Q: I found this old sewing machine buried in a dirt cellar in my mother's house. It says "White Rotary," and there's a metal plate on it with the serial number FR2657168. It also lists several patent dates. The latest is June 3, 1913. Can you tell me the history of the machine?
A: Thomas White began producing sewing machines in 1858 in Templeton, Mass. The company moved to Cleveland in 1866 and White Sewing Machine Co. was incorporated in 1876. The White Family Rotary model was introduced in the late 1890s. It was the company's most popular machine and was made until the 1950s. White also made sewing machines for other companies, including Sears Roebuck. The company name became White Sewing Machine Corp. in 1926. Business declined in the 1950s as foreign-made machines became available in the United States. American manufacturers couldn't compete with Japanese companies making cheaper sewing machines, and by 1960 most of the American manufacturers were out of business. White merged with Husqvarna Viking, a Swedish firm. The letters "FR" in your serial number indicate you have a Family Rotary machine. The rest of the numbers indicate it was made in 1917. The woman who owned your sewing machine attached her pincushion to the arm of the machine so it would be handy. You can find out more about old sewing machines by going to the website of the International Sewing Machine Collectors Society.