Secor Fairy Sewing Machine
Answer to Name This Famous Antique Game - December 2015
By Mike McLeod

Measuring just eight inches wide and seven inches high, this is a fully functional sewing machine made by the Secor Sewing Machine Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Created in the 1880s, the diminutive Fairy sewing machine seemed like a toy, but in fact, it was a portable sewing machine. It was made of cast iron, wood and brass, and it was operated by a hand crank that also moved the walking foot to advance the material.

The 7 x 8-inch Secor Fairy sewing machine.
(Photo, courtesy of eBay seller wolfegangs-collectibles.)

Owner of the company and inventor Jerome Burgess Secor also produced the Secor sewing machine, a normal-size sewing machine, and the company did well. However, it closed its doors about 1883, mostly due to repercussions from the Panic of 1873.

Jerome Burgess Secor is not usually remembered for sewing machines. His name is most often attached to the mechanical toys he made, many while manufacturing sewing machines. The Secor Sewing Machine Company was based in Bridgeport, Conn., and coincidentally, Secor lived next door to the famous toymaker Edward Ives. After meeting Ives, Secor began making a few types of toys. Some of his most memorable were songbirds in cages, a girl playing the piano, a musical band of four black figures, a clockwork locomotive and other toys. To-date, his most collectible toy is the Freedman’s Savings Bank. Just a handful of these banks still exist, and not long ago, one was sold for $190,000 (before buyer’s premium) by Bertoia Auction of Vineland, N.J.

Secor’s Freedman’s Savings Bank.
(Photo: Bertoia.com)

The Freedman’s Savings Bank
in Washington, D.C.

Despite his success with toys, Secor went to work in 1899 for the Williams Typewriter Company. It eventually became the Secor Typewriter Company after he made many improvements to the typewriters manufactured there and then bought the company. His first typewriting machine hit the market in 1906. Unfortunately, World War I and other problems ended Secor Typewriters in 1916.

The Secor Fairy has not reached the level of collectability as the Freedman’s Savings Bank, but a Fairy was sold by Skinner’s in 2014 for $1,350 and another sold on eBay in 2015 for $2,500.

A side note: there was an actual Freedman’s Saving Bank that was chartered in 1865 to serve African-American veterans, ex-slaves and their families. It had 70,000 depositors and $57 million in deposits during its existence until 1873. Its last president was Frederick Douglass.1

Ginny Richard of The Old School Antique Mall in Sylva, N.C., and Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified the Secor Fairy sewing machine.

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Credit:
Mechanical Bank Collectors of America, Mechanicalbanks.org, “Jerome B. Secor and His Mechanical Toys,” by Louis H. Hertz, August 1945.
1 Treasury.gov, Treasury Notes, “The Freedman’s Savings Bank: A Historic Place in the Financial Empowerment of African Americans,” by Monique Nelson, Feb. 21, 2014


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