I have a Singer Sewing machine very similar to the one pictured here. It no longer works but I keep it threaded and on display. It always makes me think of how exciting it must have been to own one of these marvels of technology. The sewing machine released many women from the tedious task of making clothes for their family and made mending easy rather than a chore. It was first invented in the mid-1700’s and was mostly purchased for industrial use, but was plagued by constant battles between patent owners who each had invented some piece of the final machine until patent agreements and payments to the their owners were reached. The first sewing machine to resemble what we would recognize as the modern machine was made by an English inventor, John Fisher, in 1844. In the US, Isaac Singer and Elias Howe produced and refined that original and by 1870 the sewing machine was a staple in middle class homes. Singer developed the electric machine, similar to what is pictured above, in 1889 and by the end of the WW1 were offering hand, treadle, and electric machines.
If you have an older Singer machine like mine, you can look up when it was manufactured by going to the Singer Website and finding your serial number within the list. The serial number on my machine is H1290308 and was made in 1907. I’ve always been partial to the sewing machine bases as well with their scrolling metal work, pedals and wheels. I found one at a flea market, wire brushed the base and painted it, and had a wood worker make a top that would fit, without the hole for the machine. I stained the top, attached it and it serves as my foyer catch-all.
In my historical romance, Romancing Olive, Olive Wilkins has her precious Singer sewing machine shipped to Ohio where she has gone to rescue her niece and nephew after their parents have died. A librarian in Philadelphia, she has never married, and has little understanding of rural life when she arrives in Ohio and finds the children living with a neighboring farmer, Jacob Butler. Here’s a scene from when her Singer arrives.
“It’s Aunt Olive’s sewing machine,” Peg said and grinned.
“A sewing machine! Wait till Beth hears. Show me how it works so I can tell her,” Jack said.
Olive explained the workings to Jack and Peg and Mary. Jacob stood back and watched the four of them nod and grin. Olive was smiling again, this time at Jack. He heard Olive tell him to bring Beth by soon and she would show her how to use it.
“If you get me a chair and help me into it, Mary, I’ll show you how quickly we can finish your dress,” Olive said.
Jacob slunk out the door and began to hammer. I’m building her a room, he thought, do you think she’s happy about that? No. I’m building shelves in a corner cupboard, too, so she doesn’t have to keep her things in that silly suitcase of hers. Is she smiling and grateful? No. Just complaining about the noise. Jacob dropped the hammer to his side, pausing. He suddenly and desperately wished Olive were smiling at him. He was building a room, trying to please a woman who was leaving. Leaving the children. Leaving him. By God, those children will miss her. He would miss her as well.