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A Gimbels Sewing Machine


Donna Williams suggested we illustrate her lavender and cream Gimbels sewing machine for the upcoming VSM coloring book. While the machine itself is quite beautiful, it was really her story that most compelled us.

Donna had a dear friend with the same first name - Donna Dougherty, frequently referred to as "Donna D" to avoid confusion among friends. Throughout their friendship, Donna D often spoke of her years working at the famous Gimbels department store in Pennsylvania.

Gimbels, founded by Adam Gimbel beginning with a general store in Indiana in 1842, became the world's largest department store chain as of 1930 when their sales were the equivalent of $1.8 billion in today's dollars. The Gimbels history is rich with interesting events and accomplishments. The wildly popular Slinky toy was debuted at Gimbels, and the store was the first to provide an escalator for customers. Gimbels has been noteworthy in popular culture in many ways, not least of all it's appearance in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street. The concept of a department store parade began with Gimbels in 1920, four years prior to the launch of the Macy's parade.


Gimbels' success waned in the 1970s, and the chain was ultimately brought to an end through acquisition and sales. Gimbels was gone by 1987.

Gimbels had been known as the ideal store for the middle class with emphasis on product quality more so than aesthetics. Nonetheless, Donna William's Gimbels model is a gorgeous example of a Japanese-manufactured machine badged for the U.S. market.

The history of Gimbles, interesting as it is, is only a small part of our interest in Donna William's machine. More importantly, Donna's friend Donna D, who had worked at Gimbels was herself a seamstress who made clothing for herself and her four children. Sadly, she fought breast cancer three times and passed away in 2000. She was only fifty years old.

Donna D's favorite color had been lavender. Appropriately if not amazingly, Donna Williams located a lavender Gimbels machine in her home state of Florida. Now when she looks at it, she readily thinks of her departed friend.

Illustrating the Gimbels machine owned by Donna Williams. In the coloring book, it will be a line drawing that you can color as you please.

Do You Have a Story?


We've received many suggestions for models to illustrate in our upcoming coloring book, but what we really want are machines with a personal story behind them, like Donna's Gimbels model. Stories may be poignant, amusing, surprising, or historically informative, for example.

Feel free to contact us to suggest a machine, and tell us your story. If we can use your suggestion, we will then request a photo of your machine. Comments below are welcome, but to suggest your own machine for inclusion in the book, you must email us so that we can correspond with you. You can also reach us through our Facebook page.

1 comment:

Shorebird said...

Beautiful machine and heart-warming story!




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