Singer Corporation

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Singer Corporation
Founded 1851 as I. M. Singer Company, New York, New York, USA
Headquarters La Vergne, Tennessee, USA
Parent SVP Worldwide
International Semi Tech Microsystems 1989-2000

Singer Corporation is an American manufacturer of sewing machines, first established as I. M. Singer & Co. in 1851 by Isaac Merritt Singer with New York lawyer Edward Clark. Best known for its sewing machines, it was renamed Singer Manufacturing Company in 1865, then The Singer Company in 1963. It is based in La Vergne, Tennessee near Nashville. Its first large factory for mass production was built in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1863.[1]


  • Isaac Singer (1851–1863)
  • Inslee Hopper (1863–1875)
  • Edward S. Clark (1875–1882)
  • George Ross McKenzie (1882–1889)
  • Frederick Gilbert Bourne (1889–1905)
  • Sir Douglas Alexander (1905–1949)
  • Milton C. Lightner (1949–1958)
  • Donald P. Kircher (1958–1975)
  • Joseph Bernard Flavin (1975–1987)
  • Paul Bilzerian (1987–1989)[2]
  • James H. Ting (1989–1997)[3]
  • Stephen H. Goodman (1998–2004)

The company[edit]


Old Singer logo
A Singer 1851 sewing machine

In 1885 Singer produced its first "vibrating shuttle" sewing machine, an improvement over contemporary transverse shuttle designs; (see bobbin drivers).

The 11,000 workers at the largest factory of Singer, in Clydebank, went on strike in March–April 1911, ceasing to work in solidarity with 12 female colleagues protesting against work process reorganization. Following the end of the strike, Singer fired 400 workers, including all strike leaders and purported members of the IWGB, among whom was Arthur McManus, who later went on to become the first chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain between 1920 and 1922.[4]

Early sales figures[edit]


Year 1853 1859 1867 1871 1873 1876
Units 810 10,953 43,053 181,260 232,444 262,316

By 1876, Singer was claiming cumulative sales of 2 million machines and displaying the 2 millionth in Philadelphia.[6]

World War II[edit]

Painted Singer Sewing sign in Kingston, NY
A Singer sewing machine with electric retrofit

During World War II, the company suspended sewing machine production to take on government contracts for weapons manufacturing. Factories in the US supplied the American forces with Norden bomb sights and M1 Carbine rifle receivers, while factories in Germany provided their armed forces with weapons.[7]

In 1939, the company was given a production study by the government to draw plans and develop standard raw material sizes for building M1911A1 pistols. The following April 17, Singer was given an educational order of 500 units with serial numbers S800001 - S800500. The educational order was a program set up by the US Ordnance Board to teach companies without gun-making experience to manufacture weapons.

After the 500 units were delivered to the government, the management decided to produce artillery and bomb sights. The pistol tooling and manufacturing machines were transferred to Remington Rand whilst some went to the Ithaca Gun Company. Original Singer pistols are collectable, and in excellent condition sell for $25,000 to $60,000 with the highest paid $80,000 at auction in 2002.[8]


The Singer sewing machine was the first complex standardized technology to be mass marketed. It was not the first sewing machine, and its patent in 1851 led to a patent battle with Elias Howe, inventor of the lockstitch machine. This eventually resulted in a patent sharing accord among the major firms.[9] Marketing strategies included focusing on the manufacturing industry,[10] gender identity,[11] credit plans,[12] and “hire purchases.”[9]

Singer's marketing emphasized the role of women and their relationship to the home, evoking ideals of virtue, modesty, and diligence.[13] Though the sewing machine represented liberation from arduous hand sewing, it chiefly benefited those sewing for their families and themselves. Tradespeople relying on sewing as a livelihood still suffered from poor wages, which dropped further in response to the time savings gained by machine sewing.[9] Singer offered credit purchases and rent-to-own arrangements, allowing people to rent a machine with the rental payments applied to the eventual purchase of the machine,[9] and sold globally through the use of direct-sales door-to-door canvassers to demonstrate and sell the machines.[14]


In the 1960s the company diversified, acquiring the Friden calculator company in 1965, Packard Bell Electronics in 1966 and General Precision Equipment Corporation in 1968. GPE included Librascope, The Kearfott Company, Inc, and Link Flight Simulation. In the 1968 also Singer bought out GPS Systems and added it to the Link Simulations Systems Division (LSSD). This unit produced nuclear power plant control center simulators in Silver Spring, MD; while flight simulators were produced in Binghamton, New York.

In 1987, corporate raider, Paul Bilzerian, made a "greenmail" run at Singer, and ended up owning the company when no "White Knight" rescuer appeared. To recover his money, Bilzerian sold off parts of the company. Kearfott was split, the Kearfott Guidance & Navigation Corporation was sold to the Astronautics Corporation of America in 1988 and the Electronic Systems Division was purchased by GEC-Marconi in 1990, renamed GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems (and later incorporated into BAE Systems). The Sewing Machine Division was sold in 1989 to Semi-Tech Microelectronics, a publicly traded Toronto-based company.[15]

For several years in the 1970s, Singer set up a national sales force for CAT phototypesetting machines made by another Massachusetts company, Graphic Systems Inc.[16] This division was purchased by Wang Laboratories in 1978.

21st Century[edit]

The Singer Corporation produces a range of consumer products, including electronic sewing machines. It is now part of SVP Worldwide, which also owns the Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking brands, which is in turn owned by Kohlberg & Company, which bought Singer in 2004. Its main competitors are Brother Industries, Janome and Aisin Seiki - a Toyota Group company that manufactures Toyota, Necchi and E&R Classic Sewing Machines.

Singer Buildings[edit]

Singer was heavily involved in Manhattan real estate in the 1800s through Edward Clark, a founder of the company. Clark had built The Dakota apartments and other Manhattan buildings in the 1880s. In 1900, the Singer company retained Ernest Flagg to build a 12-story loft building at Broadway and Prince Street in Lower Manhattan. The building is now considered architecturally notable, and has been restored.[17]

The 47-story Singer Building, completed in 1908, was also designed by Flagg, who designed two landmark residences for Bourne. Constructed during Bourne's tenure, the Singer Building (demolished in 1968) was then the tallest building in the world. Singer built the largest clock face in the world,[citation needed] the Singers Clock at its Clydebank, Scotland factory which opened in 1885 and closed in 1980. Singer railway station, built to serve the factory, is still in existence to this day.

The famous Singer House, designed by architect Pavel Suzor, was built in 1902-1904 at Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg for headquarters of the Russian branch of the company. This modern style building (situated just opposite to the Kazan Cathedral) is officially recognized as an object of Russian historical-cultural heritage.

Four best selling domestic Singer Sewing Machines[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cunningham, John T. (2004). Ellis Island: Immigration's Shining Center. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2428-3. 
  2. ^ "A Raider's Days Of Reckoning". Time Magazine. 10 July 1989. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  3. ^ Daniel Hilken and Albert Wong (July 1, 2005). "Semi-Tech's Ting jailed six years". The Standard (Hong Kong). Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  4. ^ The Singer strike 1911, Glasgow Digital Library
  5. ^ "Sewing Machines". Machine-History.Com. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  6. ^ Fort Moultrie Centennial, Part II. Charleston: Walker, Evans & Cogswell. 1876. p. 29. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  7. ^ Sanders, Richard Robert S. Clark (1877-1956), Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.
  8. ^ Singer Manufacturing Co. 1941 1911A1, From the Karl Karash collection/Images Copyright Karl Karash 2002
  9. ^ a b c d Joan Perkin, “Sewing Machines: Liberation or Drudgery for Women?” History Today 52 (Dec. 2002).
  10. ^ Andrew Godley “Selling the Sewing Machine Around the World: Singers International Marketing Strategies, 1850-1920.” Enterprise and Society (June 2007) 7 281.
  11. ^ Judith G. Coffin, “Credit, Consumption, and Images of Women’s Desires: Selling the Sewing Machine in Late Nineteenth-Century France.” Historical Studies (Spring, 1994) 18 746-750.
  12. ^ Judith G. Coffin, “Credit, Consumption, and Images of Women’s Desires: Selling the Sewing Machine in Late Nineteenth-Century France.” Historical Studies (Spring, 1994) 18 752
  13. ^ Judith G. Coffin, “Credit, Consumption, and Images of Women’s Desires: Selling the Sewing Machine in Late Nineteenth-Century France.” Historical Studies (Spring, 1994) 18 746-752.
  14. ^ Andrew Godley “Selling the Sewing Machine Around the World: Singers International Marketing Strategies, 1850-1920.” Enterprise and Society (June 2007) 7 269-281.
  15. ^ Miller, Matthew; Clifford, Mark L.; Zegel, Susan (5 August 2002). "Dishonored Dealmaker". Businessweek. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  16. ^ "Old Phototypesetter Tales". 
  17. ^ Gray, Christopher (29 June 1997). "Style Standard for Early Steel-Framed Skyscraper". The New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 

External links[edit]