To date, the names of only 22 different needle manufacturers are found on a variety of mostly flat-style Avery needle cases. All of these businesses were located in the Redditch area where 90% of the world’s needles were produced during the Victorian Period. The needle district in this region was divided between the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire with the majority of the needle companies being located in Worcestershire. Using the 1876 Worcestershire directory as a guide, since it covers most of the Redditch area, we find a total of 73 needle manufacturers. Of these only 16 or 22% are found with their names stamped or engraved on Avery style needle cases. This data indicates only one-fifth of the areas needle manufacturers were involved with fancy brass needle cases. (NOTE: The 6 remaining needle manufacturers whose names appear on brass needle cases were not included in this analysis as they were located in Warwickshire which was not included in this directory).
Of the 22 Redditch needle manufacturers only 10 had their name placed on more than two needle case designs: Avery (127), Milward (18), Schleicher (8), Hall (8), Hayes, Crossley & Co (4), Wacker (4), Woodfield (4), Harper (3), Morrall (3) and Thomas (3). Additionally, only 12 had their names placed on exclusive designs (designs not found with another company name): Avery (75), Milward (8), Hall (4), Bartleet (2), Johnson (2), Morrall (2), Smith (1), Thomas (1), Townsend (1), Turner (1), Woodfield (1) and Wyres (1). The most common designs are the Butterfly (8 different names), the Quadruple (7 different names), the Louise - Folding (6 different names) and the Scallop Shell (4 different names). Although the design registration/patent for the Louise - Folding has not been located, we do know that Avery designed/patented the Butterfly, Quadruple, Scallop Shell and 9 other items that are found with 10 different needle manufacturer names. Of the 188 signed needle case designs, Avery’s name can be found on 126 or 67%. The percentage increases to 88% if we look only at signed figural needle cases (90 of 102).
What the data tells us
There was only one needle manufacturer who used brass needle cases in a significant way to market needles and that was William Avery. His biggest competition came from H. Milward & Sons and W. Hall & Co, two of the largest needle manufacturers in Redditch at the time. Of the 18 needle case designs found with the Milward name, 12 were designed/patented by someone else (only 3 of these were exclusive for Milward), including 7 that were designed/patented by Avery. Of the remaining 5 Milward signed items, 4 were basically the same design, the Fan which has 6 varieties of brass covers (2 versions are not signed). Therefore Milward only had 4 truly unique needle case designs with his name compared to Avery’s 75. Now let’s take a look at Hall. All 8 needle cases with Hall’s name were designed by someone else; 1 by Avery, 2 by Birmingham companies, 2 by a Liverpool firm and the designer/patentee for the remaining 3 is unknown; only 4 were exclusive designs. Statistically Avery’s name was on over 1800% ( Hall's 4 x 1800% = 72) more unique needle case designs than his closest competition. Avery really didn’t have any serious competition from the other needle manufacturers.
Charles Schleicher – Belle-Vallee and Redditch