Sewing Machine History in Pictures

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    Sewing the First American Flag

    Sewing an American Flag
    Sewing an American Flag. Lambert/Getty Images

    Take a look back at pictures of sewing machines available to our ancestors. 

    You'll find photos of the first Singer sewing machine, but it's a varied gallery that includes a variety of vintage sewing machines from different manufacturers. 

    Many of the ads for the vintage sewing machines in this collection are available as wall-art from a number of companies, printed on either canvas or paper.

    About the Photo on This Page

    This photo on this page, a Henry Mosler painting called The Birth of the Flag,...MORE depicts Betsy Ross and her assistants sewing the first American flag in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1777.

    No one, not even her descendants, is absolutely certain that Betsy Ross actually made the first American Flag, but the legend is part of America's history.

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    Original Singer Sewing Machine

    Original Singer Sewing Machine
    Original Singer Sewing Machine. Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images

    In August of 1851, Isaac M. Singer was granted a patent for the first Singer brand sewing machine.

    The machine in the photo was built in 1854 and still in good working order 50 years later. Quilters are still fans of the Singer Featherweight sewing machine, and the earliest models of those machines aren't terribly far from the century mark.

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    Singer Company Showroom in New York City, 1857

    Singer Company Showroom, New York City
    Singer Company Showroom, New York City. Library of Congress Photo

    This wood engraving shows us the interior of the central office of I.M. Singer & Co. in 1857. The showroom and office were located at 458 Broadway in New York City.

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    Woman Sewing on Singer Sewing Machine, 1860

    Singer Sewing Machine 1860
    A woman sewing on a Singer Sewing Machine, about 1860. Photo by Getty Archives

    Here, a woman is sewing on one of the first Singer sewing machines.

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    Two Sisters Sewing, 1865

    Two Sisters Sewing, 1865
    Two Sisters Sewing, 1865. Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images

    Taken in 1865, this photo is of two sisters, one sewing on a treadle sewing machine. The next photo in the gallery appears to have been taken at the same time but was dated 1855. One date isn't accurate but the timing is probably close.

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    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad

    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad
    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad. Photo from Library of Congress
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    The S Girl, Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad

    Singer Sewing Machine Ad, 1900
    Singer Sewing Machine Ad, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    Singer began using the S Girl trademark in 1870, and many versions of the logo appeared around the world.

    This vintage ad was printed in France.

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    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad

    Singer Sewing Machine Advertisement, 1900
    Singer Sewing Machine Advertisement, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    Here's another vintage Singer ad that illustrates another version of the company's 'S Girl.'

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  • 09 of 30

    Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Ad, 1892

    Vintage Advertising - All Nations Use Singer Sewing Machines
    Vintage Advertising - All Nations Use Singer Sewing Machines, circa 1892. Image from Library of Congress

    This vintage Singer ad illustrates the many nations where Singer sewing machines were sold.

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    Vintage Empire Sewing Machine Company Ad

    Empire Sewing Machine Company, 1870
    Empire Sewing Machine Company Ad, about 1870. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    I love this colorful ad by New York's Empire Sewing Machine Company. Said to date from about 1870, the ad features the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The stagecoach and train in the ad seem to relate to the shipping choices that distant buyers could depend on when ordering a sewing machine, but that's just a guess.

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    Young Women Sewing in Classroom, 1899

    Young women sewing, 1899
    Young women sewing, 1899. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    The photo of this group of young women, sewing by hand and with sewing machines, was taken in 1899 at the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Greensboro, NC.

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    Vintage Ad for Kerr's Thread

    Vintage Ad for Kerr's Thread
    Ad for Kerr's Thread, mid 1800s. Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

    This colorful mid 19th Century ad is for Kerr's Thread and plays on the activities at the New York Stock Exchange.

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    Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

    Singer Treadle Sewing Machine
    Singer Treadle Sewing Machine. Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images
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    Vintage Portrait of Woman Sewing

    Portrait of Woman Sewing
    Vintage Portrait of Woman Sewing. Photo from the Library of Congress

    Although this photograph is said to be from 1853, the sewing machine appears to be from a later era.

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    Vintage Ad for a Husqvarna Treadle Sewing Machine

    Husqvarna Treadle Sewing Machine
    Husqvarna Treadle Sewing Machine, about 1902. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    This 1902 ad from Denmark illustrates a Husqvarna treadle sewing machine. Reproductions of this image are available as framed art.

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    Vintage Ad for Wertheim Sewing Machines

    Wertheim Sewing Machine, 1900
    Wertheim Sewing Machine, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images
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    Peugeot Vintage Sewing Machine Ad

    Sewing Machine Ad, 1900
    Sewing Machine Ad, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images
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    Elias Howe Sewing Machine, about 1900

    Elias Howe Sewing Machine, about 1900
    Elias Howe Sewing Machine, about 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    This French ad for an Elias Howe sewing machine is said to date from about 1900.

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    Vintage Ad for New Home Sewing Machine Company

    New Home Sewing Machine, 1900
    New Home Sewing Machine, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images
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    Royal St. John Sewing Machine

    Royal St. John Sewing Machine
    Royal St. John Sewing Machine, about 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    A vintage ad asking readers to come and try the Royal St. John Sewing Machine.

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    Gnome et Rhone Sewing Machine Ad

    Machines a Coudre Gnome et Rhone, 1900
    Machines a Coudre Gnome et Rhone, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    Gnome et Rhone was primarily an aircraft engine manufacturer, but after World War I the company produced other items, too, including sewing machines.

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    Vintage French Ad for Hurtu Sewing Machines

    Hurtu, Machine a Coudre, 1900
    Hurtu, Machine a Coudre, 1900. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    Hurtu made sewing machines, automobiles, bicycles and other items. Alex Askaroff has written a history of the company and its sewing machines on his website.

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    Orion Sewing Machine Ad

    Orion Sewing Machine Ad
    Orion Sewing Machine Ad. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images
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    Woman Sewing on an Electric Sewing Machine, 1925

    Woman using an electric sewing machine, 1925
    Woman using an electric sewing machine, 1925. Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

    This photo, from about 1925, shows a woman sewing on an electric sewing machine.

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    Vintage Sewing Machine Advertising - Spain

    Vintage Sewing Machine Ad, Spain
    Sewing Machine Ad, Spain. Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    The original caption for this vintage ad places it at about 1900, but it obviously dates from a later decade -- maybe 1930s or 1940s?

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  • 26 of 30

    Working on a Quilt in Oklahoma, 1936

    Woman and Grandson Quiting a Quilt, 1936
    Woman and her grandson quilting a quilt, Oklahoma, circa 1936. Photo from the Library of Congress

    Who says guys don't quilt! This 1930's era Oklahoma grandmother is working side-by-side with her grandson to quilt a project that's stretched on a frame.  

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    Embroidered Quilt with Quiltmaker, about 1940

    Embroidered States Quilt
    Mrs. Bill Stagg's quilt includes a block for each state of the U.S. Photo by Russell Lee/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

    This photo is said to be of Mrs. Bill Stang, and was taken in Pie Town, New Mexico in 1940. Mrs. Stang is standing by a quilt that she made, with blocks that represent the 48 states that made up the U.S. at that time.

    The quilt blocks appear to be embroidered, or made from a combination of embroidery and applique. Quilt blocks are surrounded by patchwork sashing and nine-patch cornerstones.

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    Child Sewing on a Toy Sewing Machine

    Child sewing on toy sewing machine, about 1945
    Child sewing, about 1945. Photo by Lambert/Getty Images

    It looks like this little girl is serious about putting fabric under the presser foot of her little sewing machine. The photo is said to date from about 1945.

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    Vintage Lone Star Quilt at the Pennsylvania Dutch Fair in Hershey

    Vintage Lone Star quilt, Pennsylvania Dutch Fair, 1955
    Vintage Lone Star quilt, Pennsylvania Dutch Fair, 1955. Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images

    Said to date from 1955, this photo depicts a Mennonite woman showing a Lone Star quilt to two young ladies, both dressed in the plaid that was so popular at that time. I had to chuckle at the 'official' caption for the photo: A Mennonite woman explaining the symbols on a quilted blanket to visitors to the Pennsylvania Dutch Fair in Hershey.

    It certainly doesn't look like a blanket to me.

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    Hanging Quilt on Clothesline

    A woman hanging a quilt on a clothesline
    A woman hanging a quilt on a clothesline. Photo by Claudia Kunin/Getty Images

    I doubt most of us would hang a quilt on a clothesline to dry -- yikes, think of the droops and possibly-permanent folds it would create! This photo was no doubt staged to appear vintage, but I like the quilt, which might actually be vintage.