During the latter half of the 19th century, there was a total of 200 or more sewing-machine companies in the United States. Although a great many manufacturing-type machines were sold, this business was carried on by relatively few companies and most were primarily concerned with the family-type machines. A great many of the companies were licensed by the Combination, but, in addition, some companies were constructing machines that did not infringe the patents, other companies infringed the patents but managed to avoid legal action and there were numerous companies that mushroomed into existence after the “Combination” was dissolved in 1877. Most of the latter were very short-lived. It is difficult to establish the exact dates of some of these companies as many of their records were incomplete or have since disappeared; even a great many of the“Combination” records were lost by fire.

Only a small percentage of the companies were in business for a period longer than ten years; of those that continued longer, all but a few had disappeared by 1910. Today (1970) there are about 60 United States sewing-machine companies. Most of them manufacture highly specialized sewing machines used for specific types of commercial work; only a few produce family or home-style machines. Foreign competition has increased and the high cost of skilled labor in this country has made competition in this consumer-product field increasingly difficult. The countless varieties of American family sewing machines, so evident in the 19th century, have passed away.





Produced by Chris Curnow, Joseph Cooper, Louise Pattison