Treasure Chest Thursday – Eveline’s Sewing Machine

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I’m reusing an old entry to fit the Sepia Saturday prompt for this week. The original post date is almost exactly eight years ago – Nov. 15, 2012. Please enjoy what others have pieced together for this prompt by visiting Sepia Saturday.

I think the camera on my phone takes better pictures now than the camera I used eight years ago. You can click to enlarge most of the photos. The original post follows:

Karen at Ancestor Soup has been sharing pictures of her grandmother’s sewing machine this week, so I decided to join her and we can compare.

Grandma’s sewing machine sat at the entryway into her kitchen, right below the mirror where Grandma fixed her hair every morning.

That indistinguishable blackness behind and on the left of cousin Deb is Grandma’s sewing machine cabinet with a decorative linen on top. Although I was a little too short to see into the mirror very well, I stood in front of the closed sewing machine cabinet most mornings so Grandma could comb my hair. The shelf just below the mirror is where she kept her pearl blue comb and some bobby pins. The rubber band to hold my pony tail waited on the sewing machine cabinet so I could hand it to Grandma at the proper time.

That’s not Grandma Eveline in the picture, by the way. The woman is Eveline’s mother, Mary Harris Coates, pictured with her great-grandchildren. I’m the one sporting the modified peeled onion look. It’s unfortunate that I can’t find a better picture of the sewing machine in Grandma’s kitchen.

Grandma’s sewing machine is a Franklin. The International Sewing Machine Collector’s Society website provides the following information on it’s page about Sears:  Beginning in 1911, the company introduced a number of machines based on Singer designs. They were the ‘Franklin’ (1911) and the ‘Minnesota A’ (1914), copies of Singer’s Model 27/127 class manufactured by the Domestic Sewing Machine Company of Buffalo, New York. The ‘Franklin’ was decorated with Egyptian styled decalcomania, clearly in imitation of Singer’s beautiful ‘Memphis’ decoration scheme. The ‘Minnesota’ was decorated in the same type of gold filigree used on the Davis-made ‘Minnesota A.

The machine folds down into the cabinet. The finish on the cabinet had turned dark and tacky with age, so my sweet husband had it refinished as a gift to me, leaving it with this beautiful oak finish.

Here you can view an advertisement from the 1916 Sears Catalog for a Franklin sewing machine that looks just like this one. And here is an ad for this cabinet style, called the “Sit-right.”

I don’t know when or from where Grandma got her sewing machine. The Sears Catalog seems likely.

The Franklin sewing machine is decorated with a colorful Egyptian scarab design. I saw one for sale on the internet that referred to this as “The Tumble Bug” sewing machine.

Grandma didn’t use her sewing machine much when I lived with her, but I know she used it countless times to make clothes for her children and herself. There are many indications of wear and use.

I never knew Grandma to buy a pattern – she made her own – or sometimes just measured and started cutting. And yes, she used flour/feed sacks to make clothes for her kids. Flowers for the girls and not flowers for the boys. Mom told me about a fancy dress she wanted for a dance or some special occasion. Grandma went to the store, looked at the dress Mom wanted, and then made one just like it.

I remember Grandma making a doll dress for me. It was yellow with black trim. Short sleeves, tucks enhancing the bodice, and a full skirt. I need to find out if that dress is still at Mom and Dad’s. Even as a little girl, I was impressed by Grandma’s ability to make that dress with no pattern. And I remember – just a little – the sound of the treadle moving the needle up and down.

Unfortunately the belt that makes it all work is broken. You can see it hanging loose down inside the cabinet. It should run up through the hole on the left top, around the middle of the hand wheel, and back down into the cabinet through the hole on the right.
There is just so much beautiful detail – like the plate on the end. (You can click to enlarge.)


The belt from the treadle also powered the bobbin winder above right. You can read more about early Singer sewing machines and knockoffs at Wikipedia.


Above is a cover on the back of the machine. I don’t know what’s inside, but Grandma must have needed to get in there for some reason as the cover plate is bent along the edges as if she had used a screwdriver to pry it open.


From what I can gather, this was a “vibrating shuttle”. Looks like it needs cleaning!

And here is the bobbin shuttle from inside the machine. You can barely see the long bobbin sticking out the left side.

That’s enough for today. More on Eveline’s sewing machine to come.

I’d love to hear about the sewing machines in your family, so please leave a comment!

Edit: I found the beginning of a draft for a follow-up to this post. Just one paragraph:

One day Grandma decided I was old enough to learn how to sew on buttons. I was wearing a favorite dress at the time and sitting on the davenport – as she called it. Grandma gave me a button or two to practice sewing on a scrap of fabric. I was very proud of myself….  until I realized that I had sewn the whole thing to the dress I was wearing – a favorite dress at that. I’m not sure if that was one of the occasions that I ended up being sent to my room, but I think it might be. If I started whining too much or crying about something that didn’t need to be cried about, Grandma would send me to my room so she “wouldn’t have to hear it.”

I have no idea what I had in mind for the rest of the post!

Sepia Saturday – Science with Grandma

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I couldn’t think of anything to match the prompt photo and it is chemo week, so I needed something simple to do. Somewhere along the line, I remembered my grandmother Eveline Hoskins making charcoal crystal gardens with me a couple of times when I lived with her as a young girl – so that’s what I settled on. Doesn’t require a lot of research or brain power and I had the fun of making (with some stumbles) a couple of crystal gardens.

I couldn’t find much on the history of charcoal crystal gardens and only two vintage photos. There are apparently a few references in the 1700s, but charcoal crystal gardens gained popularity during the Depression and are sometimes referred to as Depression flowers. All of the items needed were common household chemicals usually found in one’s home.

Here are a couple of photos I found on the site with the recipe I used;

Most gardens were made in a glass pie plate or a bowl, not like the vase above. I chose glass pie plates and made two – one with charcoal briquettes (without lighter fluid!) and one with the leftovers from a wood burning fireplace that a friend supplied.

Since my grandparent’s home was heated by a coal stove, getting a few small pieces of coal was easy enough. Charcoal briquettes also work, and my little bit of research says you just need a porous base: broken flower pot, pieces of brick – even a sponge. I think my grandmother just sprinkled each item over the coal, but the recipes on the internet have you mix them together and pour over the coal.

The ingredients are basically equal amounts of salt, bluing, and water, and a lesser amount of ammonia. I used 6 Tablespoons of the first three and 1 Tablespoon of ammonia and divided between the two as I didn’t have enough bluing to make two batches – I tried to buy more, but the two stores I went to didn’t have it. Some recipes leave out the ammonia – especially if making with children – which I think slows the process but still works. 

Here is my first step, charcoal briquettes on the left, burnt wood on the right:

With the mixture poured over:

There is an excess of salt that doesn’t dissolve, so it was kind of a sludge that I ended up distributing as best I could.

One of my stumbles was that I never considered that I didn’t have a supply of food coloring in the pantry. If you are good with all white crystals that isn’t a problem, but I wanted a colorful garden like my Grandma and I made. All I could find at first was a little bit of blue food coloring, so I added what I had and went back to the cupboard to see what I could do. I found some paste food coloring that is used for cake decorating. With my weak hands, I couldn’t open a couple of them, but did get a reddish one and more blue, so I diluted the paste in water. When I went back to my garden, it had already started to grow!

Added the other food coloring and in an hour had this:

By bedtime, more crystals had grown and were overflowing the pie plate. It was also losing color as the new crystals had not taken on the food coloring. Guess I needed more. By this time, I found some red food coloring, so after taking this photo, I put a little red on and the crystal I poured it on just dissolved away. (It was replaced by morning, so no big deal, really.)

This morning:

I also ended up with red food coloring on my hands and a little on my shirt, so beware. Also the bluing stains.

It was a fun little thing to do and think of my grandmother in the process.

Please visit the laboratories of other Sepia Saturday participants here.


Sepia Saturday – A Teacher of Atypical Students

May 5-11, 2019 was National Teacher Appreciation Week in the U.S. One of my friends posed this question on Facebook: Can you name your teachers K-5th or 6th grade? No. I can’t. I had three teachers at three different schools in 6th grade and I have no idea who they were. I think I slept my way through Kindergarten. I remember my teacher’s name, but not much more. I have some memories of 2nd grade, but not sure of the spelling of the teacher’s name. 4th grade is a bit of a blur. My 3rd and 5th grade teachers were memorable, but my 1st grade teacher is the one I remember most fondly.

Miss Willard, 1st grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Georgia Willard

I was the youngest student in Miss Willard’s class; I didn’t have my 6th birthday until mid October, just two days before the cut-off date.

There were more than thirty students in our class and over the course of the year, six of us were named Kathy or Cathy. Miss Willard had to resort to numbering us to clarify who she was calling on. I don’t remember my number – they were only needed if two of us had the same last initial, which apparently happened for part of the year.

The school was already decades old when I attended. Our classroom was rectangular, Miss Willard’s large wooden desk at the front. Was it elevated on a platform a step higher, or does a childhood memory place my teacher on a higher plane?  Wood and iron desks on a wood floor. Windows along the side to the students’ right and windows at the back of the room were opened on warm days. Miss Willard had a few plants on window sills. Built-in cabinets on the lower half of the other side wall. Miss Willard occasionally brought in something she had gathered from nature to place in the room. The one I remember is the bouquet that included pussy willow that grew in the wild. It was the first time I had seen it or heard it’s name and I was intrigued by the look and feel of it.

My little brain hadn’t quite developed by the beginning of 1st grade to be able to do all that was expected – and this was 1959. I can’t imagine how “behind” I would have been with today’s expectations and testing of young students! We were grouped for some subjects and I was in the bottom group for everything that had a group. I wasn’t told I was in the bottom group; the groups were named by color or animal or something, but I caught on. My report cards were filled with U’s for Unsatisfactory.

I guess I couldn’t even sing on key when I started 1st grade. I remember Miss Willard pulling me aside one day and asking if we had a piano at home. We did, although no one played it. She told me to ask my mother to play the C scale for me and I was to sing along and match the tones. She gave me singing homework! But I was happy about it. I didn’t mind at all.

You may be wondering why I was so fond of Miss Willard since I was aware that she thought I was at the bottom of my class. I guess it is because I was never made to feel badly. Miss Willard was kind and encouraging. She liked me. I don’t think I could have put it into words, but I must have felt that Miss Willard wanted me to succeed. Also, my favorite people in the world were my grandmothers and Miss Willard was much like my grandmothers.

And there was that cabinet on the side wall …

If a school-wide assembly was about to occur, Miss Willard would tell us what to expect and what she expected of us. If we behaved ourselves, when we returned to our classroom, Miss Willard would compliment us, telling us we behaved better than the older students. Then she might go to that cabinet and pull out a big box of animal crackers and start passing them out. She didn’t bribe us ahead of time – it was a surprise to me, or a hope, once I caught on that she had treats in that cabinet.

And at the end of each grading period, she would hand out little rewards for improvement. Nothing big – just a couple of animal crackers or vanilla wafers or maybe a piece of candy. But your effort was recognized. And rewarded.

As the year progressed, I moved up from the bottom groups and in the spring, those U’s on my report card began to turn into S’s, for Satisfactory.

On the last day of school, Miss Willard recognized the improvements everyone made throughout the school year. I had made the most improvements of anyone. Accordingly, I received the most rewards! Again – just little things, but this time we may have gotten to choose which treat we wanted. I may have even received a certificate to document my accomplishments. If I did, it is long gone.

My first grade year was Miss Willard’s last year to teach. She retired. I felt sad that she would not be there when I returned in the fall. I helped Miss Willard pack up her belongings that decorated our classroom. I remember it as “me” helping her, but I’m pretty sure there were a couple of other students besides me. We must have stayed in during recess to spend this time with her. Miss Willard told us we could choose something to keep. I chose a pretty, but chipped, china saucer that she had placed under a plant to catch water. I kept it for a long time.

Me and Miss Willard

When I decided to write this, I only knew my teacher as Miss Willard, but a look around genealogy websites gave me her full name, Georgia Vivian Willard. I knew that Miss Willard had never married, but that was the only fact I knew about her. A look through some old newspapers shed some additional light on my beloved teacher.

One of the first things I found was her obituary, which provides her birth and death dates, as well as family members and how many years she dedicated to teaching – almost 50!

Ottumwa Courier, 16 Jan 1963

My mother and I also attended First Methodist Church. Why did I not know this? I don’t have any memory of seeing Miss Willard there, yet I know from some older newspaper articles that she had been an active member – at least during her younger years. I would imagine that she remained active. Well, sometimes kids miss a lot of what is going on around them. I know I did. Also, we moved away in the summer after 2nd grade, so my time and memory there was limited.

I even found the advertisement of the auction for her estate.

I read that Miss Willard played bridge, participated in a number of weddings and hosted showers for friends – mostly fellow teachers at Franklin School. She was a member of the PTA – in fact, she was the first president of the organization at Franklin School. She also served as Treasurer for several years.

Ottumwa Daily Courier, 18 Feb 1933

Interestingly, I even found out what kind of car she purchased in 1937 – a Nash Lafayette sedan. I guess it was news?

Ottumwa Daily Courier, 12 June 1937

As I continued to search, I learned that Miss Willard was respected as a teacher of the “atypical” student. In fact, she was considered a pioneer. When I read the article below, it made perfect sense that Miss Willard was just the teacher I needed in 1st grade.

The Daily Courier, Ottumwa, IA 25 May 1935

I’m not sure exactly when Miss Willard began to focus her teaching on students with learning differences and pioneered an ungraded classroom to serve students with special needs. The above article is from 1935. During the Iowa State Teacher Convention in 1932, she was elected president of the group “Teachers of Atypical Children.” At the convention in 1933, she presided over this part of the program.

A brief look around the internet for the history of special education didn’t yield much information. Much of what is written follows the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – both passed in the 1970s. The beginnings of a grassroots effort by parents and advocacy groups for the inclusion and accommodation of special needs children apparently began in the 1930s. Prior to that time, these children were either educated at home or sent to institutions or private schools. Miss Willard was right in there at the beginning of the movement and the use of the word “pioneer” seems appropriate – especially in a small town in Iowa.

As for my experience in Miss Willard’s 1st grade classroom, I think she approached us with the same principles described in the article above. Miss Willard focussed on the individual needs of each student. Her classroom had an atmosphere of contentment. She hoped to instill in us a desire for education. Her classroom was cheerful. There was singing and story telling and character training.

As a child who was not quite ready to perform what was asked, how differently might I have felt about school and myself if not for Miss Willard?

I do wish I still had that saucer, but feel very lucky that my mother took these photographs of Miss Willard to help keep her memory alive for me.

This is my contribution for Sepia Saturday this week. Miss Willard never looked like the folks in the prompt photo! Prepare for stern looks as you visit other participants here.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

9/5/2022 I just learned about a blog party at The Family Heart blog and linked this post there.