Singer Treadle Sewing Machine Donated by Mike Kinsey
The Singer Treadle Sewing Machine
By Cathy Frank
The invention of the sewing machine during the mid-nineteenth century changed women’s lives. Godey’s Lady’s Book praised the sewing machine as “the queen of inventions,” noting that “it will do all the drudgeries of sewing, thus leaving time for the perfecting of the beautiful in woman’s handiwork.”
Although the sewing machine never replaced hand quilting, women took advantage of this new technology to apply bindings or assemble blocks and backings. The quilts displayed in our museum range from entirely handmade to combinations of machine and hand stitching to completely machine-made, showing how progress has affected the art of patchwork.
Elias Howe, Jr., and Isaac Merritt Singer: Although Elias Howe, Jr., is generally credited with patenting the first practical sewing machine in 1846, many inventors sought to improve on his basic design, leading to patent disputes. Howe’s rival, Isaac Merritt Singer, received a patent in 1851 for an improved sewing machine, but Howe sued Singer for patent infringement. Singer continued to improve on his own model, adding a foot treadle for hands-free operation and a carrying case that doubled as a stand. Singer eventually settled the suit with Howe in 1854.