Isaac was a very big man, 6'.5" in height, with thick reddish blond hair and a bushy beard. A rough diamond, not afraid of hard work and as attractive to the ladies as they were to him.

Isaac was 19 when he married the 15 years old daughter of the owners of the boarding house where he was staying in Palmyra. Her name was Catherine Haley. He left Catherine with her parents while he travelled with the Strolling Players, but by the time he was 31 they had two children, William and Lillian.

When he received the $2000 dollars he had no intention of returning to Catherine to buy her a home of her own. Instead, he started his own Travelling Theatre which he called "The Merritt Players".

He bought a covered wagon and had his name "Merritt Players" painted on both sides. It carried his scenery and it was his home on wheels pulled by two horses when he was short of money. He went barn-storming across America as a one man show until he met Mary Ann Sponsler in New York, she was 19 years. Isaac was in love with her and with promises of marriage when he was able to have a divorce from Catherine, she eventually agreed to join him in his Theatre.

Of course, this meant living and sleeping mostly in the covered wagon. She sold tickets for the shows, stitched his costumes, shopped for food and cared for him when he was ill. She even kept the show going by acting on the stage when Isaac was too ill to do so. After a few years, he had to admit defeat and close the Theatre. The last of his $2000 dollars had been spent. The wagon and the two horses had been sold, but they were still short of money. By now Isaac had two families to support, Catherine and her two children, also Mary Ann who now called herself Mrs. Singer, as she had now two sons and a daughter fathered by Isaac.

One of Isaac's friends, knowing of his engineering skills, suggested that he put those skills to work improving the sewing machine. Different types had been invented in America, Europe and England, but no machine had been invented which could sew two pieces of material together.

Charles Wesenthall, a German, came to England in 1755 to concentrate on his machine which had a curved needle with a point at both ends and was held in the middle. This as used for embroidery and the stitching on the back of ladies gloves. Forty five years later an Englishman, Thomas Saint, a cabinet maker by trade, made a machine to sew leather. This had an "awl" attached to the front of the needle to pierce a hole.

There were many machines in America, Europe and England but they were always breaking down.

© copyright Dorothy Atkinson

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