New Orleans House Project

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trade Card Tuesday: Domestic Sewing Machines Vol. I

The Domestic Sewing Machine Company was a fairly early entrant in the sewing machine manufacturing game.  The company started in 1864 in Ohio.  Their original machines used the vibrating shuttle mechanism, which was newer technology than Singer's transverse shuttle.  This new technology was the basis for Domestic's advertising for many years.

This card is actually a small booklet.  The outside sends greetings to all lovers of Antiquities.  The inside contains the illustration above.  On the left, the sharp-dressed man exclaims, "Yes, my father was a great antiquarian."  The caption on the right reads, "Where he studied antiquity."  

The card can be interpreted two ways.  One is the obvious - many early sewing machines were of poor quality and didn't hold up to the rigors of every day sewing.  It wasn't long before they were worn out antiquities.  Domestic machines however, would not succumb to that fate!

The second interpretation is a sly reference to the thought held by many that Elias Howe did not dream up his sewing machine on his own, but heavily borrowed (stole!) ideas from an earlier inventor named Walter Hunt.  Hunt invented a sewing machine in 1834 but failed to patent it.  Howe's machine was very similar to Hunt's, including the same features that made Hunt's machine impractical for serious sewing.  BTW, Walter Hunt also invented that gadget indispensable to modern machine-quilters:  the safety pin.

Here's a variation on a puzzle card - there are hidden faces in the different continents on the globe.

When opened, one learns the Domestic is The Star That Leads Them All.

The characters on this card may seem a little strange to our eyes, but in their time they were some of the most popular and beloved fictional characters around.  These little guys are inspired by Palmer Cox's Brownies, cartoon characters from the last century. The Brownies had all kinds of adventures which were shared in popular books and later became pitchmen for all kinds of products.  In keeping with Domestic's assertion their machines lasted longer than any others - check out the sewing machine cemetery in the background!

Three women engaged in sewing with a Domestic machine.  Is the tea-tray carrying maid in the background meant to be a pun on the name Domestic?  The sewing patterns in use here were also created and sold by Domestic; the pattern numbers are listed on the reverse of the card.  


  1. These cards are quite clever and I have never seen them before. You sure have some treasures in your collection! Interesting story about Walter Hunt and Elias Howe. I didn't realize the former invented the safety pin! Always learn something new on your Trade Card Tuesdays!

  2. what fun cards. The hidden faces was my favorite. Thanks for sharing these I really enjoyed reading about them.