Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine

In the late 1860s, a new sewing machine factory opened up with a new style machine.  The Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine was supposed to be able to not only sew but quilt and embroider by machine.  The secret?  

The machine was made without feed dogs and therefore easier to manipulate the fabric to quilt or even embroider by machine.  Instead the fabric ran through the machine via the needle and the presser foot.  It always seemed to me that it was similar to what we call the walking foot now.  The machines were made in Watertown NY and were marketed internationally.

1870s ad, Massachussetts

The machine factory became a booming business and created various jobs in the Watertown area.  A good history of the company can be found here.

Some of you are going to ask, was this related to the Davis Quilting Frame?  No it was not.  I couldn't find any relationship between the two products.  Davis is a very common name.

The machine not only was touted for it's ability to quilt but also to embroider.  I did find there was an attachment that was separate for embroidery.  There were many Davis trade cards with "embroidery facsimiles" but I never did find an actual example of the machine embroidery.

The Davis was supposed to do it all and other sewing machine companies clamored aboard to offer attachments made just for their machines.

"The White Sewing Machine...has tucking, ruffling, braiding, hemming, and embroidery attachments," a newspaper story in Boston reported in 1881.

Yes--there were "home embroidery machines" but all of them that I've seen appear to be attachments and not a singular product.  All of the ads I found for various models advertised the price as $2; the price also suggests it was an attachment.


As for machine quilting--well as most of us know, quilting fell out of favor in the late 19th and early 20th century (read about Marie Webster here).

What might or might not surprise you is that machine quilting--not for manufacturing large quantities--but a service for individual quilters remained a viable trade into the 20th century.   I found lots of ads for individuals who marketed their services.  My favorite story was published in 1907 and featured "the quilter boys":

"Two boys...have just closed out at Abilene a quilting factory with which they have started their way to college.  They began last fall and made exhibits at the fairs.  They aroused much interest among the women of that community and quilted over 500 quilts.  Some of the quilts were very interesting, one having been made during the war and never put together.  It was a visit of much interest for the women who came to Abilene when the called on the "quilter boys," as the two young men were generally named.  The walls of their rooms was covered with quilts and the varied figures were novel and unique.

The boys sold the business they had built up at a good price and expect to enter college this fall.  They will set up a quilting establishment in some college town and the work they do after school hours will, they think, carry them through their college course..."

And machine quilting continued.  My mid-century Hansel and Greta quilt (see also here) was quilted by some kind of professional machine and my appraiser and I had a lengthy discussion on the trade.

I have to go now...I'm actually taking a stack of quilt tops to my machine quilter, Terri Trotter...

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. Thank you Michele. Another very interesting read this early February morning.

  2. I agree with Jocelyn above, sew interesting! And here I thought that women were just Making Do with their Domestic machine, not with attachments. Exciting!