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H9363 Sewing machine, transverse shuttle cast iron / tin, made by Singer Sewing Machine Co, United States of America, 1860-1861. Click to enlarge.

Singer sewing machine

The Powerhouse Museum has an important collection of domestic sewing machines. A transforming technology in ninetenth century Australia, the sewing machine revolutionised the clothing and textile industries and changed the nature of women's work in the home.

The falling price of machines and their ready availability meant that they were not only used in factories but also, through being available to purchase on time payment, enabled men and women to undertake piece work in their own homes. …


Object No.


Object Statement

Sewing machine, transverse shuttle cast iron / tin, made by Singer Sewing Machine Co, United States of America, 1860-1861

Physical Description

Sewing machine, transverse shuttle cast iron / tin, made by Singer Sewing Machine Co, United States of America, 1860-1861

Machine and table are made of cast iron. The foot pedal has been cast in the shape of two feet joined by a rectangular plate across top cast with inscription 'Singer & Co.' The heel of right foot is missing. The machine sits on a raised curved platform which is screwed onto the cast iron table and can be removed. A crude piece of japanned tin has been attached to the underside of the table to conceal the mechanism. The machine has a flat belt drive. The number 13 has been painted in red on the underside of the machine. The arm of the machine is open at back to reveal a bevelled gear drive.

The machine shows much evidence of use. The bobbin cover plate is stamped on underside with two numbers: 43632 and 39632. The needle shaft is numbered 9832. The machine closely resembles the one illustrated in the Singer Antique Machine Collection calendar 1991, and one illustrated in Cooper, p 114 from the Smithsonian collection.



980 mm


562 mm


420 mm



Designed and made by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. This was the second machine produced by Singer for family use and was manufactured between 1859 and 1865 when it was replaced by the 'Improved Family' which was manufactured for the next twenty years.

At the time of this machine's manufacture, Singer production was still quite small and aimed principally at the domestic market. In 1860, the company produced 13,000 machines and in 1861, 16,000. Singer had established an Australian market for its machines by 1864 when Singer lock-stitch machines were being advertised in the Illustrated Sydney News with the claim that they were: 'the Cheapest, most Durable, and BEST SEWING MACHINES IN THE WORLD'. Two years later Singer had branches or agencies 'in nearly every city and town throughout the civilised world' (including Melbourne).

Made by Singer Sewing Machine Co. At the time this was made Singer production was still quite small and principally for the domestic market. In 1860 the company produced 13,000 machines and in 1861 16,000.

The machine has two serial numbers on the underside of the shuttle cover. These are 43632 and 39632. It is thought that the numbers relate to the Combination royalties paid by the Singer company. The higher number is believed to be the record of total production and the lower number refers to the machine of a particular style. The register of serial numbers indicates that these date the machine to 1860-61.



There are no references to Singer Sewing Machines being available in Australia in 1860-61 although they were well established three years later. The earliest machine to be advertised in the Sydney market was the (then) far more successful Wheeler & Wilson. Vennard & Stevens advertised their machines in 1860 and within the year, the Bathurst Times was offering them to country customers claiming they were now so reduced in price as to be 'within the reach of all classes'. Writing to her sister in January 1862, Ruth Suttor states, 'Sewing machines are getting very general, they are a grand invention. I shall never be contented to 'stitch, stitch, stitch' again...They require great attention. You certainly ought to get one. Some ladies have them who never will be able to do with them what I see under skilful hands they can be made to do.'


Credit Line

Purchased 1978

Acquisition Date

21 June 1978

Cite this Object


Singer sewing machine 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 June 2023, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Singer sewing machine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 June 2023 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}