Isaac was not idle during this period. He converted machines for other manufacturers to get the money to build his own machines. He continued improving, inventing, and patenting new parts. The first machines were for workshops but sales were slow, until the employers realised that where it had taken 10 hours to make a pair of trousers, with the new machines it took just one hour now!

In 1856 Isaac made a Turtle Back Machine for use by the housewife. The machine was delivered in a large wooden packing case which was then used as a table to set the machine on. They called it the "Jenny Lind", after a Swedish Opera singer. However the Singer & Clarke Sewing Machine Company had competition once the patent was passed, so Isaac decided to be the salesman. He loved to travel and left his partner in sole charge of the company while he toured the country.

Isaac travelled with a circus, renting a marquee to display his sewing machines, but they did not sell well. He sent for his son and daughter from his first marriage to come and work the machines. They were now in their late teens and early twenties and would work the machines by hand or with their feet on the treadle, to demonstrate how simple the machines were to work.

Ladies crowded into the marquee to watch the demonstration but were very slow to buy or order one of Isaac's machines. Ladies in those days had very little money, especially married ladies. However, if Isaac knew a lady well he would allow her to take home a machine, and pay him when she could. Not a business like method explained his partner Edward. He devised the method, 5 dollars down, take home a sewing machine, followed by monthly payments of 3 dollars, until it was paid for. That was the start of Hire Purchase. If people failed to keep up with the monthly payments, the machine was taken back by the company, cleaned and restored, then sold again.

Singer and Clarke became a company and Isaac was on his way to become a millionaire.



© copyright Dorothy Atkinson

Return to: [Isaac M. Singer And The Wigwam Chapter 4] details