Monday, July 30, 2018

Early Electric Singer Sewing Tables (revision 2)

Changes in early electric Singer Tables (revision 2)

It's been an adventure. My first post on the type 40 showed four specific variations and as time went by and more evidence arrived... it appears as though there were indeed five distinct versions. I did write a short addendum on the first post putting forth the proposition that there may be a fifth, but one single cabinet didn't make it so in my book. Then I happened upon a second, and a third. Oh by golly, it's a revolution!

Re-numbered type 40 Library Table variations:

V1. The first version remains the first,
a short-lived 1920 to 1921 model with foot rest.
Middle split top w/right hand drop down leaf
3 drawers (One pull-out, one drop down, one oil can shelf)
2 leg crossbars and pyramid medallions on front legs

Resources for information on these early type 40s is scant. The theory that I've been running with is that Singer probably did not design a cabinet specifically for an electric-only machine... unless they planned on offering an electric only machine. It would seem odd for a company to design something they weren't planning to use. The history of the first offerings of Singer electric machines is also difficult to pin down. From all appearances Singer had the 101 model in the works and the type 40 was going to be the new 'electric only' cabinet.

Western Electric had already been selling electric home machines in the 19 teens with limited success. So Singer did have a resource to imitate.  Singer also offered the 'electric motor kit' in 1920 allowing conversions of previously sold treadle or crank machines over to the new power source. The kit had specific instructions on where and how to drill and thread a hole in the cast iron to accept the bolt that would hold the motor and bracket.

This advertisement above in particular seems to suggest what I believed all along: that the type 40 had been designed for the 101 exclusively and they both were to be introduced in 1920 as the new high-end, electric-only, top of the line sewing machine in the new "Singer 101 Electric cabinet".

Meanwhile, the 'electrification' kits for outside mounted motors and public demand for electrified machines lead Singer to change the casting (addition of motor bosses) in many other Singer models sometime in late 1920.  It appears as if there were two specific lines of development happening concurrently. One was the planned introduction of the potted motor 101... and the second was the more organic (and unplanned) adaptation of the exterior mounted motor assembly.

Some sources say the first electric cabinet (type 40) was indeed sold in 1920, but that it housed a model 66... other references have the type 40 first being sold in 1918... which makes no sense at all since Singer didn't have an electric machine to offer the domestic market in 1918. The other thing that I need to keep in mind is that the timing of products being offered to the public may have been different between the US the UK, and else where in the world. The model 101 was never offered anywhere else but here in North America - again, adding to confusion.

I have yet to find an example of a model 66 with a casting date of 1920 in an original version type 40 Library table, and I have seen two correctly dated 101's in such a cabinet.  This is not to say that another one of Singer's other models wasn't sold in the first version of the type 40. It's entirely possible that it happened, but available evidence does not indicate that such a combination was planned by Singer. Adaptation and invention of exterior mounted motors seems to have taken all the wind out of the sails when it came to the introduction of the potted motor, electric-only model 101 - the first mass-produced and specifically designed all-electric domestic sewing machine.


V2 Circa 1921 to 1923
No footrest.   
Middle split top w/right hand drop down leaf
3 drawers (One pull-out, one drop down, one oil can shelf)
3 leg crossbars and pyramid medallions on front legs

V3 *new distinctions: 1925 to early 1927
Middle split w/one drop down leaf 
No three 'doors' on the front - just one wider pull down drawer. 
No crossbars between the legs
Pyramid medallions on front legs.

V4 1927 - to early1930
Middle split w/one drop down leaf 
One pull down drawer
Change in leg design* - a detail that had previously escaped me.
No crossbars or medallions on legs

About those legs... it appears as though the decorative cut in the legs was changed - this is just below where the medallions had been placed on the front, but the cut is inclusive of the back legs as well. Sometime between 1927 and 1930 the carved flair is changed. Prior to 1930 this flair was a single swipe of the lathe, and then sometime after 1930 the flair became formed by a double swipe. There are probably far more technical terms for this little detail... and if you know what they are, please share. =)

V5 late 1930 to 1957
Off-center split - right leaf remains horizontal
One pull down drawer
No crossbars or medallions on legs
Double cut flair to leg knees

The Queen Anne Variation

I should make room for the QA. The 'Queen Anne' table is often noted as being it's own variation of the type 40. Nomenclature of the times refers to the table as "Type 40 (Queen Anne). I had thought for a long time that the Queen Anne was introduced in 1939 with the new Singer 201, but it appears as though perhaps the table was around way before that.

I'll go out a limb here because I've only seen one of these and will probably see more as I did with the type 40 variation... but this is a Queen Anne with a center split top and drop down right hand leaf. This would suggest... that the QA may have been in production prior to 1932.  I'd like to see more evidence, but I can't rule it out.

V7. The usual Queen Anne table with 75/25 split.

Early Singer Combination Tables.

Again, there seems to be different variations of the early combination table. One may have a simple one-piece insert that fills the empty space where the machine would sit so that the table can be used as a table and then there's a second version has a three piece hinged insert that is not removable but folds in such a way to allow a machine to be rolled up into place.

Variation 1: for the portable

The insert space on one combination table may be large enough to accept the lower half of a portable case,  where on another table the machine is bolted in and flips down like a more 'normal' electric cabinet. Some were built specifically for use with a portable machine and foot pedal, others yet have a built-in knee control with wiring systems similar to those on the early type 40's.  Some combos had a single pull out drawer, some had a hinged door, and others yet appear to have had no drawer at all.

All of these wooden early versions date back into the 1920's and typically seem to use the same wooden leg design as the type 40 Library table.  They seem to be the same height and depth, but are wider.

If you search through some of the online sites documenting historical changes in the Singer line, ISMACS and Needlebar do not exactly agree with each other. It may be that Singer introduced specific changes in the cabinets here in the US, and then made changes to them before going to Europe.

Variation 2: built in machine.

For example, when Needlebar shows a type 40 Deluxe Library Table as "E01" (Electric cabinet 1) the table pictured is the second variation of the type 40, not the first, and they show it housing a model 66... whereas the first electric available here was the potted motor 101 in 1920 in the first variation of the type 40 table (not the second), followed by different models with exterior mounted belt driven motors in 1921.

The Combination tables listed by Needlebar begin with the model 301 and proceed numerically to 307. Differences in individual exterior design are not noted, but the specific machine model number to table model number match are recorded as the following:

301 - for 99 and 128 machine models.
302 - for 15, 66, 115, 127 models (with knee control)
303 - for 15, 66, 115, 127, and 201 models
304 - for 101-12 models
305 - for 15-60, 66-6 & 127-13 models (with knee control)
306 - for 15-87, 15-90, 66-6, 101-4 & 127-13 models (with knee control)
307 - for 24 and 68 models

Of all of the above models significant visual design difference are shown in the 305 & 306. The 305 appears to have had taller front, back, and side panels than any of the other combo tables, and the 306 appears to be the only model without a drawer.

ISMACS list of Singer Combination tables lists only the following:
301 - 99, 128
304 - 101

It is also interesting to note the curvature of the knee controller. The same two piece 'hook' style of controller is found in many of the early type 40 cabinets which eventually gave way to a nearly straight single piece lever.

Variation 3: Built in machine with side drawer.

Changes in design of the "Combination Table" line of tables begin sometime around 1925 where you see the single pull out drawer removed and in it's place comes a side drawer with spool spindles.

*again, these are only my observations. The truth may be out there. Consider this a work in progress. =)

Comments and Corrections are very welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post about Singer cabinets.
    I found one of the #40 cabinets in an eastern Iowa thrift store. It came with a Singer 66 and a knee control and an "electric frypan" cord to connect to the electricity.
    My collection also includes a queen anne cabinet from upstate NY and a combination table, also from upstate NY. Both were gifts.