Monday, February 24, 2014

Sewing Machines

Clothing has long been something everyone needed, and for years, around the world, men and women, imagined a machine that could assist in creating the highly demanded commodity. 

In 1804 two men, James Henderson and Thomas Stone received a French patent for a mechanical principal to be particularly applicable for the manufacture of clothing, and Scott John Duncan received one for an embroidery machine, however, neither invention worked and were soon forgotten. 

In 1830 a French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, received a patent and had machines that did work. By 1841 he had a shop in Paris with 80 machines stitching uniforms for soldiers, however a mob of angry tailors attacked his shop and destroyed his machines. His made several attempts to restore his shop and business, but was doomed and died a poor man. 

Several other machines were invented, but most either quickly malfunctioned, couldn’t stitch curved or angled lines, or simply didn’t work. In 1834 Walter Hunt created the first machine that did work, however, he feared it might cause unemployment and lost interest in the machine without ever patenting his invention. Elias Howe, whose wife took in sewing to support their family regularly, received the first patent for a sewing machine in America, and died a rich man mainly because others copied his patent, (you can read my post about him on His machine worked because he took note of how the thread had to go throw the tip of the needle rather than the end.

Isaac Singer was one of the men whose machine design closely mimicked Howe’s (Singer had to pay Howe a portion of his sales for years) and whose machines soon became common in women’s parlors or sewing rooms across the nation. Isaac’s first love was acting, and after inventing and creating the I. M. Singer & Company, he used the money to fund a five year long acting tour. His sewing machines became popular quickly because of the ease to adapt them for home use, and his company’s policy to allow customers to make installment payments. Singer took note of how Samuel Colt and Eli Whitney used interchangeable parts in their firearms, and did the same with his machines. Doing so allowed him to increase production and cut the prices of his machines made for home use down to a mere $10.
Singer was also quite an adulterer. In 1860 he admitted to fathering 18 children with 4 different women, at least two of which he may have been married to at the same time, although none of the women knew about the others, upon marriage (he used the sir name Matthews, Merrit (his middle name) and Eastman, and possibly others, for his alternate families). When one of his wives discovered the others, as well as his lady-friend who was also his employee at the sewing company, Isaac moved to Paris, along with his lady-friend, whom he had more children with before marrying yet a different woman. By his death in 1875 Singer had fathered 24 children. He died and is buried in Europe. 

The I.M. Singer & Company was dissolved by mutual consent and continued doing business as The Singer Manufacturing Company in 1863. Singer’s partner from the beginning had been Edward S. Clark, a lawyer and Sunday school teacher, whose management skills were what advanced the Singer company worldwide. Isaac Singer and Edward Clark’s mutual consent to dissolve their partnership was rather frosty, and Singer insisted Clark could not become president of the company while he was still alive. The two of them chose Inslee Hopper, an office boy. However, both Singer and Clark insisted Hopper had to become a ‘respectable married man’ in order to obtain the presidency. Hopper married the lady he’d been seeing and took over the company, and ultimately earned a salary of $25,000 per year by the time he turned the presidency over to Clark upon Singer’s death in 1875. 

Clark expanded the business by setting up franchises and when overseas demand outgrew current production, he set up factories in Germany, Russia and Canada. Clark remained president until his death in 1882 and left an estate worth more than 25 million dollars. The Clark family owned controlling shares and ran the company as a family business until 1959. The company has been sold several times since then, but the name has remained the same. 

I have my grandmother’s Singer. Its treadle machine, and the one I learned to sew on. I remember spending hours sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls. I also remember running the needle clear through my thumb one time, nail and all. It looks similar to this one, but has more drawers on the cabinet.

Currently I have a free read up on Harlequin’s website, The Stolen Kiss, where the heroine is a seamstress, and had a Singer sewing machine.

The Stolen Kiss

Copyright © 2014 by Harlequin Books S.A.

From rivals…to lovers!

The moment beautiful Cassandra Halverson arrives in Tulsa, Micah Bollinger knows she'll be trouble. No sooner has she set up her dressmaker's shop than she starts poaching his customers. Determined to beat Cassandra at her own game, Micah decides to keep his enemy close!

Cassandra wants nothing more than to create a new life doing what she loves and to leave her past behind her forever. But the presence of her infuriatingly gorgeous competitor threatens it all. When an unexpected kiss takes them both by surprise, it's not long before fury turns to red-hot passion!


Oklahoma Indian Territory

Faded by a sun as relentless as the wind, the red letters on the side of the weathered building announced she'd arrived. Cassandra Halverson hitched the skirt of her olive traveling suit and stepped off the MKT train amongst a splattering of Army men, Indians, and those she'd rather not notice.


The last depot before entering Indian Territory. Trains didn't even go west from here. Only Indians, horse thieves, Mexican traders, whiskey peddlers, desperadoes and those associated with the U.S. Army were brave or crazy enough to do that.

She'd chosen Tulsa, or Tulsy town as some called it, because of that. People here didn't question others about their past. The town was growing fast, and would continue to now that the railroad was here. Every man, woman and child would need clothes, and she was here to sew them.

She was making a name for herself, and a living, but could make much more if not for Micah Bollinger. Besides his golden-brown hair and gold-flecked brown eyes, Micah had a silver tongue, which he used to wrangle customers out of her shop and into his.

A flit of elation put a smile on her lips. She'd outsmarted him this time. No longer Gambling Irv's daughter or Wesley's poor wife, she was Cassandra, and no man would ever get the best of her.

She found a spot near the building, where porters unceremoniously dropped luggage and cargo of the travelers ending their voyages while others scurried to load trunks and bags for those departing. The train didn't depot here for long, and to her sensible mind, something she prided herself on, it would be more prudent to wait for the chaos to slow rather than attempting to rifle through it.

Before long, and in between two loud steam-filled blasts, the conductor shouted a boarding call, which had the crowd dispersing.

"How was your buying trip?"

Despite air so hot that the feather on the new straw hat she'd purchased in Wichita drooped over her left eye, every drop of blood in Cassandra's veins froze. She hadn't told anyone where she'd gone, especially not Micah.

"Missed me, didn't you?" he drawled.

Without glancing his way, she asked, "Would a dog miss fleas?"

The Stolen Kiss is related to my February 1st release, The Major’s Wife.


Major Seth Parker knows his wife, and the woman standing before him isn't her. The manipulative vixen who tricked his hand in marriage could never possess such innocence—nor get his heart racing like this! 

Millie St. Clair has traveled halfway across the country to pull off one of the greatest deceptions ever. But with everything at stake it soon becomes clear that the hardest part might be walking away from the Major when it's all over…. 


  1. Lauri, I remember my grandmother's old treadle Singer sewing machine. I wish I had it. Hers also had more drawers than the one in the photo. I do have my mom's old Kenmore sewing machine. It sews very slowly, but is very well made.

  2. Love those Singer Sewing Machines. In the early forties, Mother had a portable singer Featherweight that fit in a case to carry like a suitcase. My granny had a treadle Singer with those little drawers on the side. I played on the treadle as a little girl. I had a Singer but it wasn't as good as the older ones, so I bought a Kenmore--which I still have--and it has been a wonderful sewing machine--although I do not sew anymore.
    I used a Singer in a 1500 word story called Merry Christmas, Victoria--a Western Historical short romance. He buys her one to win her heart. Although she loves it, she'd already fallen in love with him. Awwww.
    Thanks for the memories, Lauri.

  3. I remember when I was a kid, the neighbor lady still used her treadle Singer. It was fun watching her sew. Everyone else had electric sewing machines, of course, and Kenmore machines were quite popular (my mom had one), but this lady insisted her treadle Singer was much better. She was an amazing seamstress, so maybe she was right. :)


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