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The American Sewing Machine Co
Or their full title
The American Button Hole & Overseaming Company of Philadelphia


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 Alex I Askaroff




Alex has spent a lifetime in the sewing industry and is considered one of the foremost experts of pioneering machines and their inventors. He has written extensively for trade magazines, radio, television, books and publications worldwide.


Over the last two decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.


Books by Alex Askaroff



The American Sewing Machine Co
The New American Sewing Machine

The American Buttonhole, Overseaming & Sewing Machine Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The American Sewing Machine Company was founded in Philadelphia towards the end of the American Civil War. The name was a perfect unification to reflect the new United States of America.

The New American Sewing Machine of 1874

Interestingly their first sewing machines boasted an 1850 patent (a year before Isaac Singer produced his sewing machine). This was probably for use of one of the patents from another manufacturer that had been extended, probably Elias Howe or A B Wilson's feed mechanism but I am not positive.

From 1863, for the next 10 years, they regularly patented their own overseaming, sewing machine and button hole machine improvements.


Their fist sewing machine was, as advertised, a button hole type of machine, capable of over seaming or wrapping a thread around an edge to create and cover a seam with a stitch that would not unravel.

The stitch was made by sneakily swivelling the needlebar assembly and I cannot find the patent which is annoying. I must have checked over 1000 patent records that I have and not one on the American Sewing Machine mechanism described. It is possible that the ideas were patented under the owners or inventors names not the company.

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The only patent records I could come across for the American Sewing Machine were for minor improvements like the Franklin Foell patent of 1882 which was for minor improvements to the feed and shuttle of a previous patent by G S Rominger. No big patents I am afraid. The only names I have come up with are those listed above and Harry Smith and Harry Drury.

The New American Sewing Machine Model 6

The New American sewing machine circa 1870, very rare today and similar to the Howe Express.

The American Sewing Machine company were based in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This unique machine had filled a niche in the market, but it was just a niche, a small part of a huge sewing market.

Daniel Furber Nichols


Daniel Furber Nichols became the General Manager of the American Button Hole, Overseaming and Sewing Machine Company after he mustered out of the Civil War.

He had accepted the commission of Captain in Company G, 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery and served in the post-War occupation of the South until 1866. He was honorably discharged on May 20, 1866, one of the very last Civil War volunteer officers to be mustered out.

After the war
Nichols took up residence in Philadelphia, and eventually became general manager of The American Buttonhole, Overseaming and Sewing Machine Company.

By 1869 they were producing lockstitch, overseaming and button hole machines and in 1873 the American Buttonhole and Overseaming Company.

The company were still listing patents in 1882 as The American Buttonhole, Overseaming and Sewing Machine Company of Pennsylvania. Then they became the American B-HO & Sewing Machine Co. and finally they changed to The American Sewing Machine Co.

The American Sewing Machine Co

It was not long before the American Sewing Machine Co produced a normal sewing machine called the New American Sewing Machine.


The American Buttonhole & Sewing Machine Co

the American Sewing Machine Co of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Note the early patent dates but no patent numbers which is frustrating as I cannot track them down....Yet. Note how the patents are far earlier than many people say the company was formed. They may have been using patents under licence from other sewing machine companies which was a common practice around that time.

The American Sewing Machine Co produced a range of attractive and practical sewing machines right up until the later part of the Victorian period. Their range included the Improved American and the High-Arm American, industrial, boot and leather machines. My personal joy is the New American Model 6 hand crank. These are quite rare as most of the machines were treadle not hand.

The American Sewing Machine of 1873

This is the best of the American Sewing Machine range the model 6 and 7

The American Sewing Machine Co exported to Europe and sold machines through agents such as Newton Wilson in London. Apparently the Company had their own offices and storage at Queen Victoria Street, London.

Smithsonian Production Numbers

1-7792 1869

7793 - 22366 1870

22367 - 42488 1871

42489 - 61419 1872

61420 - 75602 1873

75603 - 89132 1874

89133 - 103539 1875

103540 - 121477 1876

What is a dream on the American Sewing Machine model 6 is the fact that they used a shuttle but it took a round bobbin. It was a sort of mix between two cultures the best of both and it worked a treat. People who have used the American Sewing Machine say it sewed a near perfect seam.

An American Sewing Machine still a looker even with hardly any gold left. Imagine what it would have looked like when new.

The American Sewing Machine Model 6. On the bed was a small picture of the impressive factory in Philadelphia. This machine was manufactured for 25 years and bears many similarities to the Wheeler & Wilson Model 8 of the same period.

The American Sewing Machine model 7 had already developed into the standard looking sewing machine shape that was to dominate all sewing machines for decades.

The New American Sewing Machine

You have to be a bit careful as there were several companies using the American on their sewing machines such as Goodrich, National, Weir and New Home. Several were available from the giant Sears mail order company of North America. Even James Weir advertised one of his models as the American Hand Sewing Machine.

The J G Weir American Sewing Machine of 1870 is nothing to do with the American Sewing Machine company.

Watch me on Youtube demonstrating a walking foot Raymond from the same period


This is a link to an early Raymond Walking Foot machine with a clever automatic tension device made in Brattleboro.

The American Sewing Machine Co brought out many patents from 1870 until 1881 but then developments seems to have slowed. The company seems to have disappeared around 1896 but if you have any information on this I would love to hear from you.

On 23 October 1899 Daniel Furber Nichols was fatally injured while riding a bicycle in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Books by Alex Askaroff

The American No 5 sewing machine.

The American No 1 sewing machine from Stephanie Adams



I love to hear from people so drop me a line and let me know what you thought: alexsussex@aol.com.

Also if you have any information to add do let me know.

Alex's Book: Tales from the Coast

Fancy a funny read: Ena Wilf  & The One-Armed Machinist

A brilliant slice of 1940's life: Spies & Spitfires

News Flash!

Alex's books are now on: www.crowsbooks.com

Both books, Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
 are now available instantly on Kindle and iPad.


Books by Alex Askaroff

Alex's stories are now available to keep. Click on the picture for more information.


I am sewing machine technician in South Africa and enjoy reading your pages. You sir have made me proud to be a mechanic. I originally I wanted to be a motor mechanic but could not get a job now I am content.

Thanks once again.
Kind regards
South Africa

I am thrilled to have discovered your web site what a wealth of knowledge, history, and trivia. 
Thanks so much.
Rebecca Grace

Daniel Furber Nichols was my Great Uncle.
Many thanks for your site which provides much useful information.
Best wishes,
Mark Kimball Nichols

Note: Mark provided some great information about D F Nichols for this page. Many thanks Mark.


As a new collector I have found your site has increased my knowledge in a short time to a degree that I couldn't have imagined.
Thank you again for all the useful information you give freely to us.
Kind regards
Brenda P

 Skylark Country

American Sewing Machine Co




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Books by Alex Askaroff