New Orleans House Project

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pieces of the Past: New Home Sewing Machine Co.

I confess I have been in a bit of a funk lately and haven't felt much urge to sew.  I've finished about three-fourths of the quilting on the Deep, Deep Sea baby quilt, but otherwise have no quilting output to share.  I hope to finish the baby quilt by the end of the week - indeed, the precious baby arrived about 2 weeks ahead of his due date, so now there's a little more pressure to finish!  Once the baby quilt is done, there are several projects in various stages that should bring some satisfying sewing time.  I look forward to that!

In the meantime, I'll share some more antique sewing machine trade cards.  In response to a previous Pieces of the Past post, Kimber sent me a link to her beautiful antique New Home sewing machine.  Since Kimber shares my affection for history and antique sewing machines, I thought I'd share a few of my New Home Victorian trade cards today.

The first incarnation of the New Home Sewing Machine Company was actually named Johnson, Clark & Company/Gold Medal Sewing Machine Company.  That company was founded in 1860 in Orange, Massachusetts.  In 1882, the company reorganized and chose the name New Home Sewing Machine Company.  New Home merged with the Free Sewing Machine Company in 1927, but continued to make "New Home" machines into the 1930s.

One of New Home's favorite advertising themes was using "Before" and "After" illustrations of the virtues of their sewing machines.  An early image for Johnson, Clark & Co. shows Mother using a "noisy, hard-running old machine" which agitates the children and the dog.  The next image shows the peaceful household restored after Mother purchases a New Home sewing machine.

I shall exchange this Noisy, Hard-Running, Old Machine for a "New
Home", which my sisters, cousins and aunts recommend.
How quietly it runs!  It is really a pleasure to sew since I bought the
Light-Running "New Home".

Another before and after card pictures a fox who lost his tail in a trap.  He uses a New Home sewing machine to sew his tail back in place so it will never come loose again!
There was once a Fox who lost his tail in a trap. Meeting
his companions they mocked at him, so he bought
a Light-Running "NEW HOME" Machine, which
sewed it on so tight it never came off again.
A variation on the Before & After card is known as a "Hold to Light" card.  The image is designed so that when the viewer holds the card up against a bright light, the image changes.  Upon holding this card to the light, the woman sewing by hand is transformed into the beautifully dressed woman sewing with a New Home sewing machine.
"With fingers weary and worn"
"With eyelids heavy and red"
"A Woman Sat in Unwomanly Rags"
"Plying Her Needle and Thread"
By Holding This Card to the Light, You Will See A Happy Change in the Above Picture,
& What Caused It.
The verse on the card is actually from "The Song of the Shirt", a composition by Thomas Hood which described the tedious and tiring life of seamstresses before the invention of the sewing machine.  Sewing machines were advertised as time savers that would benefit women's health and well being, as well as allow them to devote more time to their husbands and children. Of course, the converse of this was that many men feared women would have too much time on their hands if freed from the labor of hand sewing! 

One of my all-time favorite New Home advertisements is a four page pamphlet.  The pamphlet cleverly illustrates an amusing Before & After scene demonstrating an unusual quality provided by a New Home sewing machine.
Act 1st - The Perplexing Question.
A New Home Machine or a French Sewing Girl.

Act 2nd - The French Sewing Girl Decided Upon.
The Arrival.
Act 3rd - The French Sewing Girl Duly Installed.
Act 4th - The French Assistant Did Not Give Entire Satisfaction.
A New Home Machine Has Been Purchased.
All's Well That Ends Well.


  1. Hi Angie,
    I've been remiss at visiting blogs lately but just happened to read this post! Thank you so much for sharing all this intriguing history and your wonderful trade cards! I especially got a kick out of the one with the fox who has to sew his tail back together! K

  2. Hi, Angie -

    I'm working on putting together a list of online resources relating to Thomas Hood's "Song of the Shirt," and the Before & After advert you have here is simply delightful! Would you be able to tell me where / how you came by it? On an unrelated note, the quilting you've posted elsewhere on the blog is quite impressive!!

    ~ Michael