When it comes to antique sewing machines, a well-known example if the Singer 48K machine.
The 48k machine was only made at Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland between the years 1900 and 1913. According to the company records, at least half a million machines were made, and at the time were priced at £4 12s 6d – roughly £460 in today’s money. It was Singer’s cheapest selling family sewing machine.
The 48K is a transverse shuttle model – the shuttle moves from left to right. Its other features include
- A hybrid shuttle
- A self-setting standard 15×1 needle and not the old round shanked, 12×1
- An upper tension control sited right of the faceplate
- A shuttle eject mechanism
- Black hand wheels – this is probably because some countries taxed machinery import with plated parts, as they were thought of as luxury items.
Attractive Antique Sewing Machines
It is a very pretty-looking machine. Singer only decorated the 48K machines with the Ottoman Carnation ornamentation and the Ottoman Carnation with Indian Star decals. Why? The idea is that India was an emerging market at the start of the 20th Century, and the use of the Indian Star sticker was a deliberate attempt to stimulate the market.
What makes the Singer 48K something of a mystery when it comes to antique sewing machines is that it used technology which was outdated at the time. Other Singer models were better machines, and far more up to date. Why produce something like this?
The theory goes that the machine was designed to compete with German-made, high-arm (the high arm allows free movement of the material) machines that had dominated the British market for many years.
Designed for Export?
Another theory is that it was intended for export to developing countries, but the majority of advertising materials (and there aren’t that many) relate to Singer 48K machines being sold in the UK. There are also adverts for it in New York and Russia, though!
Nowadays, the Singer 48K is a rare thing, which perhaps gives credence to the idea that 500,000 machines were not made. Some experts on antique sewing machines have disputed this number, claiming that a sewing machine that only shows up every six months on eBay is very rare. The primary production period seems to be 1902-05.
It is thought that production of the machine might have stopped for various reasons. Number one that it just wasn’t that great a sewing machine. Another reason might be the start of the First World War and the drop in imports of German goods. There was no longer a need for a machine that competed with the German high-arm sewing machine.
Whatever – the machine is something of a mystery, and that makes it very exciting indeed!
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