Last week I discussed the origins of the Eagle Iron Works in Norwalk about 1850. For a few years they manufactured steam engines for mills and small factories, along with a variety of other iron products.
When the coming of the railroad brought cheaper products from eastern foundries, the Eagle Iron Works had to re-invent itself and find a profitable product. In 1860 the iron works was enlarged to begin the manufacturing of sewing machines. These wondrous domestic improvements (sewing machines, that is) were the wonder of the age and no home was complete without one.
It is known that in July of 1860 N.S.C. Perkins was producing 75 sewing machines per week. This was a style known as the Gardiner, I believe. The Gardiner was the first sewing machine made in the "West," away from eastern cities. He also made a machine known as the Moore, but it was so popular that larger manufacturers managed to crush the manufacturing of it.
At this same time a rival sewing machine company owned by Daggett & Whipple opened in Norwalk. Their machine, called the Hinkley and Wildman, was exhibited at the County Fair in 1859. We hear little of the Hinkley and Wildman after this time.
William A. Mack perfected a sewing machine he called the Domestic in 1863. The following year he called on N.S.C. Perkins in Norwalk and they started manufacturing them on a large scale. This machine was very successful and was finally sold to larger interests about 10 years later.
At this same time the Dauntless machine was perfected and became the chief product of the Eagle Iron Works and continued as such until about 1881 when the Iron Works was declared to be bankrupt, and closed. Both men had built fine homes in Norwalk. The Mack House still stands at 166 West Main, and a rebuilt version of the front portion of the Perkins House can be seen at 23 Summit. It was first built at 60 West Main and was torn down to make way for the Methodist Church.
William Mack held patents for several sewing machines and for improvements to several others. He worked in Cleveland sewing machine businesses for several years, and eventually Mrs. Mack moved there to live with him. She loved her Norwalk home so much that she insisted on staying in it as long as she could. When she died in 1903 in Cleveland one of her last wishes was to have her funeral from the Norwalk house. Which the family still owned.
N.S.C. Perkins moved to Florida to recoup his losses, and became an active and useful citizen there until his death in 1896. Mrs. Perkins stayed on in Norwalk for several years in their home. Most of the house was rented at different times to roomers, and for a time the most of it was occupied by Dr. Von Ruck as his sanitarium. The 1888 city directory lists Mrs. Mary Perkins as operating a boarding house at 60 West Main.