Isaac Singer and the Sewing Machine

Woman working with singer machine (ca. 1914)
Image Source: Library of Congress

On July 23, 1875, American inventor, actor, and entrepreneur Isaac Merrit Singer passed away. He made important improvements in the design of the sewing machine and was the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Isaac Merritt Singer was born in 1811 in Pittstown, New York and worked as a mechanist, starting from the age of 12. He joined a traveling theater group when he was 19 and continued his work as a machinist between performances. Singer invented a rock drill in 1839 and sold the patent for $2000 shortly after. He founded his own acting group and toured through the Unites States until they ran out of money. [3] Singer now managed to find financial supporters for his patented machine for carving wooden type for printing presses and he moved to Boston in order to work on his machine in Orson Phelp’s machine shop. Phelps held a license to build sewing machines for the Lerow Blodgett Company. Unfortunately for Singer, his carving machine was not successful, because most printers had switched to metal type. One day, Phelps asked Singer for help with one of his Lerow Blodgett sewing machines. The inventor agreed and immediately found ways to improve the machines. It is said that it took Singer only 11 days to create a new and significantly better machine compared with with Lerow & Blodgett’s. He redesigned the sewing machine in a way that it could stitch continuously in curved lines. He replaced the needle bar on an arm hanging over the table and introduced the foot pedal instead of a hand crank. Phelps, Singer, and the financial supporter Zieber formed a company and the inventor received a patent for his machine in 1851. [1]

Shortly after, Singer got rid of his partners and sided with a lawyer named Clark, who helped the inventor through a series of law suits. A patent pool was then created by which all parties were able to profit. However, Singer’s profit was the largest since his machine enjoyed the most success on the market. Already in the early 1860sSinger’s sewing machines turned out to be the most successful in the world. Many assume that the triumph on the market was due to the high quality of the machines as well as the liberal credit terms, the company offered to its customers. In 1863, the Singer Manufacturing Company was founded and Singer himself moved to England. At that time, Singer was no longer involved in the manufacturing process and he passed away on July 23, 1875. [1]

In 1855, a Singer sewing machine was awarded a first prize at the World’s Fair in Paris. The success of the machines grew even more, when the company opened large showrooms, for instance at the Broadway in New York City. The company also introduced interchangeable parts and reduced the machines’ size and weight through the years. By 1880, an Edison electric motor was used to drive some Singer sewing machines and large factories across Europe and the Americas have been opened. By 1927, the first Singer Sewing Centers opened, offering sewing courses and enjoying a large success as well.[2]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a Singer Sewing Machine commercial from the 1950s.

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