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Singer Company photographs and advertising cards

Creation: circa 1857-1951
Accession: 2003-249


The Singer Company was once the world's leading producer of sewing machines that achieved peak domestic and foreign influence by the late nineteenth century. The collection consists of photographs, trade cards and other ephemera related to the Singer Company. Most of the photographs feature Singer sewing machines and many of these are identified by date and model number.


  • Creation: circa 1857-1951



0.5 Linear Feet

General Physical Description

35 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 8 photographic prints : b&w ; 16 x 21.7 cm. or smaller. 51 prints (advertising cards) : lithographs ; 8 x 13.3 cm. 1 print (advertising card) : lithograph ; 10.9 x 38.3 cm. 31 prints (advertising cards) ; 14 x 20.4 cm. or smaller. 1 album (68 photographic prints) : b&w ; 23.3 x 30.3 cm. 1 item : booklet ; 11.4 x 11.4 cm. 1 item : calendar ; 17.8 x 25.3 cm.

Historical Note

The Singer Company, once the world's leading producer of sewing machines, was the successor to I.M. Singer & Co., established in 1851. Isaac M. Singer (1811-1875) had patented improvements resulting in the first commercially viable sewing machine. Edward Clark (1811-1882), who joned the firm in 1854, provided the planning skills and business acumen that ensured the firm's success. The company produced its first treadle-operated machine in 1856, and Clark introduced installment selling the same year. The firm was incorporated as the Singer Manufacturing Company in 1863, and in 1871 to 1872 it constructed a factory at Elizabethport, New Jersey, that was then the largest in the world devoted to a single product. Singer developed a worldwide sales organization. It built its first foreign factory at Glasgow in 1867 (replaced by a much larger works at Clydebank in 1882-1884) and another at Podolsk, Russia in 1902. In the same year, Singer absorbed its major U.S. competitor, the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company.

Singer prospered during its first hundred years, but in the years 1951 to 1957 the domestic sewing machine market collapsed. The amount of home sewing done by American women declined sharply, and increasing Japanese imports caused Singer's market share to fall from 66% to 33%. The company made attempts to diversify into electronics and aerospace and was renamed the Singer Company in 1963. The sewing machine business continued to shrink as more women sought careers outside the home, and in mid-1986 it was spun off to a separate subsidiary, SSMC Inc. After the 1987 stock market crash, the company was acquired by Paul A. Bilzerian (1950-), a corporate raider, who quickly sold off eight of the twelve Singer divisions, including all rights to the Singer name. SSMC Inc. was sold to Semi-Tech Microelectronic's (Far East) Limited in April 1990. The much-shrunken Singer Company was renamed Bicoastal Corporation in October 1989.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of photographs, trade cards and other ephemera related to the Singer Company. Most of the photographs feature Singer sewing machines and many of these are identified by date and model number. Other images in the collection include images of several early innovators in sewing machine design, photographs of stores and offices used by the Singer Company, and images relating to the company's centennial in 1951. Several sets of Singer trade cards are also in the collection. These include a set of American Song Bird trade cards from 1926 to 1927, as well as a complete 1892 set and a nearly complete 1894 set of "Costumes of All Nations" cards. These cards, which each feature people dressed in their nation's traditional costume and posed along with a Singer sewing machine, were originally created for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Other exposition-related ephemera in the collection include a trade card and booklet produced by Singer for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Several other miscellaneous trade cards and an 1896 calendar are also part of the collection.

Access Restriction

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials


Additional Description

General note

Box which houses the "Costumes of All Nations" cards conserved February 2004 surface cleaned; tape removed; paper lined; loss filled; material consolidated payne

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Singer Company photographs and advertising cards
Lisa Gensel and encoded by Chase Markee
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA