Don’t be confused by the term. The word domestic does mean that the product was made in one’s native country. But it can also be used as a name for a company selling sewing machines. That is the case with this sewing machine company. This was a short-lived American sewing machine company.
Who made Domestic sewing machines? Originally, this sewing machine brand was made by the Wm. A. Mack & Co. Starting at roughly 1861 and received a patent for its version of the sewing machine in 1863. Wm Mack’s brother joined the firm after serving honorably in the Civil War in 1866 and began selling the Domestic sewing machine from a wagon.
To learn more about this short-lived sewing machine company, just continue to read our article. It delves into the subject and comes up with the facts you need to distinguish this sewing machine from the others.
Initially, the Wm. A. Mack company started making Domestic sewing machines in about 1861. When his brother joined the firm in 1866 the company was selling sewing machines out of a wagon.
The business became so good that Wm. Mack & Co., formed the Domestic Sewing Machine Company in 1869 and continued to manufacture their sewing machines in Norwalk, Ohio.
In 1863 the company received a patent for its vibrating shuttle design. This design was ahead of its time and it beat Singer to the punch. Over the years other sewing machine companies copied the Domestic design.
The design must have been really good as both Mr. Howe and Mr. Singer copied the high arm style for their sewing machine models. Then in 1884 the Mack brothers left Domestic, or sold it, and started the Standard Sewing Machine Company. Domestic was taken over by James Blake who moved it to Newark, New Jersey.
Over the years the company produced a few models that rivaled their competition but the success of those models did not stop the company from being taken over by White in 1924. The company operated as a subsidiary for White until the 30s when the depression ended its run and Domestic simply became a model name for White sewing machines.
When the Mack brothers were involved with Domestic it was a company that was the envy of its competitors. It seemed that innovation and engineering thrived at Domestic while as it created a model that was soon copied by other sewing machine manufacturers. Besides Singer, the Brattleboro Sewing Machine Co. and The Williams Sewing Machine Co. used the Domestic design for their sewing machine models.
When the Mack brothers left the company, Domestic stopped being the leader of the industry and started to copy the Singer model 27. The name of this Domestic model was King.
One of the supposed founders of the company, Mr. James Blake, died in 1910 but that event did not change the direction of the company. He is said to be a founder yet he took over the company when the Macks left and moved it to New Jersey in 1884.
An N.S. Perkins was the co-founder along with Wm. Mack back in 1861. In the 1910s, Domestic became the supplier of sewing machines for Sears & Roebuck replacing the Davis sewing machine company.
The reason for this switch was that the Domestic copy of the Singer 27 would sell better than the Davis made sewing machines. In 1885 there was an ad stating that 900,000 Domestic sewing machines had been made and sold in America.
When White took over in 1924, Domestic acted as an independent subsidiary making its own machines until the division was dissolved during the Depression.
It is not quite clear what the early models were named. The company used at least one number, the No.3, which sold in the 1880s. if you find a No.1 and No. 2 then those machines were made between 1861 and 1879 approx.
After the numbers came to the models with letters- A. B. C... which would have debuted sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. 1884 was the first-named model and it was called Reliable.
After that and about 1890 give or take a year or two, the company produced the New Domestic. Then came the King which as you have already read, was a clone of the Singer 27 sewing machine.
In the mid-1910s the Franklin was premiered and it was a high arm version of the Singer 27. There were also the Minnesota and the Domestic VS models but they may have been produced after the 1924 White takeover.
So if you have one of those models you can guess as to about how old it is. Anything made after 1930 was not real Domestic Sewing Machine company sewing machines. They were Whites and the Domestic name just became a model for White.
The best way to date your Domestic sewing machine would be by the model name. Whether the sewing machine had a number, a letter, or a name doesn’t matter as these machines were identification labels were done in sequential order.
The numbers came first, then the letters and finally the models with names. The serial number on each machine will not be much help to you as there are no records to find the machine’s place in Domestic history.
There is an old treadle machine produced by the company and it dates from 1863 to 1870. The photos we saw of this machine had no identifying marks. Time has taken its toll and the badges etc. wore off.
If you want to date an old Domestic sewing machine, your best bet is to contact the businesses that deal with antique sewing machines or write the histories of them. They will have more detailed information and new what unique characteristics to look for when trying to identify the machine.
Two online companies are Sewalot and Fiddlebase. Send them photos and as much information as you can and they may be able to help you. There are no promises made for them though.
It seems that Domestic did put serial numbers on their machine. One model had a 3 digit number then lower down, about half a line, there were 4 more numbers. There is no explanation as to what purpose these numbers served or if they were actual sewing machine serial numbers.
Domestic also produced typewriters so do not confuse the two or their serial numbers. One person thought the lower 4 numbers needed to be read backward and when you did so, it produced the date the machine was made. But there is no record of the Mack family or their co-founder stating they made sewing machines earlier than 1961.
With further research, those numbers were found on a Standard sewing machine and not a Domestic model. This is the confusing thing about serial numbers. When records are lost to history, confusion can reign and lead to false identifications.
If you really want the serial number or where to find it on some Domestic machines, just click this link. It lists only a few though.
The original treadle machine we spoke about earlier comes with a small wood cabinet that comprised of a few drawers and a nice wood sewing table. The rest of the machine was made with an iron framework and the two materials combine to form a very nice looking sewing machine.
There was another model that also came with a nice wood cabinet but it may have been produced after 1924 and before the company’s demise. There is no name to it but the serial number is Serial 469723.
Then the New Domestic sewing machine came with a 6 drawer cabinet, with 3 drawers on each side. It too had an iron frame making it a strong cabinet that would stand up to a lot of use.
Also, there was one sewing machine made by Domestic that came in a cabinet but did not fold down. It had a separate wood cover for the machine and sat on top of the cabinet when it was not in use.
A lot of the Domestic sewing machines came in a nice wooden carrying case that protected from damage when they were sitting idle.
This will depend a lot on how many Domestic sewing machines are still in existence. The company was making quite a few of their models, up to 50,000 a year just in the 1880s. While the Mack Bros., was a part of the company, Domestic was superior to Singer and other competitors.
The sewing machines in good shape and coming with a likewise cabinet hold the most value. You can find the treadle versions ranging up to almost $400 on eBay. An 1876 model approx., was selling for under $200.
There were more portable machines for sale and they were not worth very much. The average price was around $50. On average for the machines with cabinets, if in good condition, you are looking at about paying or selling between $175 to $225.
Remember dealers and collectors will always try to low ball your price as they either want to resell it at the true value price or make their collection higher in value. Then keep in mind that any Domestic branded sewing machine made after 1930ish are not Domestic sewing machines and may not hold a high value.
The Domestic brand is an old sewing machine and it may be difficult to find manuals for them any more. Our go-to online manual company only has about 4 manuals for you to choose form. You can view them at this link.
Next up is this company and they are not doing much better for you. There are about 5 manuals listed and it seems that maybe the No.2 shared a manual with the No.3. There are 2 manuals for the Franklin and 2 for the Domestic models.
There is one company that seems to have quite a few old manuals turned into PDF files. There are 4 buttons to push at this link and the one we checked out had more than a few waiting to be picked up. Expect to pay between $8 and $10 for the one you may need.
Then check with your antique and old sewing machine repair shops to see what kind of selection they have to offer.
It seems that no one is reviewing the old Domestic sewing machines at this time. There are too many modern models to inspect and provide some insight into the quality and performance of the newer models.
What has been published says that Domestic was once the premier sewing machine of its day. In fact, it was so good that other companies and sewing machine makers used to copy their designs.
They say that imitation is a form of flattery and Domestic got a lot of flattery when the company was young. It is hard to say much about the latter Domestic models that were produced after the Mack brothers left and when White took over the company.
For some reason, the new owner decided that making new machines from a creative standpoint was not worth it and often acted like his competitors and copied from other companies. The older the Domestic sewing machine, the better it is.
The original Domestic sewing machines seem to be the models you should search for. They were original in design and well put together. Even if it needs cleaning up you should have a top sewing machine on your hands.
After 1910 the quality of the machine may have gone downhill.