years to eventually wind up all the way back to one of the Gearhart descendants and the last spot for for most of the Gearhart Knitting Machine company artifacts. You probably have to be a Gearhart to appreciate this, so no doubt I’m making too much out of it.
This sock was given to me by Kathy Roletter, as part of the original shipment from her Gearhart Knitting Machine. Details of this machine can be found in my post titled The Brand New 1924 Gearhart Knitting Machine (click here). There are actually two articles, a sock and the sample which was knit on the machine and included with the shipment. I’ve got the articles stored in a wooden case, so they should be safe and sound for another 85 years. I can’t really think of anything else more valuable to the archives than this, other than a mint-condition machine.
Its quite a unique addition to the archives, because we see for the first time a Gearhart Knitting Machine sock as it was intended to be, at the time the company was in business. I suspect the sock was taken from inventory and included with the machine when shipped. I’d have a hard time thinking that the company would take the amount of time necessary to knit an entire sock in order to check out the workings of the machine. I may be wrong but we’ll likely never know for sure.
However, the knitted sample which was on the cylinder was definitely knitted on the machine that was shipped, probably by one of the men shown in the photo from my posting titled Assembling Machines for Shipment (click here). It would take just a few minutes to do this, and would certainly suffice to verify the correct operation. The articles have a few holes in them, since something got into the crate sometime between 1924 and 2009. There are no droppings in the crate, so it was probably some kind of small bug rather than a mouse. Regardless, the sock and sample are in really good shape considering their age, but nevertheless very fragile. I also have four skeins of wool that were also included with the shipment, just as the inventory sheets in the archives state.
I think it would be pretty nice to make a new sock from the same color and type of wool, so that we could see the 1924 sock and an identical 2009 sock side by side. Add this to the list of things to do…
One last thought. So why was Kathy’s new machine so hard to turn? The machine was obviously checked out and used before shipment. When she tried it out after assembling it, the cylinder was binding against the Collar Ring. Kathy had to file down the cylinder slightly in order to reduce the binding. Hmmm. Is it the properties of the cylinder metal, after sitting for 85 years, which caused the cylinder to expand just a tiny amount? The machine was otherwise brand new, so it hadn’t been dropped or abused in any way whatsoever. All cylinders at that time (1924) would have been the same size since they were die-cast from a mold, so its not like this was a individually-machined part. Any thoughts on this?