Over the years, the machine evolved to a point where one could purchase a variety of cylinders ranging from 48 needles to 140 needles. A 48-needle cylinder would take very course yarn and would produce something similar to canvas. A 140-cylinder cylinder would take very fine yard and produce lace. That is quite a range of output from a single machine.

Realizing this, the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company settled on three basic outfits for sale, the Single, Double, and Triple Outfit. These options were related to the number of cylinders included with the machine, and quite naturally directed towards the beginning, intermediate, and advanced user. From a full-page spread published in 1925, we see the following information about this:

The Gearhart Hand Knitting Machine is offered with one, two, or three cylinders – a cylinder, so called, is that part of the machine which contains the knitting needles.

The Gearhart Single Outfit has one cylinder of 80 needles and is for those who want to make a limited kind of knitting – medium weight articles.

The Gearhart Double Outfit has two interchangeable cylinders of needles, one nearly the same as the Single Outfit cylinder, and the other having 100 needles for knitting lighter weight articles. [My Note: I believe the first cylinder would be either 60 or 72 needles, since this is a very common option on the machines in existence today].

The Gearhart Triple Outfit has three interchangable cylinders – one cylinder of 60 needles for heavy weight articles; one of 80 needles for medium weight articles; and one of 100 needles for light weight articles.

In order to be enabled to knit any type of knit goods, it would be necessary to have the Triple Outfit.

So, based on this, I would conclude that all other cylinders would be a special-order item. I have yet to see a 140-needle cylinder. But I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has such a cylinder. Better yet, would you be interested in selling it? I would love to add this type of cylinder to the archives, alongside all the other cylinders in my collection.

There can be more to a stitch then just looping the yarn around each needle and cranking away on the handle. True, you can certainly crank out a sock in a couple minutes by doing this, but apparently, according to the illustrations below, some ambitious knitters were testing the limits of their ingenuity. And with good results, I must say!

Here are several of the Fancy Stitches promoted through the Gearhart Knitting Machine catalogs:

Hmmm. As I look at that nice knitted vest, I can’t help noticing that the model looks extremely similar to some pictures of my grandmother. I never met her, since she died in 1945. But, the resemblesce is very close… and she was Emory’s wife. As president of the company, he would certainly be in the position to have his wife model some of the goods manufactured with the Gearhart Knitting Machine.

Its nice to think that my grandmother was a catalog model, so I’ll go along with this idea until I discover the true identity of some of the models I see sprinkled throughout the various catalogs. Odds are, I’ll never know. So I’m happy thinking that this is my grandmother’s picture. Well, after all, this was a small company in a small town…

The title of this booklet is Do You Know that the Gearhart Hand-Knitting Machine Will Knit More Than One Hundred Different Articles?. To me, it is quite remarkable that the machine could knit an entire sweater; but then, as I think about it, the arms are just a long sock without the heel. and the flat parts are just more long socks which have been separated length-wise, and then stitched together.

The list goes on and on, complete with illustrations. Below is just the sock list. This list comprizes the front section of the booklet. The back section has all the “other” things.

Publish under the label of the Clearfield Knitting Machine Company, this booket came along pretty late in the company’s life. It would have been interesting to see how things might have proceeded if the company had emphasized all the “other” things that could be made with the machine. If I were a prolific knitter back then, or a sponsor to a small army of knitters, I’d be inclined to open up a retail store in some city along the lines of the custom tailor shops we see today.

Here is the lead-in for the booklet:

New and Proved Plan for Big Home Earnings

This booklet illustrates more than one hundred different types of knitting and almost as many different kinds of articles easily made on the marvelous Gearhart Hand Knitting Machine.

Every sort of knitting which used to be done in the old fashioned way with straight knitting needles, is now being done a hundred times faster by the Gearhart Hand Knitter. Not only faster but far more accurately and with a finer finish. The machine is a mechanical marvel – one of the really important labor-saving inventions of the later part of the last century.

It is simple to operate – easy to learn by following the latest and improved Instruction Book. In fact, there is every reason why anyone should quickly learn to produce any type of knitting on it.

I believe that I will have to live my Gearhart Knitting Machine manufacturing life vicariosly through the enthusiasm and work of PeeWee Erlbacher.

He is undertaking the job of manufacturing a Erlbacher-Gearhart Knitting Machine, which is something I had wanted to do for a least 5 years, but alas, could not due to the pressures of work and family and thousands of other things that stood between me and my own machining efforts.

I am happy to see that the Erlbacher Gear and Machine Work is making good progress. PeeWee and I spoke last night, and it looks like he is quite far into the process, which basically involves a considerable amount of reverse engineering. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Gearhart Knitting Machine was in a continuous state of refinement for its entire life. In fact, it wasn’t until the final few years of production, between 1924 and 1925, that the machine reached a state where its evolution slowed considerably.

The next step in the machine’s evolution would most likely have been the addition of a electric power source to turn the cylinder. Emory had looked at this as early as 1917, so I’m sure the thought was still in his head as more an more rural homes got attached to the increasing reach of the electric power grid.

If I had to choose a person to manufacture the Gearhart Knitting Machine, I don’t think I could have thought of a better person then PeeWee Erlbacher – A small machine shop in the heartland of America. Experienced machinist with over 50 years in the business; all parts manufactured on-site in the USA; a willingness to reach out to others with knowledge of the machine; realistic expectations that this machine will not make millions in profits; an eye to practicality, where aluminum might be just as good as brass or nickel; and an acknowledgement that a reproduction of something perfected over 40 years is just as good as inventing it all over again.

I am eagerly awaiting the completion of the Erlbacher-Gearhart Knitting machine, and will be providing the story of the original Gearhart Knitting Machine Company as part of the list of deliverables for this new machine.

Here is an interesting new development in the history of the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company. After a 37-year manufacturing run of the Gearhart Knitting Machine, which ceased production in 1925, it looks like we’ve got an brand-new version of the Gearhart Knitting Machine in the works.

I’m very intrigued about this, and very happy that their company is in the USA. Its great to see that parts of the US manufacturing industry is still humming along after all the turmoil of recent years.

That’s a pretty long gap, 85 years, between the 1925 model and the 2010 model, and I am surprized that its hasn’t been attempted previously. If fact, I was considering doing this myself, but of course just about everything has come in at a higher priority since originally considering the idea about 5 years ago.

The Erlbacher Gear and Machine Works looks to be doing a pretty good job so far. They’ve just started work, so be sure to follow their progress if you are interested in this. From emails with Grayson Erlbacher, the estimate is that they are about 60 days away from a complete prototype.

If I had to guess, based on the photos and description from Grayson’s blog at www.gearhartreproductions.blogspot.com, the reproduction will be very nice since they obviously have all the right machinery to manufacture parts with precision.

I still have the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company incorporated, so even though they would not have a company with the same name, there are many, many other options. Personally, I would be honored and happy to see the word “Gearhart” somewhere on the machine. And I think it would be very good marketing-wise as well. After all, the Gearhart Knitting Machine is favorably known amongst the Circular Sock Machine crowd.

I’ll pass on extra details depending on how things go. Meantime, have a look at the cylinder below and be sure to stay tuned-in to their blog.

If you’ve called up this site, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted since last October. That a long time ago. Its not for lack of thinking about it. I’m trying to get to a point were I can pick up where I left off. As soon as things settle down a bit and get organized, I hope to start posting again.

Varna, Bulgaria

Varna, Bulgaria

I’m going through a stack of letter from all over the world. The letters are all postmarked 1919 or 1920. This was just after WW-I ended, and it was a good time for the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company. They had been involved in the war effort by supplying machines to the war relief organizations, including the Red Cross, and were therefore becoming a well-known company outside the United States.

I suspect that Emory Gearhart, the General Manager of the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company, kept these hundreds of letters for their stamp value. He was a stamp collector who amassed volumes of stamps from all over the world, all the way up to his death in 1969.

Roustchouk, Bulgaria

Roustchouk, Bulgaria

As I go through the letters, I can’t help but notice that the quality of the handwriting increases the further away you get from the United States. In 1919, many people overseas used typewriters for their letters. But it looks like in many parts of the world back then, hand-written letters were also common. Even for corporations, it is not uncommon to run across a hand-written letter among the stack of letters. The Gearhart Knitting Machine Company would have received far more letters than I have in this stack, but Emory saved a particular set of letters which really do have some nice looking stamps – clipper ships, world leaders, airplanes, zepplins, all kinds of current events for the time.

The Bulgarians by far have the best handwriting. Here are two of the envelopes. One is from Varna, and the other is from Roustchouk (now called Rousse). Needless to say, many of the letters have the word Translate written on the front. This is especially true for the Latin-American countries and the Nordic-countries. The European countries, however, are almost always in English. Because of this consideration for the country of business, I’d say that in general it must have been easier doing business in Europe than in either Latin America or the Nordic countries.

Also, oddly enough, almost all the letters from Mexico had been opened and censored. I know this because they were taped shut with a piece of tape with the words Censored. So, what was going on in Mexico in 1919? There are a few censored letters from italy and some of the other mediterranean countries, but not to the same extent as Mexico.

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