That Damn Treadle

Y’know how when forensic specialists are matching finger-prints (or dental records), and they go through the whorls (and fillings) and things looking for points of concordance and discordance between the different images? No? Obviously you should’ve paid more attention in your Forensic Anthropology classes… Well, this ย is what’ I’ve been doing.

I know all y’all are just as obsessed as I am about my new treadle. ๐Ÿ˜‰ No? Well, I imagine I’ll have an actual sewing post up one of these days. I still haven’t actually had the chance to work on the treadle; my Mom unexpectedly got a full-time contract (YAY, MOM!) and then Thanksgiving happened, which involved four turkeys, four days, and absolutely no energy for anything but digesting. In the meantime, I spent some quality time hunting down old Eaton’s catalogues, of which there is a surprising abundance on teh marvelous internets. Thank you, internets. Also, Library and Archives Canadaย and You rock my world. Anyway, I think I have located my machine!

I think I’ll pause here to allow you to imagine the scene as my perplexed family got to witness the peculiar dance of the exultant researcher.

My machine appears to match a model shown in the 1915/16 Winter catalogue through the 1917 spring/summer catalogue (but not in the 1917/18 winter catalogue). Woot! I’m not sure about before 1915 as there’s a gap in the archives before that until 1908, at which point the models are distinctly different.

ZOMG there it is! Also, source.

Yes, that appears to be my machine.

Points of concordance:

  • Cabinet. Oh yes, this took some hunting. I had started off looking in 20s catalogues because I thought the plain, almost masculine style of the woodwork looked newer, although most twenties machines seem to have more art-nouveau kind of decals. But it’s really distinctive both in its plain-ness, the six drawers, and the shape of the bits on either side of the drawers.
  • The machine. Even though the catalogue copy describes this machine as the “Seamstress”, if you click on the illustration to see the full-size image, the machine says “Improved Seamstress”. Every detail of the tension, threading, stitch-length screw, and even decals are pretty much spot on, allowing for a small amount of artistic licence (and a LOT of crud and wear on my machine…)


Points of discordance:

Ok, really there’s only the foot pedal, which is distinctly different, and, frankly, doesn’t look like any of the Eaton’s foot-pedals I’ve looked at in the last few days. Which is a lot. It makes me wonder if that part might’ve been replaced, or if it just happened to be a different factory lot from the illustration.

Oh, yeah, along the edge of the board on the illustration, just in front of the sewing machine, you can see a series of regular ticks. It’s actually a measuring-tape decaled onto the surface of the wood. It’s pretty beaten up on my machine, but parts of it are still visible.

Oh, and I finished the Kwik Sew underwear. I’ll tell you all about it next time… ๐Ÿ˜‰

EDIT: A bit more digging turned up a Fall/Winter 1913/14 catalogue, which has a six-drawer model that is different from mine. So that’s an upper age limit. One interesting detail: most of the machines in the 1913/14 catalogue have a foot pedal identical to the one on my machine (but different from the one in the later catalogues). So maybe my machine is an earlier version of its model, fitted with the older pedal style—or maybe it was just some variant from the factory. Anyway, at this point there’s only three catalogues “missing”, Spring/Summer 1914, Fall/Winter 1914/15, and Spring/Summer 1915. And, frankly, a date to within a year or two seems like pretty good accuracy considering a few days ago I wasn’t even positive about decade. So I’m still pretty satisfied, although of course there’s one or two more avenues I could pursue…

EDIT #2: I found the serial number, underneath the slide plate of the shuttle compartment. 2330993. Not sure if there’s anywhere I can look this up to get a date or location of manufacture, but that’s what it is. There’s also a faint letter “A” above it on the left.



Filed under Sewing

20 responses to “Concordance/Discordance

  1. Nice job on the research!

  2. This is a really dumb questions, but is there no serial number? I mean, I’m sure you’ve checked. I could probably go back to your older post about it and see what you wrote, but I thought I’d ask. It is exciting to learn so much about your machine– it’s a little piece of history.

    • I didn’t find one on my first go-over, and I haven’t had a chance to do a second—on some photos of similar machines I’ve seen one under the slide-plate where the shuttle sits, so I do need to check there. However, even if I do find the serial number, I haven’t been able to find any charts of serial numbers for National machines such as there are for Singers, and the company isn’t around any more to phone up. /sigh. Maybe more digging will turn one up, though…

  3. *sigh* The first every machine I sewed with was a Singer treadle, inherited, I think, from my grandmother. It’s since been passed onto another family member, but I sooooo loved that machine!

    • Aww—I love those stories. (Hopefully your grandma’s treadle is in good hands.)

      Next time I make it out to my Grandma’s farm, my mom and I are totally going treadle hunting. There’s at least one and possibly two, condition unknown.

  4. Awesome!! So cool to have uncovered so much history!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also… four turkeys??? Wow, that’s Thanksgiving dedication! I made a ham, because while I love turkey, it’s an all day affair to make one, so I save that for Christmas when it’s cold and having the oven on all day is a good thing lol ^__^

    • I only made one turkey and a roast, and it was cool enough here that I didn’t mind the oven at all, but yeah—both our parents are separated, and each has their own family/gathering thing going on. At least this year they all managed to pick different nights without too much trouble. I was really hoping someone would go the ham route, for sure… no luck, though. There were some excellent toffee sweet potatoes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. How cool! I wonder what kind of things were sewn on your machine in it’s past life. If it really has gotten a lot of use, then it would make sense that the pedal would wear out.

    What a great Thanksgiving activity!

  6. Zena

    If you’re needing any further help on the Eaton’s catalogue front, try the WDM curatorial centre. M used to work at the library there and handled this type of research query. They do have some unusual materials in their research collection. They may even let you in to snoop if you ask nicely ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Wow, four Thanksgivings sounds exhausting (but in a good way)! Glad to hear you got some undie-sewing in somehow…I look forward to seeing them!

    That treadle machine looks like it’s going to be beautiful when it’s all shined up. I’ve always hoped to find one in a thrift store, but let’s be honest, if I brought one home there would be nowhere to put it. I love that yours is called the “Improved Seamstress,” too!

    • Yeah, the nowhere to put it thing is kind of an issue for us, too… this may end up being a problem. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      What’s even better is some of the illustrations just say “Imp. Seamstress”

      I totally want to be an imp seamstress…

  8. Amazing research, and how fabulous to be able to narrow down your machine with such accuracy! I hope you get a chance to clean her up so we can see her finery ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. That’s a whole lot of turkey. We hosted our annual “Orphan’s” Thanksgiving which is mostly friends. My parents and my brother came this year so when we did our family dinner Mom cooked a ham. After having the turkey Saturday, leftovers Sunday and Monday for lunch, ham was nice.

    Sewing machines are a pretty piece of functional history.

  10. I have the same machine but a different cabinet. Mine is from 1912 though, so I suspect that the cabinet was later updated. My bottom piece is the same as your model, but I have 7 drawers.

  11. I have a badged National with the Damascus decals and I’m looking for the bobbin winder finger. Can you see a part number on that? Would you mind sending me a closeup of the assembly?

  12. Shirley

    Is there anywhere to get a manual for these machines. I would like to know how to tread mine.

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