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pgf

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Reply with quote  #1 

I have (as do many of us) too many treadle sewing machines.  Paradoxically, the one that I'm most willing to let go to the right home is also probably my rarest -- my 1873-ish Gold Medal "Home", the predecessor to the first New Home machines.  It was designed by Stephen French, who worked initially with Thomas White (of the White S.M.Co.) building New England-style machines.  After White moved to the midwest, French joined the folks forming Gold Medal in 1868.  While there, he designed the Home Shuttle and the Home in 1870.  (A "New Home" machine first came out in 1877, and the company name changed to match in 1882.  (Most of this paragraph is based on info from the ISMACS site.)

Before today I'd only heard of two other machines like my "Home", and had only ever found one picture of a Home on the internet.  So I don't think there are very many of them, and I feel a little silly, as the amateur collector than I am, owning a somewhat rare machine.

So, New Home, and Gold Medal before it, were based in Orange Massachusetts, which is just 1-1/4 hours away from where I live. And Orange, like many small towns, has a history museum.  The one in Orange is housed in Stephen French's original rambling house -- in fact, 5 generations of his family lived there, before it was sold cheaply to the town to house the Orange Historic Museum. See: http://www.orangehistoricalsocietyma.org/

It seemed to me that if any place was going to be the right home for my Home (sorry -- had to say that at some point in here!), that it would be in a museum housed  the designer's own house.  So I paid them a visit today.

It's a big house -- at least 15 rooms filled with their historic collection, plus the three stories in the attached barn.  They have all of the usual small town stuff:  instruments and bass drums and uniforms from every town marching band, souvenirs from the local manufacturers of violins, sluice gates (!), and Minute Tapioca, old implements of all sorts, paintings by local artists, old photos, you name it, they have it.  The sons of William Grout, one of the Gold Medal / New Home founders, went on to manufacture steam-powered automobiles, and the museum has 3 of them.  They also have all of the historic artifacts from the local fire department, including a pump wagon.  It's a big, eclectic, collection.

I was getting worried, because it was taking the tour so long to get to them, but of course there are also sewing machines.  Many of their machines are quite lovely, and in very good condition.  Sadly, in amongst all of the other stuff in the house, they get short shrift.  I counted almost 20 machines, all housed in a space that was a sort of hallway, and the display conditions were sub-par -- they're being preserved, but barely.  The Historic Society badly needs a sewing machine enthusiast to do some caretaking.  :-/

I'd be reluctant to donate my Home to live in those conditions, but as it happens, I don't really need to:  they already have one!  (I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.)  So I now know of four Homes, and have seen two of them.

They do have a nice set of old machines, which include quite a few New England style machines, Home Shuttle machines, a Gold Medal chain stitcher or two, and of course several New Homes.  They also had a pretty New Home badged as "Wheeler A", which I suspect was named after John Wheeler, one of the New Home principals, or a descendent.  He's unrelated to the Wheeler of "... and Wilson", as far as I know.

Anyway, I did take pictures....  the first two are of their Home.

paul

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SteveH-VSS

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Reply with quote  #2 
On the one hand I want to say "so sad", on the other I am glad they were even represented.... and with just a bit of SM Oil.....

I know that a lot of museums are very tuned in to what in they see and the popular stuff.  When we did the second year in the Mendocino county museum I was told that they started having folks come in and ask where the sewing machines were...  they contacted me at the time about possibly hosting my collection there for a time, but I was WAY to into playing with them to even consider it. Prior to that they had never even had one person inquire about sewing machines

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Chaly

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Reply with quote  #3 
Agree, the museum could certainly use a curator for the sewing machine collection - likely this may be a funding issuhne or just lack of resources/information for the current curator staff.  Is there a museum board member you could communicate with?

I'm sure they would welcome your suggestions and maybe even you could be involved since you live fairly close. 

It is such a shame that many times the history of the sewing machine is underrepresented but the hope is there are many that are keeping this history alive and preserving/restoring these machines - really for our future generations.

When I was in Edinburgh last year- the National Museum just had a very small sewing machine collection - not nearly what I would expect with the many years of Singer manufacturing in Glasgow.  (In fairness - there is a small sewing machine Singer museum in Glasgow that I will visit next time I'm on holiday to see my daughter.)  In comparison - there was a colossal amount on fiber arts, weaving, textiles, and fashion.

There's such a ton of knowledge and talent on this site alone and I love to see folks sharing what they know along with their collections.
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ke6cvh

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Reply with quote  #4 
Very nice post....thanks for sharing it with everyone. Enjoyed the pictures.
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Jeanette Frantz

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Reply with quote  #5 

I am certainly an absolute amateur when it comes to the older machines -- the Oklahoma county where my cousin had her quilting shop before she passed away has a county museum.  I am currently in possession of a few of my aunt's really old porcelain dolls (true antiques) and it was the intention of my cousin in Major County, OK and I that those dolls would be put "on permanent loan" to the museum -- "permanent loan" being so that the museum could not "sell" the dolls -- if they decided they no longer wished to display them, they would have to be returned to me, or other family members.  The problem is, I haven't been to Oklahoma in more than 4 years, and I wouldn't dare ship them.  They are far too fragile because they are truly really old.  While one of them was my aunt's (a gift from her parents, I'm sure), she was given one other by her aunt, and a friend of hers gave her the other one back when she lived in Orlando, FL.  The one she was given by her aunt, is most likely well over a 100 years old, but I have no way myself to document the ages.  Right now, I have a cradle that was my MIL's when she was a baby, and we got it because my husband was the oldest of her three boys.  So, the dolls which are probably all over 100 or real close to it, reside in the cradle that I know is at least that old -- my MIL passed away in 1989 (I think) and she was in her late 70's or early 80's then.  I really hate to give them up, but I probably should deliver them to the museum if I survive long enough to get there! LOL!  Certainly, they cannot be used as a child's toy, ever.   So, if I were going to put something in a museum, I would do so as a "permanent loan" item, to be returned to the true owner should the museum board decide they didn't want to maintain that exhibit.

EDIT:  Paul, very nice post, indeed!

 


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jon

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Reply with quote  #6 
Paul,

That was a great, entertaining post.  I love the small town dusty museums.  You should consider writing for Ismacs.

Jon
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pgf

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Reply with quote  #7 
Thank you all, for your nice comments.  The day made an impression on me, and I felt I had to share it.

Something that I didn't mention is that they don't actually let you browse their collection on your own.  I think they have so much stuff, piled on every surface, that they think (probably rightly) that there would be pilfering if they left visitors on their own.  So you get moved along on a tour (mine was 1-on-1), with a docent reading from a script of the interesting things to see in each room.  So even if the sewing machines were properly curated, and cleaned up and labeled, it's not like anyone could really linger on them.  So if I did offer to help out with the sewing machines, it's not clear who I'd really be helping by doing so.  It was all sort of strange -- they have all of this interesting stuff, but unlike a real museum, you can't take your time and focus on the parts you're really interested in -- which would be different for everyone.

BTW -- even their steam cars were like that.  There are no displays explaining how the cars were different than others of the day, or much of anything explanatory at all.  They have one engine cover propped up, but the lighting was so bad I couldn't even get a photo of it.  (At least the cars were clean and shiny, though!  :-)

But I should end on a positive:  I do think it's fantastic that so much stuff is being preserved, even if it's not that accessible, or well cataloged.  The Orange Historical Society has existed for perhaps 100 years, so they have a rich collection, and I'm sure folks from the area are thrilled that so much local history is being held onto.

paul


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Farmhousesewer

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Reply with quote  #8 
Thank you, Paul, for sharing.

I am the conservator of sewing machines for the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center. Was designated as such so I could touch the machines and be in compliance with the donation contracts. There is one machine designated for education, which means I was able to clean it get it sewing and can demonstrate it. Visitors can touch it as well. The others are only for display. One is currently on display, but the others are in storage. 

If you get involved, check on what you are able to do and get the proper designation, if needed.

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pgf

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Reply with quote  #9 
That's good advice -- thanks!  Don't know if I'll be trying to help them or not, but I'll keep it in mind.

paul

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hilltophomesteader

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Reply with quote  #10 
Paul - Does your Home machine have a coffin top cover with a design like the one you saw at the museum?  It's almost as interesting and special as the machine itself!!  And was that an American??  Sigh.  I really enjoyed your pictures - thanks!
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pgf

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Reply with quote  #11 
Hi Pam --

Yes, it does.  The medallion is a separate piece that simply screws on -- convenient that it wasn't glued.  It was made in a mold, probably similarly to the faux carvings on later Singer cabinets (which were glued on).  Happily it took well to being furniture-oiled, and the oil brought out the gold decor nicely.

Funny thing about that medallion -- it's crooked.  The right end is about 1/8" higher than it should be.  Straightening it would involve drilling a new hole in both the bonnet and the medallion.  I thought long and hard about it, and decided it had been that way for 142 years, and I'd just live with it!

[home_bonnet_done_2] 

It wasn't until a few days ago that I realized I never thought to see if their machine still had its treadle drawer.  I should have taken some pictures of that, if so, in case I (or someone else) wants to make a reproduction someday, since mine is missing.  Likewise for the little catches at the back of the bonnet, that hook it into the treadle table -- they were missing when I got my machine, probably because someone didn't want them scratching any surface the bonnet was set down on.  Who knows?  Maybe they were in the drawer when it was lost!  ;-)

paul

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