Elias Howe's workable invention of 1846 would not catch on until Isaac Singer would seize upon the marketing idea of buying "on time. " This meant the costly, but time saving, machine could be purchased one small payment at a time of only $3- 5 a month in 1856. The sales of sewing machines would triple that year from the previous year. The sewing machine would be a treasured possession for many women, but the start of the Civil War would prevent the sewing machine from becoming truly widespread until about 1870. Prices ranged from $3 for a simple chain stitch machine to $70 for most elaborate models. In 1870 Demorest offered as a premium for selling 50 subscriptions to their magazine a Grover and Baker sewing machine worth $55. In 1873 the Common Sense Family Sewing Machine priced at $15 was offered in Peterson's magazine. By the 1890's a very nice model could be purchased for $13.25
“A good hand-sewer makes an average of thirty-five stitches per minute; the fastest machines on some kinds of work perform three thousand per minute. There are in a good shirt twenty thousand six hundred and twenty stitches; what a saving to do them at machine speed!...
...As soon as lovely woman discovers that she can make ten stitches in the time one used to require, a desire seizes her to put ten times as many stitches as she formerly did."- A Lady's Friend, January 1868
I have found antique sewing machines very basic machines that are easy to learn to run and self repair.
A good source for all things antique sewing machine is http://ismacs.net/
Identify your antique singer sewing machine by going to
Images are from my personal collection all rights reserved
For more reading
The Encyclopedia of Early American Sewing Machines by Carter Bays
The Invention of the Sewing Machine by Grace Rogers Cooper
Painfully obsessed clothing historian,