New Orleans House Project

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trade Card Tuesday: Howe Sewing Machines

When I began blogging last year, I planned to occasionally feature sewing machine trade cards from my collection.  Unfortunately, the trade card posts did not seem to attract many visitors, so I stopped creating new posts on that topic.  I do enjoy sharing cards from my collection though, so I've resolved to start posting cards again.  There's so much to appreciate about these antique cards:  illustrations, advertising techniques, subject matter, history.  I hope you will enjoy stepping back in time for a few moments to savor those things!

Howe Sewing Machine Company and Howe Machine Company

Although most history books credit Elias Howe with inventing the sewing machine, the story is a little more complicated.  Howe did invent and patent a machine that could sew pieces of fabric together, but his machine had serious limitations and by itself was never commercially successful.  He did however, hold the patents for many of the features that were necessary for successful sewing machines, and he eventually won recognition for his patents and became the second richest man in the world because of it.  If you're interested in the entire story, Wikipedia covers it here and Graham Forsdyke of the International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society covers it here (Forsdyke's version is longer but more entertaining!).

The first sewing machines with the name Howe were manufactured by Elias' brother, Amasa, who started the Howe Sewing Machine Co. in 1854.  He paid licensing and royalty fees to his brother for the rights to use Elias' patented features, but the machines he manufactured and sold also used other features that actually made the machines function successfully.

Elias Howe eventually started a sewing machine business with his sons-in-law, the Stockwell Brothers (1865).  Their plant was known as the Howe Machine Co. and was located in Bridgeport, CT.  In 1873, the Howe Sewing Machine Co., was sold to the Howe Machine Co. and the business continued until 1886.

Elias Howe died in 1867, at which time the Stockwell Bros., added a brass medallion with Eilas' likeness to their sewing machines.  

This card doesn't show us much about the actual sewing machine, but all the Victorian frippery makes it interesting!

This card illustrates the iconic Howe sewing machine with the brass emblem of Elias Howe.  Again, lots of Victorian decor and fashion are featured.  The young lady in the light-colored dress is reading a booklet entitled "The Light Running High Arm New Howe G".


  1. Oh, I love these sewing cards.
    thanks for sharing the history!

  2. I have never heard of sewing machine trading cards! I love it! Please continue sharing them!

  3. I love the way on the second card they are sitting there admiring the new machine. Uh, yes, I've done that! With old machines, of course!

  4. I so enjoy your posts about sewing trade cards! I hope you will continue to post about them. I always learn so much from them. I'm sure others enjoy them very much, too. They should leave a comment so you know how much they enjoy them!! Rest assured we all enjoy them. As usual, this was a fun and informative stop today! Your Howe card is gorgeous! Lucky you for owning such a beauty! Thanks for sharing this wonderful info with us and keep these posts coming!

  5. I love to see the sewing machine cards. I don't have any, but, I love all the history surrounding them. I've actually seen a Howe machine in this area. Cool!