1865: An Unlikely Alliance

Wheeler and Wilson Advertising Card (1888)

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an unlikely alliance was formed between the makers of pianos and the manufacturers of sewing machines. Both were products widely used by women at home, both were widely seen as triumphs of American engineering and industrial enterprise, and both could be had for a roughly similar price. G. E. Van Syckle Co. of Bay City, Michigan, manufactured both, and itinerant sales representatives in far-flung rural districts frequently carried both in their wagons. Further east, a firm in Connecticut, spotting a gap in the market, made a combination sewing-machine and melodeon. There was even a publication, launched in 1880 and entitled The Musical and Sewing Machine Gazette.

Jeremy Siepmann, The Piano (1998)

I haven’t been able to find a picture of the “combination sewing-machine and melodeon,” but another source reports that it was made by the Wheeler & Wilson Co. of Bridgeportand contains this description:

It had the form of a parlor sideboard. When opened, it presented a set of keys; whereas the sewing machine was revealed after the top was turned back. There were side doors below, containing two two pedals—one for the musical and one for the sewing apparatus and by changing her foot from one to the other, the fair operator could play at tones or at stitches as she felt inclined. (Arthur Loesser, Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History)

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