Singer Sewing Machine Company

The Singer logo. The Singer logo.

The Singer Sewing Machine Company was founded by Isaac Merrit Singer (1811-1875), an American inventor and businessman. Singer had a long and varied career. He initially moved to Boston (USA), a centre for the printing trade, where he tried to find financial backers for his type-carving machine. He rented a workshop from Orson Phelps, who built and repaired Lerow and Blodgett sewing machines.

There were many competing sewing machine manufacturers at the time, producing machines for industrial use in the clothing, shoe and bridle trades, but not for domestic use. With Phelps’ consent, Singer worked on improvements to the sewing machine. Singer developed a shuttle that moved in a straight line (rather than a circle); a straight, eye-pointed needle, instead of a curved horizontal needle, that made a lock stitch; and a wooden treadle to replace the hand-crank, thus allowing the tailor or seamstress to use both their hands.

In August 1851, Singer received US Patent number 8,294 for his new sewing machine. In the same year he established I.M. Singer & Co. in partnership with the New York lawyer Edward Clark. Singer’s new machine was designed for industrial use and was made of cast iron, with gears and other parts that had to be filed by hand. A sewer could make 900 stitches a minute with the Singer machine, compared to 250 stitches with other sewing machines. Each machine cost USD 100, which was very expensive for the time. But its efficiency and the fact it could be quickly converted for use at home made it a desirable instrument. In addition, because of a new payment system developed by Singer, the installment plan or hire purchase, it was affordable by a much wider public.

In 1856, competing American sewing machine manufacturers, including Singer, agreed to drop their legal battles over copyright infringements and to cooperate, which allowed for the mass production of sewing machines. The I.M. Singer & Co. manufactured 2,564 machines that year. By 1860, the company was manufacturing 13,000 machines annually. In 1863, a larger factory was built, which used interchangeable parts for mass production. Singer also succeeded in the European market with a factory near Glasgow (Scotland) and opened offices in Paris and Rio de Janeiro. The company developed the first electric sewing machine in 1889.

Computerized sewing machines were introduced in the early 1990's, along with machines specifically for embroidery and quilting.



Last modified on Saturday, 29 April 2017 11:20
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