Antique Davis sewing machines are rarer than other brands, but they have a unique history and style. Learn how to spot a Davis sewing machine, how much these machines are worth, and how to identify some notable models.
History of the Davis Sewing Machine Company
The Davis Sewing Machine company has a fascinating history. According to the International Sewing Machine Collectors Society, it began in Watertown, New York when investors back Job Davis to begin manufacturing his sewing machine design in 1868. The company became a strong local employer, and when it moved west to Dayton, Ohio in 1889, many local workers moved with it. Many of the early Davis machines were beautifully made and wonderfully ornate, but later models suffered from shoddy construction and were prone to mechanical problems. In the 1890s, as bicycles became popular, the company shifted production and began producing bikes under the name Huffman Manufacturing. The "Huffy" bicycles quickly became better sellers than the sewing machines, and the company pivoted to produce bikes instead. By 1924, the company was no long producing Davis sewing machines.
Davis Sewing Machine Identification Tips
If you have an antique sewing machine and wonder whether it's a Davis and when it was made, there are some clues that can help. Try these Davis identification tips.
Look for the Davis Badge and Decals
Although many Davis machines have the Davis name right on the front with decals, this isn't always the case. The company made machines under other names, such as Minnesota. Additionally, machines in rough condition may have lost their decals. In addition to checking for decals, look for the Davis badge on the machine. There may be a sticker or plaque with the company name on the side or bottom of the machine.
Know How to Date a Davis Sewing Machine
If you're wondering how old your Davis sewing machine is, the serial number may be the best way to determine the age. You can find the serial number on the back, bottom, or bed of the machine. Although there's no set record of Davis sewing machine serial numbers, Needlebar has collected many serial numbers and their corresponding dates. If you check where your machine falls in the serial number range, you can get a good idea of when it was made. The following chart sample Davis sewing machine serial numbers can help.
|1 - 96839
|1868 - 1877
|96840 - 181850
|1877 - 1880
|181851 - 425662
|1880 - 1889
|425663 - 780429
|1889 - 1900
|780430 - 2414588
|1900 - 1909
|2414589 - 3757234
|1909 - 1919
Compare With Known Models
You can also identify a Davis sewing machine by comparing it with known models. Look at listings on eBay, as well as videos of the machines in action.
Notable Davis Sewing Machine Models
Although Davis made many different models over its relatively short history, there are significant similarities in style and type between them. The company made treadle sewing machines and hand crank designs. These are some of the most notable Davis sewing machine models.
Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machine
The majority of Davis sewing machines on the market are considered "vertical feed." This was Davis' patented feed system. There are several vertical feed models, including the Number 2, Number 4, and Number 5. This machine was available in treadle and hand-crank versions. The vertical feed models came in versions with shorter and longer arms. The long-arm version allowed the seamstress to sew larger and bulkier projects.
Davis Advance Rotary Sewing Machine
The Davis Advance Rotary machine is less common than the vertical feed. It's a treadle design that had a different threading pattern than the more common vertical feed. Production dates are unclear for this machine, but it was definitely made near the end of Davis' sewing machine production.
Davis Underfeed Sewing Machine
The Underfeed was a variation on the vertical feed, but it is much less common. This feed style was a feature of early Davis machines like the Advance Model B and Model D. These machines were made at least through the early 1900s.
How Much Are Davis Sewing Machines Worth?
While Davis sewing machines are rarer than Singer sewing machines and other better-known brands, they aren't necessarily more valuable. They sell from under $50 for machines in poor condition to over $200 for well-preserved examples. Here are some sample Davis sewing machine values for machines that recently sold:
- A Davis treadle machine from 1886 in very good condition sold for $215. It included the original sewing surface and was in lovely shape.
- A Davis Under Feed machine with worn decals and no cabinet or treadle base sold for $50.
- A Davis vertical feed sewing machine from 1877 sold for only about $15. It was rusty and in poor condition.
A Perspective on the Sewing Machine Industry
Like many other sewing machine brands with a place in history, the Davis Sewing Machine Company had to be flexible and pivot to other products as the market required. Although Davis sewing machines are no longer made, they offer a wonderful perspective on the sewing machine industry.