Monday, July 26, 2021

Tools of the Trade: 1

 Tools of the Trade:  

That Time That Needles Made Headlines

I've been thinking about needles lately because of a challenging binding.  The weave of the fabric is so tight that I can barely get my regular needles to work.  Not a good struggle for my hands which are already aching.  But enough of that...

Way back in 1891, sewing needles made headlines. The headlines were fueled by a recession which had begun in England when Barings Bank of London nearly folded and set-off the usual chain of panics throughout the world.  To protect the United States domestic economy, The McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 was passed.  The tariff raised duties on most imported goods and was named by then Congressman William McKinley.  

Of course that caused a panic of purchasing/hoarding certain goods (think the beginning of our current pandemic and the run on toilet paper).  And that is why needles made headlines.  A syndicated article relayed this:

"A wholesale merchant in the city of Cincinnati said that a retail merchant came into his store nine days before the law went into operation and bought up every sewing needle he had in the store.  The merchant was anxious to know why he had bought a stock that would last him for fourteen years in his retail business.  He (the retailer) had done it in anticipation of the increased tariff under the new law upon sewing needles..."

Unfortunately the retailer would not listen to the wholesale merchant. Certain goods were exempt from the tariff--including sewing needles:

As it turns out, our needles were all imported from England and Germany because as many articles pointed out, it was not profitable to manufacture needles here.  One of the few times I found the tools manufactured here was during the Civil War when it was reported that a North Carolina blacksmith was manufacturing needles.  Apparently it didn't work out too well although I could never find out what was defective about the needles.

So sewing needles were included on the free list but despite the wholesale merchant telling the retailer this, the retailer didn't believe him.  As most newspapers pointed out:

"Now that retail merchant will never believe in the party that deceived him.  He won't sell a needle for thirteen years over his counter that he will not recall the demagogue who went about telling him that he must lay in a supply of everything in anticipation of high tariff under the new law.  He has had the truth pricked into him."  (Great pun!)

Two years later, another panic would hit the United States, caused partially by the recession and more so by the closing of the United States Reading Railroad.  But at least the needles were saved by the free list and women could continue to sew.

I'm taking tomorrow off from blogging.  I'll be back on Wednesday with another edition of Story Time Stiches.

Have a safe and happy day and stay cool!

1 comment:

  1. then there is a story of a shared needle in the new Oregon territory, afraid it would get lost it was stuck into a potato to be transferred to another friends house so she could sew.