Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society

With Singer to the Pole

by Graham Forsdyke
Issue No. 30

OK, HERE'S one for you Trivial Pursuits buffs.

What do nine galvanized buckets; 27 mattresses; 126 packets of toilet paper; one case of games and five sewing machines have in common?

Given up already? Answer is they were all part of the inventory for the 1911 Mawson Antarctic expedition which set out from Sydney, Australia. In fact, one of the Singer machines had already taken part in a 1907 expedition; and after checking over by the manufacturers who supplied a new lid, it was used again for the later attempt.

Mawson's name lives on in an Antarctic research department at the University of Adelaide and it was to the Institute Secretary that ISMACS member Heinrich Heuer appealed for help in tracking down just which machines went on the 1911 trip.

It's certain that the one Singer from the 1907-9 expedition was re-used. It's not sure which model this was but it was certainly equipped for repairing harnesses for the sled dogs.

Douglas Mawson, later to be knighted by the Queen, first applied to Singer's London office for five machines. They agreed to provide the machine that had been used earlier and passed the buck suggesting that he should contact Singer in Sydney for the remainder of his needs.

Singer's assistant general manager in the Antipedes J W Brown wrote to Mawson's committee saying that he would be happy to loan either one or two machines and the offer was jumped at. Mawson told Singer that the machines should be individually crated and branded for the SY Aurora which was to take the party on the first leg of their trip to the deep south.

Their further request to Singer for thread was turned down on the grounds that the company did not stock it and really had no idea of what type would be required.

If any of our readers are contemplating such a trip, other items in the manifest included dried vegetables, one bath, a quantity of Spratt's dog biscuits, one gramophone and presumably, if the latter's spring broke, an upright piano. GF