Electric Home Sewing: Singer Electric Sewing Machines in Transnational Perspective

Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:30 PM
Liberty Suite 4 (Sheraton New York)
Paula de la Cruz-Fernandez, Humboldt University
This paper examines the role of business in twentieth-century definitions of the modern home. With an emphasis on transnationalism, it examines the case of the introduction of electric sewing machines, which were the focus of the Singer Sewing Machine Company’s marketing beginning in the late 1910s. To entice potential consumers overseas, in nations like Spain and Mexico, and convince them to buy electric sewing machines rather than treadle machines, Singer defined both the new appliance and electricity as suitable and necessary in making a household a modern home. Women were at the heart of the company’s advertising campaigns–in exhibits and in sewing classes especially–in teaching other women to take the lead in making their household a modern space by owning a family electric sewing machine, producing household linens and becoming the main dressmakers of their home. Singer salesmen and traveling agents had to become acquainted with new ideas about the home economics and household chores rationalization to attract more households into purchasing a Singer electric sewing machine. The main sources of this analysis are Singer’s Education Department strategies to market the electric sewing machine around the world from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
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