Allen, Annie. Personal Interview. February 16, 1999. Mrs. Allen learned to sew on her mother’s treadle machine. She was given a hand-held machine for Christmas and took sewing in school. When she married and had children, she bought her first electric machine to sew her children’s clothes.
Allen, Joy. Personal Interview. January 22, 1999. Mrs. Allen was very helpful with my project by providing a great deal of information on how her mother made all of the family’s clothes with the sewing machine. When Joy married, she also sewed all of the clothes the family wore. She still owns the same sewing machine.
Black, Mary. American Advertising Posters of the Nineteenth Century from
the Bella C. Landauer Collection of the New York Historical Society. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1976.
A most wonderful collection of a hundred advertising posters and lithographs related to the New York consumer from 1840 to 1898. One of the most interesting posters is from E. Butterick and Co.’s Quarterly Report of New York Fashions for the Fall of 1873. A second advertisement is for the Remington Armory, Sewing Machine Works featuring the home seamstress and the factory where the machines were made.
Bradbury, Dixie. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Dixie is a fourth generation sewing shop owner. She said her family has sewn since machines were first made and by hand before that. She now owns one of the first computerized sewing machines that sews over 2,000 different stitches. She talked about how sewing has changed peoples’ lives and how limited the world would be without the machine. She said that one of the most popular machines is from the 1950’s and is the “Perfect Portable” also known as the Featherweight. Brewer, Naomi. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Mrs. Brewer explained that she has been sewing since she was a child making doll clothes. She said that with a sewing machine, women are able to elevate their style of clothing well above what they would be able to purchase off the racks at the store. The one thing she likes on the newer machines is she no longer has a backache from using a foot pedal. With her machine she just pushes a button and goes.
Brown, Nancy. Personal Interview. April 17, 1999. Mrs. Brown was most helpful in providing a large packet of information on the story of sewing, facts about Isaac Singer, and the invention of the sewing machine. She works for the Singer Company in Murfeesboro, Tennessee.
Brown, Travis. Historical First Patents: The First United States Patent for
Many Everyday Things. New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1994. This was a very interesting publication in that it provided me with the details of Elias Howe’s sewing machine. It was patented on September 10, 1846. The book contained a picture of his sewing machine.
Chancellor, Pat. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Pat works for Alamo Stitch and Sew. She has taught sewing classes for three years. She explained how the Viking Sewing Machine Company had just celebrated 125 years in business. Pat believes that the machine changed lives of women in that they had a choice of what to wear and they liked that. She has been sewing since she was eleven years old. She believes that sewing is a therapy because it relaxes her.
Cowan, Sally. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Sally was my most interesting personal interview. She is the host of the PBS show “Keeping in Stitches.” She explained how her show is written and created. She talked about the beginning of the sewing machine and how Isaac Singer purchased patents of other sewing machine makers and incorporated them into one machine. He used his marketing techniques to sell his machines and to make the Singer Company a household name. Mrs. Cowan explained how the sewing machine industry took off when prices dropped after World War II. The machine was a standard household appliance at that time.
“Dressmaking Business Booms When Happy Customers Spread the Word.” Houston
Chronicle. Section 6, Page 10, February 24, 1988. This is a newspaper account of Eva Cohen who is a dressmaker in Houston. She began her full-time dressmaking career three years ago, but now sews for approximately fifteen clients who use her regularly.
Dublin, Thomas. Transforming Women’s Work: New England Lives In The Industrial
Revolution. London: Cornell University Press, 1994. Excerpts from diaries, letters, account books, and census records reconstructing employment patterns and how wages changed for the working woman. The diaries tell of the experiences of working in the factories and in domestic service.
Ecton, Doris. Personal Interview. March 31, 1999. Mrs. Ecton told how when she was in elementary school in the 1930s, sewing was one of the main classes she was required to take. She continued her classes through high school and upon graduation worked for a tailor shop making men’s suits. When she married she continued to sew and made clothes for her family. Mrs. Ecton also gave me many pointers for altering my clothes.
Foner, Phillip. The Factory Girls. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1977. The Factory Girls is an early collection of documents representing working-class women. The book tells of the struggle for shorter working days and better working conditions, which brought about the beginning of the first trade unions of women workers in the United States.
Ghormley, Francis. Personal Interview. February 17, 1999. Ms. Ghormley has been sewing for over forty years. She first started sewing as a child for fun and continued when she married. She has worked for Barry Manufacturing Company for twenty-two years altering men’s suits. She uses two different sewing machines; one is a sleever for lining the sleeves of jackets and the other makes a blind-stitch for hemming pants. Francis claims that sewing is her livelihood.
Harris, Kristina. 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns. New
York: Dover Publications Inc., 1994. This book is a reproduction of the Butterick patterns that were worn by “everyday” people of the middle and upper class. Most styles emphasized a tiny waist for daywear. There are patterns for housedresses and nightwear, as well as clothing for boys and girls and several garments for men.
Hoffer, Brenda. Personal Interview. March 15, 1999. Ms. Hoffer provided me with her 1920 hand crank sewing machine for my display. The sewing machine belonged to her grandmother. She explained that she prefers for someone to sew for her.
Holzman, Rosalie. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Mrs. Holzman is an educator for the Baby Lock Corporation. We talked about how the sewing machine had evolved from the hand crank model, to the first electric Singer machine, and then to machines of today. I was able to use her embroidery machine and serger to create a beautiful handkerchief.
Israel, Fred. 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue. New York: Chelsea House
Publishers, 1993. A most interesting catalogue representing items sold in 1897. Items include clothing, sewing machines for as low as $8.50, and horse carriages for $32.00. Their advertisement for sewing machines read, “We honestly believe we are prepared to furnish sewing machines directly to the family for less money than any other concern in existence. We guarantee our prices to be lower than any competitors, and we have many competitors.”
Johnson, Susan. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Mrs. Johnson was most interesting to talk with. She owns a 1910 hand crank model Singer Sewing Machine that she found in a junk shop. She is a member of the San Antonio Quilt Guild. She believes that everyone should learn to sew. King, B.J. Personal Interview. February 14, 1999. Mrs. King started sewing as a child. Her mother was a very avid seamstress, but whatever B.J. did was not quite good enough in her mother’s eyes. She later took sewing in school where she modeled her completed project. She remembers starting dresses only to throw them away before finishing. Today B.J. will hire someone to sew for her.
Kosty, Carlita. Personal Interview. January 29, 1999. Mrs. Kosty provided interesting advertisements for the sewing machine. She also explained and showed me the difference in the chain-stitch and lock-stitch. The first machines could only sew several inches before the machine had to be stopped and the fabric repositioned.
Lasson, Kenneth. Mousetraps and Muffling Cups: One Hundred Brilliant and Bizarre
U.S. Patents. New York: Arbor House Publishing Company, 1986. This publication is filled with many unique United States Patents. Patent number 4,750 (1846) Elias Howe Jr. of Cambridge, Massachusetts provides a diagram of the sewing machine and a copy of the wording on the patent. I am using a copy of the patent on my display board.
Le Bon Ton and Le Moniteur De La Mode. Vol. 49. New York: October, 1900. This publication advertises patterns of all designs. Patterns are purchased through mail orders. The magazine provides beautiful pictures of the latest fashions of gowns and evening wraps.
Lockwood, Art. Personal Interview. March 24, 1999. Mr. Lockwood was most helpful in my search for the ILGWU union label. He is a librarian at the College of Textiles Library at North Carolina State University. He was also available to tell me the names of several books I needed to review.
Maxwell, Susie. Personal Interview. January 13, 1999. Mrs. Maxwell provided me with a 1946 Singer Sewing Machine used in my display. She told me how it was the first machine sold after World War II in Terrell, Texas. The machine and cabinet’s total cost came to $135.45. Mrs. Maxwell has sewn for over 80 years.
McKeough, Mary. Personal Interview. February 17, 1999. Mrs. McKeough explained how she had learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle machine. When she married, a sewing machine was the first appliance she purchased. She sewed for her family when her children were small.
Oswald, Alison. Personal Interview. May 4, 1999. Mrs. Oswald is an archivist at the Archives Center of the Smithsonian Institute. She most graciously gave permission to Wolf Camera Store for reproduction of the trade cards used on my display board.
Patesel, Adam. Personal Interview. January 31, 1999. Mr. Patesel was an interesting person to interview. He has worked in the auto upholstery business for several years. He uses a large commercial sewing machine to sew leather seat covers and side panels for cars and trucks. He explained that anyone could sew.
Perelman, S.J. 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue. New York: Chelsea House Publishers,
1968. (facsimile reproduction). This publication provided an advertisement for the purchase of the Success sewing machine for $8.50. I also used this wonderful advertisement for my display.
Poulos, Jaci. Personal Interview. February 11, 1999. Jaci explained how her grandmother taught her to sew. She was to fill her hope chest before she married. She made pillowcases, napkins, and dishtowels. She does not do much sewing today, but still repairs hems and sews buttons back on.
“The Queen of Inventions”. Unit Six, Discovering Science and Technology through
American History. The Society for the History of Technology, National Science
Foundation, 1991. This book provided a wealth of knowledge on the introduction to the sewing machine to society. It also provided a timeline of sewing machine history which I am using this on my display board. The sewing machine truly changed America.
The Queen of Fashion Monthly. Vol. XIX No. 11. New York: July, 1892. This magazine of fashion is dated July, 1892. It provided me with pictures of tailor made gowns of the latest fashions. There are also several advertisements for sewing machines throughout the magazine. I am using the magazine with my display board.
Shepherd, John. Personal Interview. January 25, 1999. Mr. Shepherd was most interesting to talk to. He explained how he had worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Company for thirty years. He now owns his own Singer Store.
Soll, Terry. Personal Interview. January 30, 1999. Mrs. Soll explained that years ago women were told, “you can’t do this and you can’t do that because you’re a woman.” The sewing machine industry says, “ you can do anything you think of.” The sewing machine is the largest employer of people in the world. The technology of the sewing machine can make you as creative as you want to be.
Straley, Sandy. Personal Interview. February 2, 1999. Sandy has been sewing for over fifty years. She told how she learned to sew in Home Economics class, in grammar school. She made most all the clothing for her family in their early years. She is very fond of making wall hangings with appliques.
Sutton, Joe. Personal Interview. February 7, 1999. Mr. Sutton was very gracious in arranging a tour of Nationwide Pennant and Flag Manufacturing Company. I saw the operators sewing flags, banners, and pennants. They take orders for their products from around the world.
Uribe, Genaro. Personal Interview. February 20, 1999. My interview with Mr. Uribe was one of the most interesting I’ve had while working on this project. Genaro began sewing at the age of nine because he always had holes in the knees and seat of his pants and did not have a mother to sew them up. Genaro said, “ When I was twenty years old and in the service, my friends were out looking for dates, but I was looking for stores that had sewing machines. I dreamed of having my own business someday.” Mr. Uribe took over the business of boot making and shoe repair from his grandfather who repaired boots for the soldiers during the Mexican War. Mr. Uribe demonstrated the different sewing machines he uses in his business. His oldest is a hand crank Singer from 1900 that he converted to electric power.
Weaver, Marie. Personal Interview. February 17, 1999. Mrs. Weaver is a homemaking teacher and teaches sewing. She learned to sew from her mother and in school. She remembers making a dress where one sleeve was longer than the other. She had to keep her hand on her hip when she modeled for school. Her mother later corrected the error.
Webb, Patricia. Personal Interview. January 31, 1999. Mrs. Webb was most interesting to talk with. She has been sewing for 36 years. When she married, she did not have money to pay for a caterer for her wedding. Her mother told her if she would make her five dresses she would pay for the caterer. After her wedding, her mom bought the patterns, fabric, thread, and zippers and Pat made the five dresses.
Wortman, Melinda. Personal Interview. February 12, 1999. Melinda began sewing at the age of fourteen because she could sew for less than she could buy clothes at the store. She sews Halloween costumes for her children, window treatments, and decorating accessories.
II. Secondary Sources
Bettmann, Otto L. The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible. New York: Random House,
1974. The sewing industry also created sweatshops for the garment industry. They were manned by women, children, and immigrants. Fines were imposed for talking, smiling, and breaking a needle. Each worker had a set quota and most worked an 84-hour-week at a wage averaging five cents an hour. This left almost no time to eat or sleep.
Brandon, Ruth. A Capitalist Romance: Singer and the Sewing Machine. Philadelphia:
J.B. Lippincott Company, 1977. This was a most interesting book giving a detailed description of the invention of the sewing machine. It talked about the many patents used to make a more efficient model. It also explained how the technology of the machine created the trend of sweatshops to push mass production.
Carter, E. F. Dictionary of Inventions and Discoveries. New York: Russak and Company
Inc., 1977. This book explained how Isaac Singer had no desire to become an inventor. He originally wanted to be an actor. When acting did not put much food on the table he became content to purchase patents to sewing machines and piece together the perfect machine. He later became the richest man of the century.
Cogan, Frances B. All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth-
Century America. Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1989. This book details the life of the All-American girl. In the late 1800’s young women were urged to consider full employment. A woman with good taste, a winning personality, and deft hands could build a large enough clientele to start her own dressmaking shop.
Cooper, Grace Rogers. The Sewing Machine: Its Invention and Development.
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985. This book was very informative in explaining how Isaac Singer introduced his first sewing machine and used marketing strategy to bring the sewing machine into the home. He offered the first time payment plan and even gave a rebate for trade-in models. Dash, Jean. We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women’s Factory Strike of 1909. New York:
Scholastic Inc., 1996. This book describes the conditions that gave the rise to efforts to secure better working conditions for women in the garment industry in early twentieth-century New York. This led to the formation of the Women’s Trade Union League and the first women’s strike in 1909. After the strike, the workers were taken seriously and the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union was formed.
Dublin, Thomas. Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community In
Lowell, Massachusetts from 1826-1860. New York: Columbia University Press,
1979. A wonderful account of the textile industry in Lowell, Massachusetts depicting the Ten-Hour Movement organized for the reduction of work hours. It also describes the influx of the Irish immigrants and how they displaced the Yankee women workers.
Feldman, Anthony. Scientists and Inventors. New York: J.P. Ferguson Publishing
Company, 1979. This publication explained that the sewing machine was the first mass-produced product for domestic as well as commercial use. One of the earliest workable sewing machines was patented in France in 1830. By 1860, the Singer Company was the world’s largest manufacturer of sewing machines.
Hawke, David Freeman. Nuts and Bolts of the Past: A History of American Technology, 1776-1860. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1988. This historical book provides a very vivid description into the life of Elias Howe. He did not think of putting the sewing machine in the household but rather for factory use. Howe sued Isaac Singer for patent infringement as well as countless others. Because of this he became wealthy. He received a royalty of $5.00 on every machine sold in America and $1.00 for those sold abroad.
Hooper, Meredith. Everyday Inventions. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company,
1972. This book provides an insight into the lives of Elias Howe and Isaac Singer. It explains how the sewing machine was adapted into anything that needed to be stitched. With the invention of Butterick Patterns, the home seamstress was able to provide clothing for her family. Eight years after the first patterns appeared, the company had sold six million. I have used a reprint of the first pattern for boys on my display board.
Jeffries, Michael. Inventors and Inventions. New York: Smithmark Publishers, Inc., 1992. This book furnished information on how women sewed by hand as most could not afford sewing machines. The first machines were large and hard to operate, therefore they were used by men in factories. By 1850 machines were being made smaller and marketed to the homemaker.
Jensen, Joan. A Needle, A Bobbin, A Strike. New York: Viking Press, 1967. This book shows how women adapted the technology of sewing machines to their work. It details the beginning of the labor strikes and the start of the labor unions.
Lomask, Milton. Invention and Technology: Great Lives. New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1991. This book gave a very vivid biography of the life of Isaac Singer. Singer was not so much an inventor as he was an ingenious marketer. He incorporated parts from several different machines to build a lighter more easy to operate machine that would appeal to women and so the Singer Sewing Machine Company was born.
Marcus, Alan I. Technology in America: A Brief History. New York: HBJ
Publishers, 1989. This book explained that in the 1850’s, there were several manufacturers of sewing machines. Singer showed a true genius for promoting himself. He gave demonstrations at carnivals, fairs, and sometimes even rented halls. The Singer Company advertised itself as generous, benevolent, reverent, and family oriented. Morrison, Andrew. The City of San Antonio, Texas. Missouri: George W. Engelhardt and
Company, 1977. A most interesting publication from 1900 telling how the Singer Manufacturing Company has made “the first perfect sewing machine being sold world wide.” It also details how the sale of the Singer machines were sold by one authorized dealer working in San Antonio and the Southwest Texas area.
Paradis, Adrian. The Labor Reference Book. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company, 1972. A very extensive reference detailing how the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was formed in June of 1900. This was the first union to offer six day work weeks, ten holidays per year, and workers would be paid immediately and not have to wait for garments to be sold.
Pursell, Carroll W. Jr. Technology In America: A History of Individuals and Ideas.
This book was most informative in that it explained that the sewing machine was one of the major technologies affecting the role and status of women. The sewing machine stimulated the ready-to-wear garment industry. It marked the beginning of mass production.
Ray, William. The Art of Invention: Patent Models and Their Makers. New Jersey: Pyne
Press, 1974. A book of patent models and their inventors illustrating science and technology achieved in the nineteenth century. The book describes how Elias Howe’s sewing machine presented a solution for imitating the movements of the human hand by combining the action of two needles on opposite sides of the fabric.
Sims, Carolyn. Labor Unions in the United States. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc.,
1971. This book tells of the struggle of workers to organize trade unions and their fear of being fired if their employer found out. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City on March 25, 1911 made the public aware of inhumane working conditions. Within thirty minutes, 146 workers burned to death at their workstations. I copied the International Ladies’ Garment Worker’s Union label from this book.
Stanley, Autumn. Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes For A Revised History of
Technology. New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 1993. This was a most interesting publication in that it posed the question “who really invented the sewing machine?” It states that Mrs. Howe really invented the sewing machine, but Mr. Howe was the one who applied for the patent and put his name on it. This information was provided by a friend of the Howe family.
Strasser, Susan. Never Done. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982. This book was most informative explaining the transformation of home sewing and the clothing industry. The sewing machine brought industry to the United States. In the 1900’s, clothing became more affordable because of the sewing machine.
Tyler, Gus. Look for the Union Label: A History of the International Ladies’ Garment
Worker’s Union. New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1995. A wonderful book outlining the seven day work week and the intolerable conditions that were put upon the factory workers and how the ILGWU was formed in 1900. It provided a very vivid description of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire on March 25, 1911 and how working conditions changed after this tragedy.
Tyler, Ron. The New Handbook of Texas: Vol. II. Texas: The Texas State Historical
Association, 1996. This book provided a great deal of information on clothing manufactured in Texas during the Civil War. War uniforms were made for Confederate troops. By 1899 Texas ranked eleventh of all states in clothing manufacture.