The History of Singer Sewing Machines


Singer is one of the most successful sewing machine companies in the world, but its origins are humble. The Singer Sewing machine represents a quantum leap in the manufacture of clothing and finished cloth products that revolutionized the world of textiles and commerce. Singer may be a household name now, but few people know about the beginnings of the company. Singer Sewing Machine's history is an inspiration for today's entrepreneurs.

Isaac Merritt Singer

Though Isaac Merritt Singer did not invent the sewing machine, he did improve upon it. In 1850, after noting that older machines were either impractical or inefficient, Isaac Singer invested $40 and a few days' work into an existing design and came up with a new approach to sewing—a needle that moved up and down, interlacing thread as it punctured the cloth. A year later, Isaac Singer formed I.M. Singer & Co.

Singer & Co.

Singer's redesign of the sewing machine not only made it more efficient, it made it more reliable and less expensive. In 1851, the I.M. Singer & Co. manufacturers opened their factory in Boston and began fabricating machines for mass consumption. Within two years, Isaac Singer renamed the company Singer Manufacturing Company and moved his offices and production facilities to New York City.


With the United States sewn up, Singer set his sights on selling in Europe; at the time European markets were far more lucrative than American ones, as well as more prestigious. In 1855, the Singer Sewing Machine debuted at a trade exposition in Paris, France, and was awarded a prize for design innovation. A year later, Singer Manufacturing Company opened an office in Glasgow, Scotland, making Singer Manufacturing Company America's first international company.


Five years after Isaac Singer's death, the company began offering an electric motor-driven model. Though electricity was rare outside the factories, it proved to be an important innovation. Prior to this, users pushed on a rocking pedal with their feet, which produced uneven speeds and slowed down production. Electricity, however, produced a consistent speed and allowed the operator to work more efficiently.

20th Century

In the 20th century, Singer Sewing Machine engaged in a project to teach sewing skills to women in developing countries so that they could become more self sufficient and have marketable, or entrepreneurial, skills that would benefit their society. For example, in 1979 Singer partnered with the Bangladeshi government and international labor organizations to open Singer Sewing schools in that country, training thousands of women in that developing nation in the skills of tailoring and sewing.

For over 140 years, Singer remained a privately held company until 1991, when it became a publicly traded company by offering over 16 million shares. Currently, Singer has sewing machine manufacturing facilities all over the world, including India, Scotland, Tennessee and Illinois.

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