White Sewing Machine

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Trade card, ca 1900

The White Sewing Machine was the first sewing machine from the White Sewing Machine Company.[1] It used a vibrating shuttle bobbin driver design; for that reason, and to differentiate it from the later White models that used a rotary hook design instead, it came to be known as the "White Vibrating Shuttle" or "White VS". In 1879 it cost USD50 to USD125 (USD1097 to USD2744 adjusted) depending on which table or cabinet it was to be mounted in.[2]

There was also a 3/4-sized version called the "White Peerless".

Vibrating shuttle[edit]

Main article: Vibrating shuttle

The White VS was the first production sewing machine to make use of the vibrating shuttle as a bobbin driver and was introduced in the late 1870s and manufactured with additional improvements up until the early 1900s. The White vibrating shuttle works by loading the bobbin into the shuttle by sliding onto the post.



The White VS evolved over time through these versions:

Year Model Shuttle Picture Notes
1876–1882 Model A (VS I) boat
Early White Model A ca1877.jpg
round tension control on upper arm, manual bobbin winder
1882–1886 VS IIa boat ? round tension nut on lower head without dial
1886–1889 VS IIa bullet
1886-1889 White VS IIa Treadle Sewing Machine. Upper tension knob has no dial.
round tension nut on lower head without dial
1889–1892 VS IIb bullet ? round tension nut on lower head without dial
1893–1928 VS III bullet
round tension control on upper head with dial

Portable versions[edit]

White developed a 3/4-sized version for the sake of portability, exactly as Singer was developing the 3/4-sized model VS-3/28/128. It was called the 'Peerless' and its evolution tracked that of its full-sized parent:

Version Based on Picture Notes
Peerless VS I
An early White's Peerless C1885.jpg
tensioner mounted on upper arm like the VS I
White Peerless VS IIa or IIb ? tensioner mounted on lower head like the VS IIa and IIb
New White Peerless VS III
three variants produced—A, B, and C – differing in case and hand-crank.


Gem Unique design.
White Gem Sewing Machine from about 1886
very small, and very different from the VS and Peerless

Shuttle changes[edit]

The first versions of the White Sewing Machine [4] used a "boat" shuttle that was comparable to those used in contemporary transverse shuttle machines. In 1886 the shuttle was changed to a bullet shape, with a thin rod in the interior upon which the bobbin rotates. The change was probably prompted by the bullet shuttle used in the new Singer Vibrating Shuttle machine, invented the year before, itself a derivative of the White machine. Still later, the shuttle was refined again for the Peerless machines.

Version Shuttle Part number
85 (body), 94 (bobbin)[5]
282 (body), 321 (bobbin)[6]
VS III original shuttle used 1893-1900 349 (assembly), 321 (bobbin)[7]
"New Shuttle" used 1900 onward
New White Peerless shuttle
1554 (assembly), 321 (bobbin)[8]

Badged variants[edit]

White produced VS machines under several different badges, in addition to the Peerless. These included 'Franklin' (same name as a Singer model 27 clone produced later), 'Mason D', 'Minnesota E', and 'Queen'.


Page from White company literature

D'Arcy Porter and George W. Baker designed the machine and are named as inventors on most of the six[9] original US patents, dated 1876–1877, that cover it.[10] The company literature would later look back adoringly on them, calling them "two of [White's] best mechanics" who had "perfected a new type of sewing machine, far superior to anything then on the market".[11] The use of the word 'perfected' is a hat-tip to Allen B. Wilson, who invented the vibrating shuttle 26 years earlier.

At the time of its development, the machine was the White Sewing Machine Company's flagship product—so much so that it was simply named the "White Sewing Machine". Only later it was called the "White Vibrating Shuttle", when a rotary hook model named the White Family Rotary was added to the product line.


  1. ^ "Grand Opening", Cleveland Herald 1878-12-26, reprinted in "Ready Reference Atlas and Almanac" (1879) published by the White Sewing Machine Company, retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2340015160062576881vAqgMC
  2. ^ "Ready Reference Atlas and Almanac" (1879), "Retail Price List" (page 23), published by the White Sewing Machine Company, retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2128230540062576881kTLrhk
  3. ^ "Directions for Using the New White Peerless Sewing Machine", differential parts lists on last pages
  4. ^ Sewing machine reviews - advice and tips on all sewing machines
  5. ^ "Illustrations and Directions for Using the White Sewing Machine and Its Attachments", retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/1315547793062576881METksM
  6. ^ "Directions for Using the White Sewing Machine and Its Attachments, Book 4, page 13, retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/1344660556062576881TAFMYJ
  7. ^ "Instructions for Using the White Sewing Machine, page 13, retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/1320111828062576881dmDmlp
  8. ^ "Directions for Using the New White Peerless Sewing Machine", parts list on last page, retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2767179300062576881sGuTAu
  9. ^ The White Sewing Machine's patents include 174703 (drivetrain and shuttle arm), 188537 (vibrating shuttle), 188767 (drivetrain), and 194067 (stop-motion device)
  10. ^ Grace Rogers Cooper, The Invention of the Sewing Machine (1968), retrieved 2010-08-05 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/32677/32677.txt
  11. ^ "Since 1876 - A Few Facts about the White Sewing Machine Company" (1941)), retrieved 2010-08-05 from the Smithsonian Museum at http://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollections/Trade-Literature/Sewing-Machines/NMAHTEX/0596/imagepages/image1.htm