The Best Sewing Machine Cards from the 19th Century

Back when sewing was a way of domestic life for any woman with a family, sewing machines were a huge deal. The charismatic Isaac Singer sold the idea of sewing machines to women in the mid-19th century, and soon they became household staples.

Trade cards were the name of the game in the same century. They functioned as business cards, but people liked to trade them much like we trade baseball cards today. And sewing machines came with their own handy trading cards.

The art on such cards often surpasses any detail found on business cards today. (This isn’t the only time we’ve written about trading cards – see here for an article on 19th century pinup girl cards.) The cards had nice enough illustrations that they were kept and valued as art or scrapbook material. Business owners loved this, of course; along with art, the cards featured the name and information of the company. In the 1880’s and ’90’s, the availability of four-color lithography made cards especially popular for their added color and design.

Like many trade cards from that century, the illustrations look dated today. They feature scenes where the sewing machine sits in the center of the family, claiming a center spot in the parlor.

Here are some of the prettiest or just downright weirdest sewing machine cards that emerged from the 19th century:

The Tea Party sewing machine card vintage

“The Tea Party”

Vintage sewing card with a baby riding a sewing machine butterfly

Who knows what’s going on in this one? Not me.

Vintage sewing machine card showing kids playing around a sewing machine

Surely playing around the sewing machine is the time of their lives for some kids.

Vintage Portugal sewing machine trading card.


Sewing machine vintage advertising card

It’s the newfangled sewing machine bicycle!

Which card is your favorite?

3 Bizarre and Hilarious Vintage Advertisements

We present to you three tobacco advertisements that are either nonsensical or just plain odd.

What may have looked normal to society at the time these cigarette and cigar ads were released have gotten a little lost in translation as time went on.

We’ve written about cigarette cards before, but these are a whole other deal.

It’s remarkable — and somewhat shocking — how many of these ads use babies and children to advertise tobacco products. Of course, all the risks of tobacco were not well known back then, but still: a baby shown next to a pack of cigarettes? Really?

Which brings us to the first ad:


“Just found his mail pouch” (via Boston Public Library)

This ad is more politically incorrect than anything, but then again, at that time “politically correct” was not a known phrase, so who are we to judge?

Along with finding Mail Pouch brand cigarettes, this bubbly baby boy found his own personal lung cancer twenty years down the road.

This one is my personal favorite:


The further back you go in the picture, the more children you see crying. Joe Michl’s FIfty Little Orphans (via Boston Public Library)

What possessed the artist to draw fifty young orphans to advertise a cigar I do not know, but the child in the front offering a cigar puts the linchpin in what was just a bizarre piece to begin with.

These children might haunt your nightmares, but at least you’ll get some cigars along with that tingling on the back of your neck that comes from 50 pairs of eyes watching you.

Now for a more humorous card:


It’s like America’s Funniest Home Videos, pre-TV era. (Via Boston Public Library)

We might not know what possessed the well dressed man to stand on a diving board, and experts also don’t suggest smoking a cigar while floating in a pool. But “The New Capadura” has indeed made for a hilarious situation.

There are more normal (and prettier) advertising cards out there, but none are quite so unique as the ones tobacco products inspire.

Which of these ads is your favorite?