Monday, October 26, 2009

The National Portrait Gallery and the father of the home sewing machine.

I recently went to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Of course, there were many wonderful portraits of famous Americans and others, but the first portrait that the guide talked about was one that should be of interest to all you fellow fiber artists: Isaac Singer (yes, that Singer)

Turns out that Mr. Singer had quite the life! He was a flamboyant man (check out his clothes in the portrait) who was also a polygamous. He had five wives (a few at a time) and 19 children. And  a complicated life filled with scandel and lawsuits.

Although he did not invent the sewing machine, he was instrumental in the fact we all have them in our homes now. He invented several improvements to the existing machine that helped it become appropriate for domestic use. But even that was not the true basis of his success (he left an estate worth 14 million dollars when he died). He also "invented" the trade-in and  time payments. It was these two marketing ideas that made the machine available and affordable - and upgradable.

He and his competitors were also the first to get a "group patent"; something that has since been used in the development of many major advances.

Who would have thought that a trip to see some paintings, would introduce me to the patent and process of the home sewing machine! (Oh yes; the painting, by Edward Harrison May, was also very nice)

1 comment:

nina said...

i've just discovered your work on etsy, and have meandered on over to your blog. lucky you - such beautiful creations! and lucky you for living where you do. i have taught at Valley Ridge Art STudio over in muscoda for years, and am in love with that entire region. i suppose you visit st. vinny's in madison for your sweaters - i bet you do.
i'll be in touch for a custom order...and good luck with your upcoming show....x nina bagley