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Richard Candee, author of the book The Hand-Cranked Knitter and Sock Machine, (click here), sent me an email yesterday about article he found in one of the Gearhart Service Bulletins. The article gives some revealing information about how the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company stacks up against the Auto Knitter Company and the four other clones of the Auto Knitter in the 1920’s. Richard notes the emphasis Gearhart placed on their money-back guarantee and its relationship to a potential mail fraud case.

This article shows that the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company was certainly sucked into the legal mess caused by the Auto Knitter Company, in spite of the fact that the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company had at one time entered into a sound business venture with them by supplying them with many machine parts. Joseph Gearhart, the inventor and founder of the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company, must have had a hand in writing this article. I see scripture references. Joseph was a minister as well as a business owner, so I’m sure his personal opinions about the character of the Auto Knitter executives come out in the article.

Here are some excerpts from the article.

“The Tremendous Difference Between Gearhart and Other Home Work Plans,” The Gearhart Service Bulletin 1925 : No. 1 , pp.1-2

“Unsound Imitators Follow the Gearhart”

The success of the Gearhart Plan [of home workers] promptly attracted imitators. Back in 1914, Gearhart Company was approached by the promoters of a then new Company with a plea to sell them Gearhart Machines in wholesale quantities so that they might start their own [A-K] Company, selling machines and accepting the products. They professed honesty of intention, and their plan seemed to offer a real means of increasing the usefulness of the Gearhart Machine by multiplying its distribution. Accordingly this Company accepted a contract for the supplying of thousands of machines to these promoters and thus enabled them to start other knitting machine companies.

It was soon apparent that a sincere desire to satisfy the purchasers of the machines was lacking in the plans of these promoters. The Gearhart Company then cancelled its contract and refused to supply more of these machines to these imitators. By that time they were able to start the manufacture of an imitation machine of their own.

Dissatisfied employees of this new [A-K] Company later branched off and established another newer [Home Profit Co.] Company.

For a while there were as many as five companies operating—all in imitation of the Gearhart Machine and Home Earning Plan. The same features characterized them all – exaggeration of advertising, a lack of service to the purchaser, and a desire to sell knitting machines without service that would assist the purchaser to produce hosiery and make money.

“By Their Work Ye Shall Know Them”

In view of this condition, it is not surprising that the Gearhart ompany is the only concern offering a Money-Back Guarantee upon the sale of its machine…. It means the Company must sincerely desire the production of the product – hosiery—or it would not be so anxious to teach every operator to produce.

“Patient and Efficient Instruction”

… we send our good friends, local representatives to give personal lessons, guidance and help.

“Saints and Sinners in the Same Pew”

… Unfortunately, other Companies have not made the same sincere effort to render efficient service to the operators of their machines. Since their hosiery does not enjoy the active demand and ready sale that is accorded to the Gearhart Hosiery, naturally they are not at all anxious to have it produced as we are. Because the quality of their hosiery is much lower, and since the operators are but poorly instructed, it is exceedingly hard to find any market at all for such hosiery.

This, of course, means that they are not particularly anxious to accumulate any of it. Inspectors can always find some flaw in which to reject hosiery, and it is only natural that the operators of those other Knitters should have a high percentage of rejection.

The Gearhart Representatives know that this is not true of the Gearhart Company…

Because in the minds of the general public, such malpractice and misdoing, reflect discredit upon the entire industry, Gearhart being the leader is too often blamed for all of it.

The only folks who do know [the difference] are our own operators and our Representatives.

Therefore it is only fair that our Representatives, who in their own experience have reason to know the difference, should promptly explain this big difference whenever criticism is offered generally of “these knitting machine companies.”…

I believe this article is accurate. There is evidence in the archives that the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company supplied thousands of machines and parts to the Auto Knitter Company before ending the contract. The document below proves this. Just one line of this particular document shows that Gearhart had supplied 10,000 “72” cylinders in the first four months of 1918. That is certainly enough to start up a business from scratch.

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Historically-speaking, I’m left with a bad impression of anything with the word “Auto Knitter” in it. Ironically, even today I see general discussion groups on the internet commandeered as “NZAK” company web sites, with legal threats against anyone with an opinion. (Commandeer: to take arbitrary or forcible possession of). What is it about Auto Knitters?

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