The Great Singer Giveaway
By Martin Gregory
As you climb the stairs up to Ray Rushton's London Sewing Machine Museum you pass a rather special Singer 27K on its treadle stand (Figure 1) surrounded by all the relevant paper work. Here is its story.
Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee of 60 years on the throne, in 1897. Many British companies produced commemorative wares to celebrate the event and one of those companies was the Singer Manufacturing Company. The Singer Company gave away 100 specially decorated 27K . These special machines, valued at 10 guineas (£10.50) each, were advertised in the press and magazines (Figures 2 & 3).
Competition for the machines was good advertising and was expected to generate many tens of thousands of entries.
A complicated system of rules was set up to select the winners (Figure 4); no lottery balls or computer random number generators then. Applicants had to write in to the London head office and could, presumably, enter each week for 12 weeks beginning the 29 th March 1897.
The entries for each week would be numbered in order of receipt and, at the end of the week, 5 machines would be allocated to those entries with 5 predetermined numbers given in the rules. At the end of the 12 week period, with 60 machines given away, the remaining 40 machines would be allocated amongst the applicants according to another formula. The results of each week's draw were displayed in the Singer shops.
The machines themselves were given special decorative decals for the occasion (Figure 5) featuring a portrait of Queen Victoria, her monogram VR, and the dates of her reign, 1837 -1897 for the Jubilee. The stand was also polished and fitted with better quality brass handles.
Ray's machine, number 13981940, was allocated to Miss Emma Green of 25 West Square, London SE, who was duly awarded the machine and given a nice framed certificate (Figure 6). Emma Green is not such an unusual name that there would be no other "Miss Emma Greens" entering the competition and watching each week in the window of their local Singer shop. One such Emma Green, from Birkdale, Liverpool, saw her name on the list in her Singer shop and wrote (Figure 7) to Miss Emma Green of West Square, London SE to see if there had been some mistake. Nice try, but presumably it did not work!