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.
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.
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.
I 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. The decals are pretty worn, and it’s clear this machine was well used.Here’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. I 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. The 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.