The bulk of the collection consists of renderings of sewing machines and related products by industrial designers such as Henry Dreyfuss, Robert P. Gersin, Eliot Noyes, and Malcolm S. Park; by designers of Singer's in-house design department; and by consultants to the firm. Materials include decals, photographs, negatives, patents, and renderings and sketches. This collection documents the influence of industrial design on Singer sewing machines as well as other household products such as vacuum cleaners.
Scope and Contents:
The bulk of the collection consists of drawings by industrial designers such as Henry Dreyfuss, Robert P. Gersin, Eliot Noyes, and Malcolm Park; by designers of Singer's in-house design department; and by consultants to the firm. These materials show the influence of industrial design on Singer machines.
Series 1, Photographs, 1927-1979, is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1, Editorial Department, 1927-1979; Subseries 2, Competitors, undated; and Subseries 3, Miscellaneous, 1977 and undated.
Subseries 1, Editorial Department, 1927-1979, consists of camera-ready art presumably for catalogs and advertising created by the editorial department at Singer Manufacturing. The photographs are black-and-white (8" x 10") and depict "cut away" views of the internal workings of Singer sewing machines before the casing was put on the machine. When the machines are not Singer, it is noted. The model number is provided, and the photographs are arranged chronologically.
Subseries 2, Competitors, undated, consists of images depicting mostly competitor sewing machines that are mounted on pages with captions. The images are black-and-white (2" x 2") and include companies such as Adler, Bernina, Elgin, Juki, Meister, Necchi, Sewmaid, Veritas, and Zundapp. The series is arranged alphabetically by manufacturer name.
Subseries 3, Miscellaneous, 1977 and undated, consists of black-and-white and color photographs (8" x 10" or smaller) for the 560 machine and a sewing cabinet.
Series 2, Decalcomania, undated, consists of one album of decal samples and loose decal/transfer cards created for Singer sewing machines and other sewing machine companies. Decalcomania is a decorative technique by which engravings and prints are transferred to other materials, such as the body of a sewing machine. Today, the use of the word "decal" is more widely used.
Some of the decals are on tracing paper, tin, and poster board. Some are in color with floral designs, and the size and style of font vary. Other decals include patent marks, the name "Singer Manufacturing Company," "Singer," oil level, and there are custom decals for specific sewing machine companies such as the Camel Sewing Machine Company, Ltd.
The decals are arranged numerically by transfer numbers, and there are two distinct groups of decal design/transfer cards. One group is numbered 63 to 141 (not inclusive) with the majority of the designs in color; the other set of decal cards is arranged in an unbound portfolio book numbered 1 to 41. Many of the decal/transfer cards have additional information about which machine or class of machines the transfer was designed for. For example, transfer #316 was used for the 99-13 machine. Machine 99-13 is also labeled with a sticker titled "SD-37." Presumably this indicates that the decal was Singer design number 37. If a decal was cancelled this is noted with a date.
Series 3, Industrial Designers' Materials, 1936-1983, consists of industrial designers and is divided into twelve subseries: Subseries 1, Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1964-1978; Subseries 2, Robert P. Gersin Associates, Inc., 1980-1983; Subseries 3, Industrial Design Group and Industrial Design Laboratory, 1970-1975; Subseries 4, Innovations and Development, Inc., circa 1977-1979; Subseries 5, Leo Jiranek, circa 1960-1964; Subseries 6, Monte L. Levin, 1961-1962; Subseries 7, Mezey Macowski, 1967-1969; Subseries 8, Eliot Noyes, 1969, 1978; Subseries 9, Malcolm S. Park, 1936-1978; Subseries 10, Schmitz, 1973; Subseries 11, Eric Schneider, 1980. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries 1, Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1964-1978, consists of storyboards and renderings (20" x 25" or smaller) in ink, colored pencils and crayon for sewing machines and sewing machine carrying cases. Many of the renderings are preliminary. The subseries is arranged sequentially by assigned drawings numbers designated "D." Drawing D18 is heavily annotated on the reverse side
Subseries 2, Robert P. Gersin Associates, Inc., 1980-1983, consists of twenty drawings mounted on foam core board for various sewing machine concepts from 1980-1983. Many of the drawings depict side and front elevations. Gersin (1929-1989) was an award-winning industrial designer. He founded Robert P. Gersin Associates, Inc., in 1959 and worked on a wide range of designs, including interiors, products and corporate identity programs. In 1984 the company designed the logotype and corporate identity program for Sears, Roebuck & Company, and in 1988 it designed the interior for Casual Corner stores.
Subseries 3, Industrial Design Group and Industrial Design Laboratory, 1970-1975, consists of renderings ( 20 1/2" x 26") and storyboards (15" x 20") created by the the Singer Technical Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The majority of the work is stamped with "Industrial Design Group" or "Industrial Design Laboratory." The storyboards consist of color photographs mounted to poster board and depict a variety of sewing machines, a hand stitcher, and electric pinking scissors. The majority of renderings are not attributed to a specific designer, but some were drawn by designer W. Current.
Subseries 4, Innovations and Development, Inc., circa 1977-1979, consists of renderings created by consultants to Singer Manufacturing of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The renderings are ink on tracing paper (19" x 24") and they are not numbered or dated.
Subseries 5, Leo Jiranek, circa 1960-1964, consists of three drawings (19 1/2" x 24") for a 1964 World's Fair house and World's Fair chair. Jiranek (1900-1990) was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He graduated from Princeton University in 1922 and went to work for Turner Construction Company. In 1924 he took over his father's furniture design business. Considered by many to be the "Dean of Furniture Designers," one of the industry's first freelancers, he contributed to more furniture companies than any other designer, including Magnavox, Thomasville, Ethan Allen, Kroehler, Haywood Wakefield, The Lane Co., Bassett, Broyhill and Garrison. In the 1960s, Jiranek founded and was president of the Jiranek School of Furniture Design and Technology in New York City.
Subseries 6, Monte L. Levin, 1961-1962, was an industrial designer who founded Monte Levin Associates in 1945. The renderings (18 1/2" x 22" or smaller) are ink on tracing paper and depict Singer sewing machine cases.
Subseries 7, Mezey Macowski, 1967-1969, consists of seven (14" x 16 1/2") ink- colored drawings depicting a sewing table.
Subseries 8, Eliot Noyes, 1969, 1978, consists of two colored ink on vellum renderings of electric scissors. Noyes (1910-1977) was an American architect and industrial designer who worked on projects for IBM. The renderings for Singer sewing machines (A-E) were done by Gordon Bruce while at Eliot Noyes Industrial Design, Inc.
Subseries 9, Malcolm S. Park, 1936-1978, consists of a 130-page portfolio depicting Park's (1905-1991)work as an industrial designer for Singer Manufacturing Company. The pages are 13" x 16" and materials are mounted on the pages with captions. In some instances, materials have come loose. The types of materials include, patents, patent drawings, ephemera, correspondence, renderings, advertising, photographs for sewing machines, sewing machine cabinets, irons, buttonholers, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, timers, clocks, and stitching attachments.
Subseries 10, Schmitz, 1973, consists of one drawing (17 1/2" x 21") for a portable sewing machine called the Easy Egg.
Subseries 11, Eric Schneider, 1980, consists of six ink on tracing papers renderings (17" x 23") for sewing machines.
Subseries 12, Unknown Designers, undated, consists of two renderings (18" x 23") for sewing machines with parts labeled in German and renderings (12" x 16") depicting views of sewing systems, household items, and storage systems. Some of the items include sewing machines, vacuums, cash registers, canisters, intercoms, alarms, and fire and smoke detectors.
Series 4, Design Patents, 1936-1980, is divided into four subseries: Subseries 1, United States Design Patents, 1936-1980; and Subseries 2, Foreign Design Patents, 1961-1968. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
Subseries 1, United States Design Patents, 1936-1980 consists of design patents that were assigned to the Singer Manufacturing Company by the inventors, Adam Baker Barnhart, Herbert S. Barnhart, Henry Dreyfuss, Christian Julian Felix, Russell A. Fritts, Donald M. Genaro, Hans Hacklander, Lloyd G. Kent, Jr., Monte L. Levin, Abbot Lutz, Michael McCann, L.C. Marsac, Charles F. Neagle, Malcolm S. Park, W. J. Peets, Robert E. Redman, Edgar P. Turner, Julian U. Von der Lancken, Tobin Wolf, Thaddeus J. Zylbert.
The majority of the patents are in patent jackets which were maintained by the Singer Manufacturing Company Patent Department. Patent jackets or patent folders are typically pre-printed with standard information such as patent number, actions, references, assignment, application serial number, and fee paid. This permitted easier documentation for the patent department. The jackets contain correspondence with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, foreign patent and trademark offices, as well as the inventor/designer, company attorneys and other company officials; drawings; photographs; newspaper clippings, and a sample of embroidery stitching. The three-way folders (10" x 15") are designed to house all of the legal documentation about the patenting process. In some instances, patents were abandoned, and this is noted. Additional file jackets include those for foreign applications and patents corresponding with United States application serial numbers. These pre-printed jackets contain the names of countries (such as Great Britain, Brazil, Italy, Japan and Sweden) where Singer Manufacturing was filing for design protection.
The majority of the design patents are for sewing machines and sewing machine cases, but there are some designs for vacuum cleaners, electric scissors, an embroidery attachment, a floor polishing machine, a display stand for needles, and a statuette. For example, the statuette was used as an award in the Singer World Stylemaker Contest and was intended to represent anyone that a person desires as well as signifying the craft of home sewing with an unrolled bolt of cloth draped around the statuette. The United States Design Patents are arranged numerically by design patent number, and the foreign design patents are arranged alphabetically by country, then numerically by patent number.
Subseries 2, Foreign, 1961-1968, consists of foreign design patents from the Congo, England, France and Italy.
Series 5, Utility Patents for Henry Dreyfuss, 1961-1965, is divided into two subseries, Subseries 1, United States Utility Patents, 1964-1965 and Subseries 2, Foreign Utility Patents, 1961-1964. Utility patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. The United States and foreign utility patents are issued to industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss.
Series 6, Posters, 1985, consists of two posters from the National Museum of American History's exhibit titled "Industrial Design, An American Case History." The exhibit ran from July 24, 1985 to September 30, 1985.
Series 7, Miscellaneous, 1980, consists of a North Atlantic Consumer Products Group Research and Development Department report about the combination carrying case for 400/500K and 250/362m Series flat bed machines. The report contains project specifications and photographs.
The collections is divided into seven series.
Series 1, Photographs, 1927-1979
Subseries 1, Editorial Department, 1927-1979
Subseries 2, Competitors, undated
Subseries 3, Miscellaneous, 1977 and undated
Series 2, Decalcomania, undated
Series 3, Industrial Designers' Materials, 1936-1983
Subseries 1, Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1962-1978
Subseries 2, Robert P. Gersin Associates, Inc., 1980-1983
Subseries 3, Industrial Design Group and Industrial Laboratory, 1970-1975
Subseries 4, Innovations and Development, Inc., circa 1977-1979
Subseries 5, Leo Jiranek, circa 1960-1964
Subseries 6, Monte L. Levin, 1961-1962
Subseries 7, Mezey Macowski, 1967-1969
Subseries 8, Eliot Noyes, 1969, 1978
Subseries 9, Malcom S. Park, 1936-1978
Subseries 10, Schmitz, 1973
Subseries 11, Eric Schneider, 1980
Subseries 12, Unknown designers, undated
Series 4, Design Patents, 1936-1980
Subseries 1, United States Design Patents, 1936-1980
Subseries 2, Foreign Design Patents, 1961-1968
Series 5, Utility Patents for Henry Dreyfuss, 1961-1965
Subseries 1, United States Utility Patents, 1964-1965
Subseries 2, Foreign Utility Patents, 1961-1964
Series 6, Posters, 1985
Series 7, Miscellaneous, 1970
Biographical / Historical:
In 1851, I.M. Singer and Company, with headquarters in New York, was founded by inventor Isaac Merrit Singer and businessman/lawyer Edward Clark. In 1863 the business was incorporated as the Singer Manufacturing Company. After 1867 the company became the dominant firm in the industry despite the fact that it sold more expensive products than any of its competitors. Business expanded in the United States and abroad while designers focused their efforts on making mechanical improvements in the machines in the last half of the nineteenth century. America's industrial design profession emerged during the Great Depression and began to influence the design of the sewing machine. Many compnaies mass-produced technological goods and designers began to play a crucial role in American industry. After the Stock Market crash of 1929 and during the Great Depression, goods were made to look more attractive and increase sales. Many firms, such as Singer Manufacturing Company, employed industrial designers as consultants. Other industrial designers established their own firms and agencies.
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Sewing Machines (AC0060)
Landor Design Collection, circa 1930-1994 (AC0500)
Francis M. Mair Papers, circa 1938-1990 (AC0548)
Freda Diamond Collection, 1945-1984 (AC0616)
Lucian Bernhard Advertising Art Collection, 1920s-2000 (AC1161)
Materials in Other Organizations
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Belle Kogan papers, 1920-1986
Philip McConnell typescripts, [circa 1957]
Arthur J. Pulos papers, 1935-[circa 1980s] (bulk 1947-1960)
Oral history interview with Arthur J. Pulos, 1980 July 31-1982 December 5
Oral history interview with Wendell Castle, 1981 June 3-December 12
The Newberry Library, Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections
Singer Manufacturing Company Records, 1861-1871
Wisconsin Historical Society
Singer Manufacturing Company Records, 1850-circa 1975
The Singer Company of Fairfield, New Jersey donated the collection on July 17, 1985.
The collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.