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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Sewing was livelihood for several area residents
By Dolores Hislop

The art of machine sewing is enjoyed by many people and this article will review the history of the sewing machine and its involvement with the people of Paynesville.

A London mechanic of German origin named Weisenthal took out a patent on July 24, 1750, for an embroidery machine. This machine used needles pointed at each end and with an eye in the middle and a thread carrier. This appears to have been the first invention of a mechanism to take the place of the hand and needle at least the first recorded attempt.

The sewing machine patent was given to Thomas Saint on July 17, 1790. Saint was an English cabinet maker. It had a crude stitching device for forming a chain stitch.

In 1830, a Frenchman named Barthelmy Thimmonier invented a chain stitch machine. He has the distinction of having produced the first machine whose purpose was to sew clothes and it used a pressure foot.

Walter Hunt was a machinist in New York who invented a machine that had an eye near the point and he sold his idea to a man named Arrowsmith, a blacksmith. This idea was covered by a patent issued to Elias Howe in 1846.

Elias Howe in 1846 patented the first machine to be successful enough to come into general use and was the first invention that used two threads.

A machine was patented by John Bachelder in 1849 which was the first to use a horizontal table with a continuous feeding device that would sew any length of seam.

Allen Wilson and Wheeler, in 1850-1851, joined together to market a device invented by both men who improved the machine together.

By a coincidence, Isaac M. Singer also took out a patent in 1851. His machine was a straight needle that worked at the end of a stationary overhanging arm and the feed part of the machine was a roughened wheel.

Singer received many patents for improving the machine 11 including improvements on the lock stitch, three for the lock stitch vibrating machine, a tension device, an embroiderer, a binder, a ruffler, a tucker, and a sewing machine having an oscillating shuttle.

He also adopted his ideas with others, as the combination of the rotary shaft in the overhanging arm and a rocking treadle. Both are used in sewing machine construction.

The men and ladies of Paynesville used sewing machines for making clothes, fixing and patching clothing, and making items for their homes. Patterns were used to construct the garments. Dressmak-ers were also employed by residents of the area. Three well-known dressmakers were Charlotte Olson, Tillie Andrews, and Amelia Schultz.

Amelia Schultz went to a dressmaking school at Richmond. She was a dressmaker who often stayed at a house for a time and made clothes for the family members.

Charlotte Olson sewed clothing for many residents and was well- known as a good seamstress.

Tillie Andrews began making clothing for others during the Depression years of the 1930s. Patterns and material were purchased and brought to her. She constructed the garments in her home.

The patterns used by sewers were different from what we have today. The early patterns on display at the museum are made of heavier paper.

One pattern maker was W. R. Williams, a manufacturer from Lawrence, Kan. His patterns were called The Perfection Tailor System of Dress Cutting. It was perfected in 1879 and improved to 1895. It shows a system of holes to designate size and can be used for various sized persons.

The New Joy Tailor System patterns were made by E. Marcus Reynolds from Chicago, Ill. They were of a heavier paper but incorporated the look of today's pattern.

At this time there are three sewing machines on display at the museum The Minnesota brand machine that was used by Charlotte Olson and the Wheeler and Wilson of Ada Wandersee's mother. The third machine is the Howe, which has a brass embossing of Elias Howe on the machine and was made in 1872. It was the most popular machine of its period and made from 1867 to 1880. This machine features Mother of Pearl inlays which is a unique quality and makes it a very special attraction. Edward Shoultz donated the treasured sewing machine to the museum and guests remark on the age, beauty, and its good condition.

You are invited to see the sewing room display when you visit the museum. The museum is scheduled to close for the season on Aug. 31; however, curator Bertha Zniewski can be contacted at 320-243-4433 for more information on the museum.

Thank you for supporting the museum this summer by visiting, bringing items to display, and donating your time and money to keep the museum a vital and interesting place for people to enjoy. Char and I have enjoyed working in your museum this summer.