After designing sewing machines and patenting several improvements to sewing machines, James Starley did the same for bicycles. His work led to the development of the penny farthing. Coventry was an important centre for bicycle manufacture and Wolverhampton was the third largest bicycle manufacturing town in the country. In the same way that The European Sewing Machine Company came about by the collapse of another local industry (ribbon making), the establishment of famous bicycle manufacturers like Sunbeam in Wolverhampton came about because of the collapse of the japanning trade in the town.
The European Sewing Machine company (later called the Coventry Sewing machine Company) was set up in Coventry in 1861 to create jobs following the collapse of the ribbon industry in 1860.
The invention of iron wheels, rails and steam locomotives made possible the development of a cheap and efficient railway network which enabled finished goods, such as clothing, to be easily transported to markets around the world and allowed the manufacturers of the West Midlands to reap the financial rewards of their innovations.
Sewing machines were being used in the Walsall leather trades by 1859, when a local manufacturer applied for a patent for making leather-covered buckles.