Thursday, November 10, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: Mary Frances Davis's Singer

Treasure Chest Thursday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that focuses on a family heirloom or everyday item of importance to the family. 

This is my great-grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine.  Since Mary Frances Jollett Davis was my mother’s favorite grandmother, she always intended to do something special with it.  As it turns out, she never did, and so the sewing machine sat in the garage for years while other things just got piled on top. 

Now I have it.  Quite honestly, it’s both a treasure and an annoyance.  “Annoyance” because it has become a home to piles of “stuff.”  Like mother, like daughter.  “Treasure” because well, shoot, how many people own something that belonged to their great-grandmother?  For that alone, I can’t send it to Goodwill or eBay.  As with most of my treasures, they don’t fetch much for the ol’ pocketbook anyway.  One exactly like it on eBay is listed for only $250.

But look closely at how beautiful these old machines were and ARE.  The base is like decorative scrollwork in iron.

Notice the intricate patterns in the face plate:

According to a “Machine Dating” chart online, Mary Frances’s machine was built in 1921.  It’s called a “Red Head” or “Red Eye” machine because of the beautiful red and gold ornamentation. 

Mary Frances must have eased and pushed and shoved a lot of fabric through here over the years to wear away the finish.  Most of these models did not have a reverse.  I guess hers didn't either. So far, I don’t see any reverse button that I’m familiar with on modern sewing machines. 

I wonder what she was making with this last spool of thread.

I hope that one day one of my daughters will be thrilled to own her great-great-grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine.  And then maybe one day I will have a granddaughter who will look at that machine and proclaim, “It was my great-great-GREAT-grandmother’s sewing machine.  I remember seeing that thing in my grandmother’s den.  It was always covered with piles of paper.”


  1. You are hilarious! A future little Calypso Rose will adore the sewing machine! LOL

  2. I hope you do have a granddaughter who will treasure this machine. The design on the machine is so pretty!

  3. If I saw this post in 2011, the most I did was admire the machine. I'm looking at the post now because you mentioned it in a recent post about your grandmother's heirlooms. Now I can identify with this old Singer because a month or so ago I found a similar one at the thrift store and bought it for $20.00. It appeared to work while we were at the store but when I brought it home and threaded it, I found that the upper tension is in very bad shape. It's really dirty, too. Even though the finish may be worn on your machine, it seems that your grand took good care of it. At least it still sews! Thanks for sharing the photos and story.