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Our Favorite Reasons to Read the Sewing Machine Times

The Sewing Machine Times, an industry trade paper published from 1882 to 1924, is a great informational source on vintage sewing machines - and a bit funny.

For the vintage sewing machine history enthusiast, this paper might well be required reading. There is so much information to gather, and it's amusing to contrast the style of business and marketing of 100 years ago versus today.

Here's what we love about The Sewing Machine Times.

What, People Actually Read Paragraphs?

The paper is dense with text. I can't get people to read an email paragraph. I love thinking of a time when information was absorbed in a more leisurely and meaningful manner.

But the Language Was So Tortuous! (Yet Sometimes Swell!)

The written English of the times could be convoluted, even exhausting, and what might have been considered precise is now excessive. This ad speaks - um - volumes. "Its unique construction gives it the right of way in supplying the demand for a swell Sewing Machine."

Tweeted today: Swell machine, easy to sell! #swell #easy #whitesewingmachine #resellers #success

A Dollar We Can't Win

Well, even if we knew the answer, we can't find the online entry form.


Frank bit the hand that fed him.

Machine salesmen would deviate from the manufacturers' sales and credit policies to their own advantage, or just downright swindle folks. And sometimes agents apparently took one another to the wood shed to settle territory disputes. "The Fur Flew... it took half a column in the newspaper to describe the fight." I can't find the fight on YouTube so I might have to dig for that newspaper article.

And I just learned a new word: defalcation. The $600 this "bad man from away back" defalcated would be worth about $15,000 today. I mean come on, you could buy a longarm with that.

Products We Would Never Have Imagined

... Like this high-tech fan just right there totally integrated with your machine! The air conditioner in my wife's sewing studio has a stupid remote control that you have to reach for. Pfft. Oh, to be alive in 1910.

For another fascinating treadle attachment, you can read about the Dulciphone Musical Sewing Machine Cover.

Seriously, They Know!

Vintage sewing machine ads are known to be a bit creepy at times, but this is downright ominous.

See?! They Knew They Knew Because They Knew That They Were Deceiving Customers

Beautiful Illustrations of the Products They Were Watching People Buy and Sell, Because Seriously, They Knew

Whew. These last two were some pretty long section titles. Thankfully these images speak for themselves.


Behold! The treadle perched mightily upon the globe, which itself has been marked with not one, but four U.S. flags. The best on earth! They BOTH are!

Tales of Blood & Terror

Just read 'em. You'll see.

Jokes Only a Great-Great-Great Grandmother Would Love

I wondered for a moment how to make the joke below funnier. I got nothin'.

Speaking of Oil

Save the whales?

The Case for Electrified Motors

A letter to the editor begging the question, "Why the hell can't I find a sewing machine with a motor?" Do you think Ellery would have ever guessed that 100 years in the future, a lovely handcrank or treadle would be coveted by countless collectors?

Great Ideas for Better Living

"Turn drudgery into pastime." With sewing being less of a required domestic skill since the 1970s, enthusiasts today probably consider sewing a rewarding pleasure. The women of 100 years ago? Not so much. But this angel saved the day with the advent of a rotary hook and ball bearings. And to think I complain about my cell phone - I'm ashamed.

I'm also amused that the ad above says, "The magic silent W&W." Who today doesn't love the determined chugging sound of a vintage machine? Jokes aside, reading through the old literature is such a reminder of meaningful history, how far we've come, and how much we can learn from these reminders of a bygone era.

What strikes you about these old clippings?

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