National Sewing Machine was a major producer of home sewing machines in the late 1800s and early 1900s. You can still find National sewing machines at antique stores and flea markets, and some can be quite valuable. Learn about the fascinating history of this company, its most popular models, and how to tell if you have a valuable machine.
History of the National Sewing Machine Company
The National Sewing Machine Company was one of the few early sewing machine companies to have a factory outside of New England. The company was based in Belvidere, Illinois, where it produced sewing machines, bicycles, washing machines and other items and employed hundreds of skilled workers. Although some machines were made by founder Barnabas Eldredge prior to the naming of the company, the company officially became National Sewing Machine in 1890. It successfully adjusted to changing consumer demands and produced machines for a variety of retailers to sell under other names. According to the International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society (ISMCS), National produced many innovative sewing machine models during its long history. After World War II, National Sewing Machine had trouble competing with Japanese manufacturers and closed its doors in 1953.
Identifying National Sewing Machine Models
The company produced dozens of different National sewing machine models over the years, some with the National name and some for other brands. If you are wondering what model you have, most have the model name clearly written on the body of the machine with a decal or located on the underside of the body. These are a few of the most notable National sewing machine models, including electric, hand crank, and treadle sewing machines:
- Model A - The National sewing machine model A, introduced in 1910, was a rotary machine with automatic thread tension. It was very popular, and there are many of these machines on the antiques market.
- Rotary B - The Rotary B, patented in 1920, originally came in a crank model and an electric model.
- Rotary 110 - This was a portable, hand-crank machine that was introduced in 1929. It had a hard case.
- Rotary 1120 - This early electric portable machine had a hard case.
- Eldredge - Many early National machines bear the Eldredge name. These include the Eldredge and Eldredge B. These machines were made prior to the naming of the company in 1890.
- Vindec C - The Vindec C, introduced in 1912, had a special presser foot that kept dust from entering the machine and causing early wear on the bearings.
- Reversew - The Reversew was one of the most innovative developments in National sewing machines. It allowed the seamstress to sew backwards, as well as forward.
- American Girl - This child-sized machine was very popular, and you can often find it for sale on the antiques market.
National Sewing Machines Made Under Other Names
It's important to note that National Sewing Machine marketed many machines to other brands. The other brands would then apply the decals and other identifying information. If you have one of these brands, it may actually have been made by National Sewing Machine:
- Texas Advocate
- New Home
- Montgomery Ward
- General Electric
How Much Are National Sewing Machines Worth?
Assigning a value to a sewing machine means looking it over with a critical eye and comparing it to similar recently sold examples. Most National brand sewing machines sell for between $100 and $500. There are several factors that can affect National sewing machine values:
- Condition - Is the machine in working condition with all its parts? Does it have minimal paint loss and damage? A machine in good condition will always fetch more.
- Rarity - Certain models are more desirable because there are fewer of them on the market. This includes the oldest models made by Eldredge.
- Cabinet or case - If the sewing machine has its original cabinet, it may be more valuable. For machines that were portable, having the original case in good condition can enhance the value.
Sample National Sewing Machine Values
While the best way to find out the value of your National sewing machine is to have it professionally appraised, it isn't always worth the cost of an appraisal. You can get an informal sense of the value by comparing it against similar machines that have sold recently. Never compare your machine against those currently for sale, since listing prices are not always representative of the value. Here are some examples of recent sales of National sewing machines:
- A complete, working National sewing machine in its original cabinet sold for $300 in 2020.
- A very early Eldredge sewing machine made before the National Sewing Machine was founded sold for about $170.
- An American Girl sewing machine by National sold for about $85.
Just One of Many Notable Sewing Machine Brands
While the National Sewing Machine Company has a fascinating history and produced thousands of sewing machines for American consumers, they are not the only notable sewing machine brand that you'll see in antique stores. Check out other antique sewing machines with a place in history, including famous brands like Singer. These old machines are fascinating to study and can be quite valuable to collectors.