Monday, October 13, 2008

Sewing Machine in an 1850's Living Room

The sewing machine that Isaac Singer invented was not the very first but an improved model. He was working in a machine shop in Boston in 1850 when he was asked to repair a 'Lerow and Blodgett' sewing machine that was brought in. Singer decided to improve it instead however, by allowing "continues and curved stitching, with an overhanging arm that held the needle bar over a horizontal table." (

The sewing machine did not sell very well at first because it was too expensive for the average American household. Husbands believed there was no need to spend such money, priced at over $100, when the women could sew by hand. Singer's first sewing machines were bulky, however he soon began a mass-production system of interchangeable parts, reducing the machines weight and size. The sewing machine soon became a symbol of status and self-reliance for American families, especially when the price dropped to $10 when Singer had refined the machine. It was the first home appliance and allowed people to sew clothes at a faster rate, thus creating mass production of clothing.

The sewing machine in the 1850’s would have been found in the household on a table in a room such as the living room, an office or a bedroom. I have chosen to place the sewing machine in a lavish living room. It is on top of a table next to a window so that the person sewing could have a view outside. The living room would have a fireplace, couches, flowerpots on the floor, bookcases and a piano. This 1850’s living room would have colourful wallpaper, decorated and carved wooden panels and skirting boards, and heavy curtains around the window.
The sewing machine would have been a new and exciting appliance, which everyone would have wanted to own. In comparison to today’s modern world it would have been a very useful appliance, however these days it does not come as a surprise that most people do not own a sewing machine because it is not such a necessity as it was in the 1850’s.

Similarly, the Victor 2 Humpback Phonograph was an "artifact intended for the upper echelon of society." This second edition of the Victor was greatly improved and as a result, only affordable by the wealthy, thus becoming a status symbol in their homes.
In contrast, the Syrian Biscuit Tin would be found either in the factory storage room that made it or in a home, however it was not a symbol of status, just an object to protect biscuits from humidity.

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