In the bedroom area of the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette is a 1914 Singer treadle sewing machine. This machine was in Joe Estes' office at Monette High School for many years. Pat Qualls Taylor was the music teacher and often stopped to admire the sewing machine. A few years later, she bought the machine and donated it to the museum. This Singer Model 66 Red Eye Sewing machine got its name from collectors who said the decorative pattern on the machine resembled red exotic eyes. The cabinet has seven drawers and fancy scroll work on the front and sides. This machine is powered by your foot. When applying pressure with the toe and heel, the treadle moves up and down and is connected to a push rod and flywheel. The needle hooks the thread in the bobbin and forms a stitch.
Women on Buffalo Island in the early 1900's used their treadle sewing machine for making all the family's clothes, curtains, quilts, dishtowels, tablecloths, and even rag dolls. These sewing machines were well built, low maintenance, just needing to be oiled once in a while. One lady told me she still uses her Mother's old treadle machine when sewing thick fabric because her electric machine skips stitches on any heavy fabric. Janet Rolland still has her Grandmother Demie Hogan's 1904 treadle machine and it is still in good working condition.
Many think Isaac Merritt Singer invented the sewing machine, but Thomas Saint, an English inventor, patented a design for a sewing machine in 1790. The first American sewing machine inventor was Elias Howe in 1846. The first machines had a hand crank that moved the needle horizontally. In 1850 Isaac Singer invested $40. and using an existing design, he improved the machine by designing a needle that moved up and down, interfacing the thread as it entered the cloth. The next year he started the I.M. Singer Company in Boston. In 1853, he renamed it as Singer Manufacturing Company and moved it to New York. He became successful by selling his machines in Europe and training women in developing countries on the skill of sewing. Although he died in 1875, the company continued its success. The company is still making sewing machines today and in January 2012, Singer introduced its latest design: the Singer 160 Limited Edition Machine.
Buffalo Island Museum at Monette wants to preserve some of the things that were used in the early days of Buffalo Island. The treadle sewing machine is a part of that history.