Claire was an elderly neighbor of my friend Bill’s who passed away. Her family was looking to clear out her home, among her belongings was this wonderful sewing machine – they offered it to Bill. Since Bill doesn’t sew – I’ve got a new sewing machine!
The machine which had the Gimbel’s name on it, was manufactured in Japan in 1959.
Gimbel’s was a department store in Philadelphia which opened in 1894 on 8th and Market Streets.
According to Ed Lamoureux of Vintage Sewing Machines:
At the end of WWII, Japan had:
• A large labor force of machinists looking for work
• Idle small-scale machine shops in the Osaka area
• A surplus of machine tools from the war industries
• And the Japanese government was subsidizing up to 50 percent of the cost of imported machine tools.
They quickly realized that sewing machines could be manufactured as parts and subassemblies in separate businesses, saving the final assembler the costs of real estate, factory space, labor, and machinery. Dozens of companies sprang up to feed the American and European demand for high quality, low cost sewing machines. Many of these assemblers shipped their machines with no name to distributors in other countries where the distributors applied brands like Kenmore (Sears), Signature (Wards), Penncrest (Penneys), Gimbels, Western Auto, etc. Even small department stores were able to order sewing machines with their own brand name. Others were badged with American-sounding names and retailed directly to the public. Kinston, Remington, Universal, Wizard, and Fleetwood are just a few of the hundreds of names that machines of that era could bear.
And speaking of history – there were some other items in Claire’s sewing box that I found of interest:
Rest in peace Claire, your machine is in good hands.