September 2, 2011

Part 2- Getting the 411 on Your Vintage Lady: Who She Is, Where She's From, Her Age (GASP!) and More (Non-Singer Edition)

Finding loads of information on my Singers was easy, but two of the machines that followed me home last weekend weren't any brand I'd heard of.  New Home?  Jones?  No clue.  To teh interwebs!

 My New Home comes complete with a treadle!  I just need a new belt.

 The New Home close up

I started off looking for a serial number.  There wasn't an obvious one like the Singers.  I looked all over the darn thing and finally found the only thing that could be a serial number on the bobbin cover slide plate.

I searched through many of the sites I mentioned in yesterday's blog and was lucky enough to find a few entries about New Home on the ISMACS website.   Their page on New Home serial numbers is here.  If the number on the slide plate is indeed the serial number, then this lady was made in 1919.  The slide plate also bears the following inscription:  "New Home" S.M. Co. Orange, Mass U.S.A.  A quick check of another ISMACS page covering the company's history verified that the New Home factory was indeed located in Orange, Massachusetts during the year this machine was made.  So far so good!

Until I tried to find a manual that is.  ISMACS has a page here with some New Home manuals, but my excitement didn't last long.  Their manuals cover machines with rotary type bobbins, and a quick check under the slide plate of my machine revealed something I'd never seen before- 

The heck???

More frantic searching revealed that this machine uses a vibrating shuttle to carry a long, thin bobbin spool.  You can see photos of this type of bobbin assembly and get a lesson on how to wind and load them here (his is for a singer, but they look very similar).  So now what?  

The Smithsonian to the rescue!  The Smithsonian has collected a vast amount of literature concerning American made sewing machines and has made much of it available through a searchable online database here.  There are manuals, trade cards, catalogs, warranties and more!  Many of their items haven't been scanned yet, so they're only described.  However, they seem to have made special effort to get the manuals in their possession scanned; I was able to view pdfs of at least one manual for every brand of machine I looked for (well, except the Jones, but that's because she's British).  They had only one New Home manual that was for a slightly different model of machine, but it is very similar to mine and includes the same type of bobbin shuttle so I'm calling it close enough.

Satisfied by what I'd managed to gather so far, I confidently turned to researching my last vintage machine, the Jones.

Sadly, she's missing her treadle.  It was broken when the antique dealer's van blew a tire, causing 
another piece to slam into it.  I'm keeping my eye out for another treadle base for it.

The serial number is prominently displayed in the same location as the Singers; on the right hand front side of the bed.  The beautiful decals elegantly proclaim that this machine was made in England.

The bobbin cover plate even helpfully reads "PAT. OCT. 4TH, 1889, No 15597". 

Even more ornate decoration proudly proclaims that it is a "Spool" model.  With all this wealth of information already handed to me, surely I'd be able to date the machine and find a manual!  Off I went to search...

...and I came up with almost nothing.  Oh sure, I found some histories of the company here and here, but my efforts to date the machine or find a manual came up dry.  I couldn't even track down the patent.  The Smithsonian sewing machine literature collection was no help; they've only got records pertaining to American machines.  I found a manual for a Jones Family C.S. model, but its thread path is very different than the Spool and it uses the vibrating shuttle mentioned earlier.  My Jones has a round side loading bobbin.

I pulled her out of the cabinet and removed the slide plate so you can see the bobbin housing

I finally found this minimalist set of instructions for the Spool at the ISMACS site.  It's super short, but it will do!  How I missed it in the first place is a mystery. 

Somewhere along the line (don't recall where) I stumbled across a page that mentioned that all the records pertaining to the serial numbers of these machines were destroyed by one of the Jones brothers.  If this is indeed true, it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to date this machine exactly.  But while I was browsing through the few private collections and museum pieces I found I began to suspect this gal was older than any of my other machines.  By comparing her serial number to those of other Jones Spool machines that have dates associated with them I found that this machine was likely made in the early 1890's.  Whoa!  

Further supporting that theory is the fact that the words "Her Royal Approval", "Royal Approval Queen Alexandra" or "as supplied to HRH Queen Alexandra" do not appear anywhere on my machine.  According to various histories, the Jones brothers received a testimonial approved by the Princess of Wales lauding the performance of their machines.  They got permission to mark future machines with references to the Princess (later Queen).  So far as I understand, all of their machines, no matter the model, bore some variation of the Royal Approval inscription from the mid 1890's on.  You can see an example of one type of inscription on the shoulder of this machine, surrounding the "Family C.S." decal.  Since mine doesn't have any mention of royalty anywhere on it, it supports the theory that it was made in the early 1890's.  

The last bit of supporting evidence is the center rose decal on the machine bed.  The rose design appears to have been used on early versions of the Spool and Family C.S. models, but was quickly replaced by a medallion style decal.  

None of this conclusively proves anything, but the more evidence I accumulate, the more sure I can be when guessing when my machine might have been made.  I've got some more poking around through museum collections and digging up of histories to do, but hopefully I will eventually be able to say with some confidence that my Jones is a late Victorian sewing machine!

To date other types of machines or find their manuals, check out these links- Manufacture dates for Wilcox & Gibbs machines The Smithsonian's collection of sewing machine literature.  Find manuals here.  Large index of sewing machine brands and related things Fantastic searchable site with loads of information on all sorts of machines.  Try out multiple variations of your search terms for best results. 

Remember, if there are no serial number lists available for your machine, get creative with your search!  Collect all the information you can and cross reference it every which way.  Examine your machine for clues.  Bobbin cover slide plates are often engraved with company names and logos, patent numbers, serial numbers, etc.  Words entwined in the decorative scrollwork offer more clues.  Compare your machine to others of its type; how are they similar or different?  Search through museum catalogs and private collections.  Look up the history of the company to verify that they had active factories where and when you think your machine was made.  You may never be sure, but you'll have far more information that when you started!

Now that I've got the 411 on my lovelies, it's time to start fixing them up.  Next I'll be showing you the guts of my little Singer 99. 


  1. I have the same sewing machine but with the cast iron treadle is still intact and with a new belt will work. I too, am running into the same issues of finding information about the machine. Mine has a higher serial #. I'm very curious about the machines history. My dad found it in an antique shop in England in the late 1980's and gave it to me after I was married. When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I actually sewed through my finger while playing with the foot pedal. It's a very strong machine. LOL

    1. Ouch! These old machines are certainly still very strong.
      Does yours have decals mentioning Royal Approval or Queen Alexandra?

    2. Thank you so much for this information - I was going crazy trying to date my Jones machine! According to this site ( that I found, yours is probably mid-to-late 1880s. Mine has a later number than yours, and the 'medallion' decal, but no mention of royalty anywhere, so I guess it's just a few years younger than yours. Thanks also for the link to ISMACS, which I'd not heard of - I now have a set of replica instructions to go with the machine when I sell it!

    3. Ooh excellent link, thanks! Looks like they sell the treadle bases too, except that I'm sure international shipping on a cast iron object is hideously expensive.

  2. Singer machines were made in Glasgow SCOTLAND not England

    1. Nowhere do I say that Singers were made in England; in fact, this post doesn’t talk about Singer history at all. I believe you may be misreading the paragraph where I said that Jones and Singer machines both have their serial numbers in the same location; the following sentence indicates that the Jones machine was made in England.

      The Glasgow Singer factory wasn’t the only one, however. I’ve a Singer that was made in 1932 in Clydesdale, Scotland, and another made in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1922.

  3. I have the same new home machine. Have you found its worth?

    1. No, though I suspect it's not worth much. It's not particularly rare, and it's less than a hundred years old.

  4. My Jones treadle has the serial number 101813, can you tell me how old she would be? It was my great grandmothers and as she used it to make farm shirts etc for her family, as well as sewing up hay bales, she's a tad well used and weary but I love her.

  5. Hello thought this might help, I once had a old Jones sewing machine , unfortunately turned completely into rust apart from a few parts, one of those was a side plate cover with the same egale and writing detail as yours , also had a instructions booket for this machine , it a very old booket I would say at least 1890s , I have some very old singer instruction booklets and the Jones one makes those look young aha, I have it in eBay at the moment , would up load the link so you can see if it possible is for your machine
    Jones Sewing Machine Cylinder Shuttle Instructions Manuel Book

    1. Much thanks, but your manual is for a shuttle bobbin type of Jones (similar to the New Home in the first part of the post) and my Jones is a rotary bobbin type (see the photo of the bobbin area.) Interestingly, the ismacs site now does have a Jones Spool manual from 1910 here -


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