The Household Sewing Machine Model 5 1/2 c. 1882

In early January, 2013, I walked into a local thrift shop and saw this machine.  There was a signup sheet taped to the top to indicate if you were interested.  There were 7 other names ahead of mine, but I signed up anyway.  This was the beginning of my growing collection of vintage and antique sewing machines.

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 I called back twice a day for four or five days, and finally someone called and asked if I was still interested in “the pedal machine”.  I said yes, left work with a friend and picked it up and took it home.  Then I went to work finding out what I had bought.  It is a Household Model 5 1/2 Treadle machine made by the Household Sewing Machine Company, aka Providence tool Company, in Providence, Rhode Island.  The last patent date on the slide plate is 1882.  This is a vibrating shuttle machine.  The presser foot is secured by a screw in the back, but unlike the ‘back clamping’ Singer 66-1, the feet on the Household slide onto the shaft of the presser bar.  The regular sewing foot is slanted forward from the bar. The machine has a leaf tension.  The stitch length adjustment is behind the pillar.  When I bought the machine it had a home-made wooden box replacing its original ‘coffin top’.  The wood box has a name and place written in pencil inside, but it is difficult to read.  It appears to be a man’s name and the name of a town in South Dakota, with the year 1940.  Because there were many old spools of thread in the drawers, mostly colored olive drab or tan or black, and a “military issue” hand sewing repair kit, I wonder if this machine belonged to a soldier, or to his mother or wife.

Providence Tool Co was also known for manufacturing guns during the Civil War.  They were not in the sewing machine business for too long, but they produced a very nice machine, if they do say so themselves.

HSM Manual

All of the claims made in the manual (which cost five cents in its day) are true!  This machine has a nice high arm, and a large throat.  The fiddlebase bed is fairly flush with the cabinet.  The stitch length regulator is behind the pillar.  I replaced the newer (and broken) bobbin winder with one that would have been original to this machine (no thread guide) and was able to buy an original Household coffin top from Wolfegang’s Collectibles; this improved the dowdy appearance considerably.  I spent some time cleaning and oiling, following a treasure trove of instructions found on the TreadleOn site, and there began a very pleasant association and many new friendships.

HSM Co Cards_3 copyI love using this machine; she’s quiet and solid.  Treadling is contemplative and rythmic and soothing.  This machine makes a perfect stitch, and it is easy to keep the tension in adjustment. I recognized the long bobbin and shuttle from my earliest days sewing on that old VS Singer, and I have learned how to wind along bobbin without a thread guide!  And for speed, this machine outpaces my other treadle, a Singer 66-1.  IMG_1740IMG_1732The decals are pretty worn, and it’s clear this machine was well used.Image 3DSC04691Here’s a view of the regular presser foot showing the little ‘wing nut’ shaped screw in back.  On the right you can see the detail on the leaf tension, now missing its decals.IMG_1696      IMG_1697I bought a few more attachments on eBay.  On the left a couple of binders that screw to the bed.  On the right, a flat fell foot, ruffler and a third foot I think must be for darning or quilting.  ImageThe Cabinet is in excellent shape.  My ‘restoration’ was limited to a good cleaning and replacement of one mis-matched drawer pull.  I think there was a center drawer that was lost somewhere along the way.  A previous owner must have repainted the irons and touched up the gold paint on the logos.  They are in very good shape as well.IMG_1738

23 thoughts on “The Household Sewing Machine Model 5 1/2 c. 1882

  1. Now I know what a leaf tension is! – thankyou. And that arm looks really high – great for those quilts and soft furnishings! Maybe it was a military machine with all those ‘uniform’ coloured threads?

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  2. I have an old Household sewing cabinet base. The mad hone is long gone, but I would like to find some original hardware for the drawers. Your post says that you replaced one. Can you tell me where you were able to find it? I have retrofitted the piece with a vessel sink and new top and it’s installed as a vanity.

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  3. I need some advise which I cannot find anywhere else. I bought a household machine 1874-1882 Prov R.I. U.S.A treadle. It is missing parts which I cannot find. I’m getting a bit frustrated because I know if I had the parts I could get this beautiful machine to work. Is anyone willing to help me in this quest of finding parts or guide me in the right direction? I’ve been on the vintage site and treadle site, found nothing out. I am missing the part that holds the needle on, thread guide, manual, coffin top, belt, six drawers and the drawer supports
    still, bobbin and shuttle,possibly a parts diagram for taking it apart and putting it back together and extra feet. From there I’m not sure what else is missing. I do know someone painted and varnished it. I would like to know how I could clean all of that off. I’m way over my head on this one. I realize it is a lot but I couldn’t pass it up. Paid $50 for it. That’s to bad is it?

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    • I was lucky to find a machine with most of its parts intact, and in good working order. You might try searching on eBay for the parts you need. Also, consider visiting TreadleOn.net for info about using and restoring treadles, or join the TreadleOn Yahoo group to ask questions and get help. Thanks for visiting!

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  4. I inherited an antique Household treadle sewing machine from a great aunt. And I’m 68yo so it must be quite old. It’s a coffin top. My dad put a rawhide belt on it for me 30+ years ago but could not get it tight enough. Don’t know where to find one that fits. I know it sews nicely because I tried just turning the wheel. The instruction booklet is so “crispy” I can’t touch it without it crumbling. I’m also needing bobbins. The one tiny spool of thread is dark olive. I so much want to sew with it. Kind of nostalgic. I only met my great aunt once when I was 8yo. She was in her 70’s then. I have this thing about keeping the past alive. Can anyone help me find parts for this machine or at least parts that would work with it. I’d be forever grateful.

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      • What do these sell for, I have one plus there’s a bunch of parts in one of the drawers, I live in Ky and really am curious as to what a fair asking price may be. Thanks

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  5. Hi there, I love these posts. I just inherited a Household Sewing Machine Stle 5 made in 1882. An exciting adventure to bring it back to life!

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  6. Salve, ho una household molto antica e non riesco ad identificare il modello..e se è possibile sapere se ha un valore storico. È stata portata in Italia con una nave i primi del ‘900? Mi potete aiutare?

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  7. Carissima Sue in riferimento alla tua e-mail ho risposto e ti ho inviato le foto della macchina da cucire household, forse non ho fatto correttamente. Comunque ti volevo ringraziare del materiale che mi hai inviato e se le hai viste fammi sapere qualcosa. Grazie
    PS. Io non sono pratico del web e non conosco l’inglese scusami del disagio che ti sto creando. Ciao Saverio

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  8. I have an old household sewing machine that looks to be in great shape, it has all kinds of extra parts in a box that also says household on it, I am wondering what the value is, I am thinking about selling it, but really don’t know where to start on a asking price, I live in Ky if anyone is interested

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    • I would be interested in those parts if you could e-mail me the name of your machine. I live in Alaska and have a 1879 Household treadle.
      Please e-mail me at:dnmoore@mtaonline.net. Maybe a picture of the parts would be good.

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      • Nancy I do not have the parts. Someone named Gary made those comments, on my page. Sorry. Good luck finding what you need.

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    • Hi, Gary, I am sorry for the delay in my reply. I think the short answer to your question is that these machines are worth what people are willing to pay for them. I paid $135 for mine, but I am in a very expensive area in Northern California and I don’t know what the going prices are in your part of the country. You might check eBay and Craigslist and see if you an find others like yours, or just decide what you want for it and see if someone is willing to pay that. I’m sorry I can’t really tell you what they are “worth” but for a person who is interested in sewing with a very good treadle, the Household fills the bill, if it is in good shape. Good luck with it. I would sure like to see the attachments you have because those are hard to find!

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  9. There was a box in one of the drawers that was full of different parts, also some loose parts in the drawers, I really don’t know what they are, I took pics with my phone so I could put this on Craigslist, I may be able to list it tomorrow so they will be under Lexington Ky craigslist if I get time to do it, thanks for your help
    Gary

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    • The value of these old machines is essentially what someone is willing to pay for them. There is no inherent value just because they are old. They have value to those who appreciate them.

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