February 9, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Isaac Singer

Isaac Merritt Singer was born in upstate New York in 1811. He ran away from his parents at age 12 to join a group of traveling actors. Singer remained an actor until he was 24. After that he worked as a machinist and acted on the side.
For years his means were small and he despaired of ever inventing anything successful.

He patented a device for carving wood-block type and went to Boston in 1850 to sell the type to manufacturers. There enthusiasm was decidedly restrained for his wood-type but one day while in the office of a prospective client he became intrigued with a broken-down sewing machine. Singer set out to familiarize himself with all aspects of the sewing machine.

What he learned was that sewing machines were available as early as 1790 in England. But since their inception sewing machines were horribly unreliable and in need of constant repairs. Singer set to work and quickly invented a reliable machine with a straight needle that moved up and down. He was granted a patent in 1851 and formed I.M. Singer & Company.

Singer’s sewing machine was an immediate success and also attracted the attention of Elias Howe who had patented a sewing machine in 1846. Singer hired a lawyer named Edward Clark to defend him in exchange for 1/3 of the business. The arrangement eventually became 50-50 with Singer handling the manufacturing and Clark the finances.

Clark stymied the lawsuits and brought the men together to pool their patents by creating the Singer Machine Combination - the first patent pool in United States history. By arrangement Singer and Howe each received $5 from every sewing machine sold.

At first the only market for the Singer sewing machines was professional tailors and harness makers. Seeking a way to bring the machine within reach of the American family Clark introduced the first consumer installment payment plan.
For many Americans the sewing machine was their most expensive possession.

The Singer-Clark partnership came to an abrupt end in 1863 when certain unsavory details of Singer’s personal life came to light. Seems Isaac Singer had fathered 24 children by four women. Both men retained an equal share of Singer Company stock but sold the rest to their employees.

Family troubles aside the profits of the sewing machine business made Singer a wealthy man. Rather than ride out any scandals in America Singer went abroad, settling in Tourquay, a well-known watering place in England until his death in 1875.

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