In the mid 1850s, America stretched its influence from sea to shining sea.
They were conquering new frontiers, slavery became challenged and the world was readying itself to move into the industrial revolution. Throughout these times homemakers were using needle and thread to dress their homes and family.
Though the world events would affect them deeply so would the invention of the menial sewing machine.
Who first invented the sewing machine is up for debate. Most experts agree on German-born Charles Weisenthal who first patented a sewing device in 1755 England. There seems to have been no physical example made from his patent.
Thirty some years later, Thomas Saint received credit for the first actual sewing machine. From this point forward numerous inventors entered the fray and it became quite confusing as to who invented what.
In America, there were many patent applications and lawsuits flying over who was the first to come up with this mechanical wonder. Eventually the majority of the participants settled their differences and sewing machines for public use were produced in the 1850s.
Because the strangle hold on the market by several producers, including Isaac Singer, machines were priced too high and just out of reach of the middle class. In the 1870s, the original patents expired and sewing machines were mass produced in American.
Collectible machines made after 1870 tend to be machines depicting intricate designs. Many manufacturers tried to outdo one another in shapes and quality of the cabinet or machine.
For example, one of the machines made by Kimball & Morton that was shaped like a lion would be a true treasure worth thousands of dollars.
The value of the old treadle sewing machines and their electric descendants are all over the place. There were so many of them produced, the price for most antique machines made after 1870 is limited, unless they are a rarity. One way of telling the value of a machine is to check its serial number, regardless of the maker.
The lower the number the better — two-digit, three-digit, four digit and even a few five-digit numbers — would point to value. From here one should research the machine’s maker and value. Condition is always a factor and some makers are more desirable than others.
Jean McClelland writes about antiques and collectibles for The Herald-Dispatch.