Delving into history turns up a lot of interesting facts and bits of information. For example, the Minnesota sewing machine was not the name of the sewing machine company that produced or sold those sewing machines. But it is still a great sewing machine if you can find one in running condition.
The history of this sewing machine begins with Sears. Once Mr. Sears joined forces with Mr. Roebuck, the mail-order company expanded its product line to include a variety of products including the sewing machine. The Minnesota model was almost the original one offered by Sears & Roebuck.
To learn more about the Minnesota sewing machine and its history, just continue to read our article. It has that information and more so you can use your Minnesota sewing machine with pride.
Sears & Roebuck saw a new machine produced by the Davis Sewing machine Company in 1899. It was a better model than their ACME badged machines made by the National Sewing Machine Company so Sears & Roebuck switch suppliers in 1900.
From 1900 to 1912, the Davis company supplied Sears & Roebuck with just about every sewing machine. It was during this period that the Minnesota model was introduced and sold by Sears & Roebuck.
It is hard to say which company, Davis or Domestic, produced the majority of Minnesota sewing machine models for Sears as both companies have long been out of business and records have been lost.
The Minnesota K is supposed to be Davis’ last model for Sears and the Minnesota L was supposed to have been made by Domestic. In 1926, White Sewing Machine Company bought Domestic and soon phased out the Minnesota model in the 1930s.
It is sad to report that there was no Minnesota Sewing Machine Company at any time in the sewing machine history. The only exception to that statement would be if there was a small firm somewhere in history that did not make any mark on the industry or is a family-owned business doing repairs and retail sales.
We have checked several lists that have been compiled and placed on the internet, including our own list of sewing machine brands, and the name Minnesota Sewing Machine Company does not appear on any of them.
While you can get a Minnesota sewing machine manual, it was probably written and published by Davis, Domestic and White not an independent sewing machine company called Minnesota.
This model of sewing machine actually enjoyed a very long production run. It was made from 1900 to about 1930, give or take a year, and was seen as a very good machine. The letter A was included in the gold print on the face of the machine so there is no mistaking it for another model.
Also, throughout those years the Davis, Domestic and White sewing machine companies all had a hand in the production of this model. The reason they did was the fact that this model seems to have been exclusively sold by Sears & Roebuck.
One rendition of this sewing machine saw it placed in a solid oak cabinet which still exists today but it may be rare or found in a sewing machine museum.
The original price on this machine may have been around $20. The low price is what made Sears & Roebuck so popular as it saved money by being a mail-order retailer and did not have the same overhead as other retailers had.
The value is quite a bit higher and we have seen prices go between $100 and $250 depending on the seller and the condition. The values we have seen are more for the A version and the value for most Minnesota sewing machines will depend if it comes with a case or a very elaborate cabinet.
One interesting bit of trivia, the sewing machine was named Minnesota simply because Mr. Sears came from that state. The name was dropped after the Second World War and replaced by the label ‘Kenmore’.
So far, we have only found the following serials numbers and they came from this website
1139638 D 5 December 1908 Minnesota
1231283 D 20 October 1905 Minnesota A
1258110 D 27 April 1906 Minnesota A
1299428 D 7 September 1907 Minnesota A
1506246 D 9 December 1904 Minnesota
3652732 D 2 February 1912 Minnesota A
3655873 D 10 April 1912 Minnesota A
Our go-to serial number website did not list any under the name Minnesota and those numbers above are from the Davis Sewing Machine Company. This website also lists different serial numbers from Davis but attaches no model name to those numbers.
We tried the same website to find any Domestic serial numbers for their Minnesota sewing machines but none were listed. It will take some searching to find a good list from all three companies if those lists still exist.
The badging of the different Minnesota model A sewing machine was different. Part of the reason for the difference is that there is the original model A and the New Model A sewing machine under the Minnesota model name.
One sewing machine had Minnesota A right at eye level on the face of the arm so you couldn’t miss it. Another one had the badge a little smaller and placed on top of the base just under the arm.
If the machine is in good working order it should be worth around $250 with cabinet. it is a simple machine but it was also a copy of a Singer model. Many of the early sewing machine companies copied Singer and their best models.
The model B was a little different in design. The Minnesota name was on the arm front and center but the B was placed on the body next to the hand wheel. The letter B was also placed on the middle of the top of the base beneath the arm.
One change from the model A had the spool of thread moved to the center of the top of the arm and not at the back as most sewing machines have it. What may be unique about this model is that it was powered by a Kenmore model motor. That name was not used permanently until after WW2 and was used temporarily before that era.
That does not mean the machine was a post-war product, rather it simply makes dating the model easier and to an earlier period. Davis which made the machine was out of business by 1926.
This was said to be the same as the Davis Model M sewing machine and the obvious change was that the spool pin was returned to the back of the machine next to the hand wheel.
The letter C is placed at the rear like the Model A and some had the C on the base, also like the model B but not always. There is an interesting feature placed on the Model C where the Model B spool used to sit but without an instruction manual, it is hard to say what that was used for.
Like the earlier models, the C came with a box of attachments. We saw few other differences between the A, B & C models as the bobbin winder was in the same place on all 3 models and the hand wheel seems to come in different colors and construction materials.
Etsy seems to have a Model H manual for sale and the date of publication is said to be about 1928. If that is the case, then this machine was made by Domestic and not the Davis company. The latter company went out of business in 1924 as it could not overcome the loss of its most important customer-- Sears & Roebuck.
In comparing photos, it is hard to see where any upgrades were made as the H looks a lot like the C including the placement of the letter H. The spool pin is at the rear of the machine.
From what we can see from the photos of all the machines compared so far is that they all had a variety of designs that were used on different models. This is because Sears had certain specifications that were to be included in the designs of the sewing machines they were selling.
If you get a Minnesota model that does not have the same look, it may be a machine that was sold to another Davis or Domestic retailer.
This was a treadle machine and also described as a hand crank model. There were few physical and obvious differences between this model and the previous version. It too held the spool of thread at the rear and had the Model C middle of the top feature.
Its manual also includes the C and E versions which tell us that there were few changes made to this model. To jump the gun a bit, here is a link to the manual for the C, D & E sewing machines.
The D was also made by the Davis Sewing Machine Company as was the E. It is hard to put a good value on these machines as many are not in that great of working order anymore.
This link takes you to a company that specializes in treadle machine parts and we typed in the Minnesota model name and they do have some parts in stock. They also have quite a few Minnesota sewing machines on sale. You will have to figure out if the pricing is affordable for you or not.
eBay has some on sale as does Etsy. You would have to go to their respective websites and type in Minnesota sewing machine parts to see what is available as these parts sell fast and change often.
Most of the parts we saw at eBay were for model A sewing machines. Craigslist seems to have some parts listed but you need to be careful when contacting sellers at that classified ad.
A good internet search will turn up more options and some may be in your local area. Don’t forget to call sewing machine repair shops and antique stores as the majority of these machines were made more than 100 years ago.
The link we provided earlier was for a hard copy of the manual. Pinterest seems to have at least one you can download. Just click this link to find the web page. But our go-to manual website did not list any under the name Minnesota nor Davis.
Neither did our other go-to website, ISMAC and we checked all 3 companies that were known to make this model of sewing machine. Etsy had the Model B manual and you can see it at this link.
Finding a manual for this model of sewing machine may be a bit more difficult than it may seem. We did not even see eBay come up in the search result and they are usually one of the top 10 results.
We suggest that you keep checking the different websites from time to time to see when one comes available. If you are looking for a good side business and have hard copies, you can start selling copies online.
As you can see, the Minnesota sewing machine was a product of a mail-order company that became a retail giant.it was not the product of an independent sewing machine company of the same name. But that is okay as they were good machines.