Friday, September 28, 2012

Sew That's How It Happened

He didn't invent the sewing machine, but Isaac Merritt Singer did patent the first practical and efficient one.
Singer was one of the most forceful, flamboyant and unscrupulous tycoons in US business history. He used mass production for manufacture and pioneered the hire-purchase system of buying on credit in easy instalments, thus revolutionising consumer buying.
He was working in a Boston machine-shop in 1851 when he was given a sewing machine to repair. Eleven days later he'd made a better one, which he patented. He then set up a production company with two backers.
Female demonstrators were hired to show that women weren't too 'fluffy' or incompetent to work a machine and Singer's hire-purchase deals put his sewing machines within easy reach of all. Then to increase his share of the soaring profits, Singer ruthlessly forced one partner out of the company and swindled the other.
He travelled in a grandiose bright yellow carriage of his own design, drawn by six or sometimes nine horses, with a small band on board. It sat 31 people, had beds for the children and a toilet!
Singer liked style...and he LOVED women! He married at 29, but after a few years left his wife and two children for a mistress, with whom he had ten more. Later he set up two more households with women by whom he had respectively one child and five.
By 1860 Singer was the world’s biggest producer of sewing machines, but rows between his various women, and the attentions of the press, became so tiresome that Singer escaped to Europe, where he married his second wife in 1863 - eventually having six more children! In his early fifties, he settled in England with some of his brood of 24, and died in 1875 at 63.
The business went from strength to strength and took the lead in marketing electric sewing machines. During WWII, it suspended sewing machine production to take on US govt contracts for weapons manufacturing...its factories in Germany provided the German armed forces with weapons too! A household name, the company later diversified into other products but lost its way, and in 1988 fell prey to financiers who broke it up.
Today, the Singer Corporation produces a range of consumer products, including electronic sewing machines. Now, in 2012, to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Singer brand, the company has released the Limited Edition Singer 160. Its designers have taken a leaf from Singer's classic styling, and woven that around the latest technology. The result is a look that would've fitted perfectly in gt-grandma's parlour, and will bring back memories. It's sure to give more pleasure to more women than even Isaac Singer did!

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