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The American Sewing Machine
A Boston Yankee Invention which has Conquered the World
By ALEXANDER HUME FORD
T TOOK a Yankee to invent the day there are
him many years.
In fact, it is those of all foreign makes comjust half a century since the first bined. commercial sewing machine, that Fifty years ago sewing machines could sew, was put together in Bos- were still being made to sell as curton, although a hundred years be- iosities. Firms and manufacturers fore that, in 1755, an Englishmar went bankrupt when the good patented a sewing machine that housewives who had been imposed couldn't sew; and it took fully one upon discovered that the
newcentury to remedy the defect. To fangled machine could not begin to America belongs the credit, and to- do the work of woman's fingers. use, the machine completed at last and the three stockholders gathered together in final confab, only to discover that the wonderful machine from which they had expected so much – would not work. Silently the partners of the tramp left him in disgust. It was a fellow wanderer of the road that in pity held the light now while the inventor worked on and on through the night, until the tools at last fell from his weary hands. He had failed. The only consolation in his despair came from his companion in misery who persuaded him that he had “almost” succeeded, for "the loose loops of threads were all upon
the upper side of the cloth.” InMoreover, parliaments and people stantly the idea of the gathering inveighed against an invention that
shuttle flashed across the mind of would deprive woman of her chief
the inventor, and at dawn Isaac means of gaining a livelihood. A
Merritt Singer had perfected the New England clergyman, the Rev.
first practical sewing machine ever
constructed. It made him a rich John A. Dodge, came near inventing a practical sewing machine in
man, changed the fashions for all the early part of the nineteenth century, but fearing that its perfection and manufacture would drive the journeyman tailors out of business, as a good humanitarian he destroyed his models and declined to make any more. The next great step forward was made by a New England tramp, destitute of altruistic motives, who knew that he must either succeed -- or starve. Enthused with his brilliant dreams of success where others had failed for a century, he induced two humble Boston workmen to take stock in his visionary enterprise. One put in his entire capital, forty dollars, with which to buy necessary parts for the proposed machine; the other loaned the use of his tools and workshop. was spent, the tools dulled by long
time in every continent, sounded are stitched on the Yankee sewing the death knell of the peasant cos- machine, for the manufacture of tume, clothed the savage and made which immense factories have gone the dress of mankind utterly un- up to give work to thousands of recognizable to those who had Muscovite mechanics. The most lived before the era of the Yankee- familiar sight to the emigrant made sewing machine.
landing in America is the Yankee The sewing machine has revolu- sewing machine, for this modern tionized dress in Cathay as it has in household necessity finds its way Paris. During the half century of to every part of the globe. It goes its existence its use has done more by camel express to the primitive to change the appearance of man- tents of the nomads of Central Asia, kind than did the preceding cycle where it is in constant use.
The of the plain needlewoman. In Great Japanese housewife and the RusBritain thousands of
and sian peasant woman use it, and the women work under the largest sin- lady of the harem runs together on gle roof in the world, delivering this machine from Yankeeland from the equalizing invention of trousers for her lord and master the Yankee, clothing for the mil- scarcely more baggy in pattern lions in every part of the world. In than those to be seen on Broadway Japan, where hand labor may be or Regent Street in this
of procured for a very few cents a day, grace 1906. the government orders its sewing It does not flatter the pride of machine needles from America by the American who is convinced that the half million, that uniforms may we lead all the world in efforts lookbe quickly stitched together for the ing toward the emancipation of soldiers in the field. In Russia even woman, to learn that the first techthe shoes of the Tzar's fighting men nical training school for girls was
him from becoming our equal so far as the skillful manipulation of the modern sewing machine is concerned; he cannot use his hands and feet effectively at one and the same time--hence little brown sisters of India often discard the newer foot power machine for the old reliable, but now almost antiquated land machine. So well understood is this inability of the Oriental to bring under one control all of his muscles at one and the same moment, that European magistrates in India watch the bare feet of the witnesses on the stand and know from the involuntary twitching of the toes whether or not the Oriental is bearing false witness, for with his entire mind concentrated upon keeping a placid facial countenance, his toes invariably run wild. The awkward pose of the Indian at his sewing machine in the market squares
established in Bulgaria for the purpose of teaching young maidens the use of the Yankee sewing machine, and that the idea came to us direct from Turkey, where our missionarries first put it in practice. All through Turkey the man of the family may be seen before the home seated at his sewing machine mending or making all manner of garments, while his wife and daughters, relegated to rear apartments, unseen by man, also trundle away at the Yankee machine. Throughout Turkey, Persia, the Holy Land and Russia industrious Oriental teachers make their way from home to home initiating the unenlightened into the mysterious mechanism of "the machine that sews," and the Orientals adapt it to needs little dream of, so that it is not at all unlikely that other economic lessons will come to us from the near East.
There is one physical defect, however, from which the true Oriental suffers, that will ever keep
ZI'LL BOY IN THE DE BEERS DIAMOND MINE,
about the temples of Hindustan is alone of all Oriental women have often noted by the stranger, and as for centuries been accustomed to for the little Jap woman who has the use of chairs, despite the smallnever sat in a chair in all her life, ness of their feet, their progress she seldom makes any attempt at
has been encouraging. Moreover, using the treadle, But calls upon her the Chinese women make the most Jack-of-all-trades husband to fash- patient, obedient pupils in the ion her some sort of electric gear world, so that it seems quite posthat, attached to the electric light sible that in time they will wires found in most Jap houses master the Yankee invention as to nowadays, will do away with the be able to do their embroidery and necessity of working hands, feet wonderful picture work in silks and brain simultaneously, an ac- directly on the machine. In Europe complishment seemingly still be- and America there are women so yond acquirement by any but the expert that they copy any oil paintwhite race.
ing on the machine so accurately It was a keen, energetic and far- that at a little distance it is imposseeing Connecticut agent who in- sible to tell the original painting troduced the public sewing machine
from the copy.
All that is needed school in China, after Li Hung is patience and an eye for color, Chang had bought a machine in two requisites in which the OrienYankeeland for the Empress. The tals excel. Once they learn to idea spread like wildfire: even the manipulate the treadle with their wealthy mandarins and merchants feet, or the electric motor successsent their many wives and daugh- fully usurps foot power in China ters to learn to sew with their and Japan, the most wonderful emhands and feet, and as the Chirese broidery picture work known to