What year did Sears start selling sewing machines?
From the Sears Archive to help me answer questions about the obscure names and history of the sewing machines:
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Richard Sears had been selling sewing machines by mail as early as 1889 under the name of Henry Hoverson & Co. However, the earliest record of an organized sewing machine department, showing Sears own brand name machine, the Minnesota (named in honor of his native state), appeared in the 1894 catalog (p.172). The introductory page in the section reads “Sewing Machine Headquarters,” and includes detailed copy about the entire line.
Although Minnesota was our primary sewing machine trade name for many years, some of Sears yearly models also included the Iowa and the Burdick. The catalog offered many nationally known machines, such as Singer and Franklin. As far as we can determine, the Burdick sewing machine first appeared in the 1899 Spring catalog and their last appearance was in Spring 1903. The Edgemere sewing machine appeared in the catalog from Fall 1900 through the Spring 1903.
The brand name Kenmore appeared for the first time in the 1913 Fall catalog, on a four-drawer drop head sewing machine, but the name was dropped in the Fall of 1919, and did not appear again until 1934. At that time, it was re-introduced and sold concurrently with the Minnesota until World War II. During this period materials were scarce and sewing machines were dropped from the catalog. After the war, the Minnesota was discarded and replaced by Kenmore.
As a matter of interest, “Send No Money” reports that the first order received at the Dallas, Texas M.O. Branch in November 1906, was for the highest priced Minnesota sewing machine.
A portable hand sewing machine, the New Queen, was offered in the Fall 1899 catalog at $9.90 for the first time. This machine had a patent automatic hand gear, nickel-plating and a patent positive stitch regulator. A full set of accessories came with this machine without additional cost. In the 1903 Fall catalog, the first name brand Minnesota portable machine was shown at $5.95 without a cover, and $7.95 including a bent wood cover. This machine had a detachable hand attachment and a full set of accessories free of charge with the order. A Kenmore portable was first offered in the 1913 Fall catalog. It sold for $6.75 with complete accessories and a wood cover.
In the 1918 Spring catalog, Sears introduced its first electric portable called the Franklin Portable priced at $38.75.
The zig-zag sewing heads were used for many years in Europe and commercial types were used in the U.S. It is only since the end of World War II, that these machines had been offered for domestic use in the U.S. The zig-zag sewing machine line consists of manually operated and automatic heads.
Sewing Machines with "Sears, Roebuck and Co." on treadle grillwork
As far as we can determine, the first appearance was in Fall, 1899 on the Iowa sewing machine only. In Spring, 1906 on the Model F Minnesota sewing machine only. In Fall 1907, it appeared only on the Homan Model and did so until Spring 1913, the last appearance.
1899 Fall: Iowa Model - p1258