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Remington Sewing Machine

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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 world wide.

 

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.

See Alex Askaroff on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mJYS44Vc8c&list=UL
 

 
 

Remington Sewing Machines
Broadway, New York


An early Remington revolver circa 1858. One of the finest hand guns made.

 

Many of you will know the famous Remington business as one of the United States oldest gun makers but they also other items from typewriters to sewing machines (even Agatha Christie used one). Remington is still one of the largest firearms producers in America. Remington products can be bought world-wide including the ever popular Stren fishing tackle.

In 1937 Remington went into the production of superb shavers which they still supply today.

However what we are concerned about on Sewalot is a period in their history when they diversified into sewing machines.

Founded by Eliphalet Remington in 1816. First based in Ilion Gulch at his fathers forge and then in Ilion, New York, the business grew, as did the family, becoming E. Remington & Sons.

Moving closer to the Erie Canal in 1828 allowed for easier shipping from the foundry. Unfortunately Eli Senior was accidently killed while moving to the new premises.

Above you will see one of the very early flintlocks, aim, close the eyes and fire. The smoke they produced filled the battlefields!

Relocating to Mohawk Valley in 1828 the company concentrated on perfecting their rifle barrels at their new forge. Ilion Gorge, New York, is still used by Remington today.

During the early pioneering days of America the gun business boomed, then in 1861 came the blood and guts of the American Civil War. Gun producers had a field day and business was great.

However between all wars there is peace and by 1865 there was a sudden drop in demand for firearms.

The company had to diversify to survive, there was not the hobby culture of today and certainly no gun clubs! Remington looked around at the market to see what they could produce.

 


Sewing machines were the natural choice when arms sales were slow exactly as Vickers, Husqvarna and countless others had done. Every house needed a sewing machine so the demand was huge.

During this period the company tried many new ventures including 100, 25 horsepower Baxter steam-cars. The Baxter steam canal barges. Well they were in the right place for those eh! Remington made at least 100 early bicycles called velocipedes and were credited for founding the American cycle industry. Not bad eh!

Their superb mass production engineering skills could make anything that would sell and the factory was booming.

The list goes on, pumps, pill dispenser machines, lathes, cigar making machines even burglar alarms! Did they include their firearms in the burglar deterrent? Run for your lives the house is protected by a Remington Alarm! Bang...too late.

All this diversifying kept their factory and workers busy in peacetime. Now onto our sewing machines...

Around 1869 the Remington Company initiated talks with the Empire Sewing Machine Co and in October 1870 the paperwork was formally exchanged.

Empire Sewing Machine Co

The Empire Sewing Machine Co of New York, had been a reasonably successful sewing machine firm based in New York. Starting just about the same time as the Civil War. By 1861 they had three machines in their range. The Empire No I Lockstitch and continuing with the Improved Empire and Empire Model 3. Except for their first chain stitch model, they were all basic lock-stitch machines.

The patent dates and serial number were stamped on the front needle plate. Around 15,000 no 1 machines were made and around 12,000 Improved Empire's.


The Remington No I mother of pearl fiddlebase from 1871. Was this an Empire made machine?

There is also evidence of a paw-foot Empire from the 1860's. It is possible that this was the first Empire machine and may even pre date their 1860 models. It could have been made by them or bought in from manufacturers like Shaw & Clark but sold under the Empire name while they were setting up their own production line.

This was a chain-stitch machine unlike all the other shuttle lock-stitch models they made.


The Empire Sewing Machine circa 1859-1863

The Empire machines were beautifully finished some with mother-of-pearl inlay and hand painted flowers around a black enamel base and gold transfers.

The Remington Empire
Sewing Machine Co

The Empire Company sold out to Remington in 1870, their best year. That year they produced 8,702 sewing machines. The company became the Remington Empire Sewing Machine Company from 1870-1873 then the Remington Sewing Machine Agency from 1874-1902

The Remington Sewing Machine Agency

But Remington was also looking elsewhere for more products to make and sell in peacetime.

In 1873 Remington also started making typewriters. Using their mass-production techniques they could make and sell the typewriters at affordable prices.

I believe their first typewriter was designed by Christopher Sholes and Carl Glidden. The name Type-Writer was thought up by Sholes. Remington purchased the rights to manufacture and away they went.

The Remington Qwerty Typewriter

To avoid the keys jamming Sholes and Glidden arranged the letters in the QWERTY system that we still see today. Their first machines printed in capitals letters only!

Now the company was making arms, sewing machines and typewriters. The latter was new technology that most of the world had yet to see or use.

It was a brilliant stroke of genius to incorporate some of the castings of the first typewriters into the sewing machines, they both utilised the same cast iron treadle base.


Remington sales, 281 & 283 Broadway New York

And so in 1876 the Remington No I Typewriter was born. I will touch on the typewriters as they are part of the story and then I'll get back to the sewing machines. Be patient, this has taken me months to research. Just sit back and read on!



The Remington NoI typewriter circa 1876. Note the stand which was the same as used on the treadle sewing machines.

The Remington Arms Company

Marketed as the Remington Arms Co No I Typewriter it took the world by storm. Remington had their head European office in London at 50-54 Queen Victoria Street London East Centre.

 

They advertised their new machine as the model to supersede the pen! How fabulous was that. Luckily Mr Biro, many years later, ignored them!

 



An early Remington No1 Typewriter

The Type-Writer was a huge success. However, what with wars springing up everywhere, the company decided to concentrate on its arms and in 1886 sold the typewriter side of its business.

The typewriters then became Remington Brand machines. They leave our story.


 

Remington Sewing Machines


The Remington Empire Sewing Machine circa 1870. Not to be confused with the New Empire machine of 1891, made by Foley & Williams Mfg. Co of Chicago and Cincinnati.

Now lets look at the Remington Sewing Machines. By 1870 Remington was still using the Empire name (the sewing machine company they bought out) on its own sewing machines. Their marketing was fierce. It had to be it was up against the giants of the day. Wheeler & Wilson, Willcox & Gibbs and off course the biggest of the all Singer. In 1865 Singer had brought out their superb model 12 which was the first of the really good sewing machines of the period.
 

Remington had their general office at 281 Broadway in New York (not far from Singers) with offices in Howard Street and Baltimore Road. By 1873 they had dropped the Empire name.

Now the big difference between the machines was that Remington, with their huge experience in mass production, managed to make and sell their lock-stitch for only $20, far below some of their competitors.

In the summer of 1874 Remington brought out the Remington No 2 treadle machine with a drop-leaf table. The most expensive model retailed at over $70 if you had the optional side-drawers.

One of their machines won the only sewing machine award at the Cincinnati exhibition and another award at Atlanta. Along with their countless medals for their firearms Remington was building itself a name that was synonymous with quality and reliability.

Remington sold there basic model with many extras and additions. You could have a basic treadle or one with drawers down one side or both. If you were wealthy or had a nice rich aunt you could go for the super-deluxe walnut enclosed cabinet costing nearly double the basic machine price.

Most Remington machines from 1870 were marked with a circular Remington badge in the middle of the sewing bed of the machine.

Advertised as the machine with no equal the Remington machines sold in their thousands. The company had the benefit of their quality name in firearms to help sell their sewing machines.

Apparently during The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that burned from Sunday October 8 to early Tuesday October 10 destroying around four square miles in Chicago, one of the Remington factories was destroyed. The fire was one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century

Strangely Remington never managed the same success as the company they bought out, Empire. In their best year Remington still only produced 25,000 machine. That was 1875. Really by then they should have been producing double that. From 1875 production gradually fell. The death knell was ringing for Remington sewing machines.


The Remington 5T used at Bletchley Park during WW2 to help crack the Enigma Code.


The Remington portable No7 used by Agatha Christie on her travels and at Greenway, her summer home.

The greatest triumph in typewriter history since the invention of the writing machine, The Remington Qwerty Keyboard


This is a 1910 advert which I came across in a Lincoln museum

By the the end of the First World War Remington had removed themselves from typewriters and decided to concentrate primarily on firearms manufacture. This coincided with a huge recession in North America where domestic sales slumped.

However long before this time in 1894, they had already downsized their sewing machines. All good things come to an end. A massive increase in the production of firearms at that time led to the decision to concentrate on their main market and drop the sewing machines altogether.


The Remington 33 or 83 model fiddlebase to compete with the best selling Singer of the period, basically similar to the model 3 with a few minor updates. The failure of the company to invest in modern updated sewing machines signalled the end for them.


This is the Remington Model 3 sewing machine circa 1880. It had two main patents on it one from February 1872 and a second from July 1879.

In 1896 production of treadles stopped. Possibly the foundry was modernised for arms. From 1896 Remington continued with hand cranks only which were mostly exported.

In the 1902 Remington firearms catalogue they were still listing sewing machines but this is the last reference I have come across.

And so the Remington sewing machine history comes to a close. By the end of production in 1902 as many as 75,000 sewing machines had been made. Some still survive today and the early models fetch great money and are prized amongst serious collectors.

Really, talking about Remington we should have finished with a BANG!

The End...Almost.

One final point. During the late 1950's the Remington name was reborn and put onto an imported modern machine, basically a copy of a Singer 15 and a few far-eastern zig-zag machines. These machines have nothing to do with the early Remington machines made in America.


Later Remington sewing machines circa 1960. These models were made in Japan and elsewhere using the old Remington name but are not connected with the early Remington sewing machines. Great machines though, tough and reliable, perfect for heavy work if you come across one second hand somewhere.

Books by Alex Askaroff
 

                Paperback copy UK                   Europe & UK Amazon digital download         US Amazon digital download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the digital instant download via Amazon click on the books above, the left book is the hard copy UK.

 

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.
 

 
  Well that's it, I do hope you enjoyed my work. I spend countless hours researching and writing these pages and I love to hear from people so drop me a line and let me know what you thought: alexsussex@aol.com

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

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


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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mJYS44Vc8c&list=UL

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

      

 

Hello Mr Askaroff
Thanks for you web site on Remington Sewing machines.  I have my G. Grandfather's Remington No. 3 sewing machine and had looked forever trying to find out something on it. Can you imagine my surprise today, when I found your Website? 
Thanks again,
Wilma Cox

 

 

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