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Singer Manufacturing Company During The World War Years

Walking over a glass bridge suspended above a field of 9,000 poppies representing the nine million lives lost was such a sobering experience during the Henrys' visit to the World War I museum in 2015. After such an impression, the entire family decided to make a return visit in 2022 after the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop at Missouri Star Quilt Company. Carmon, April, Ruthie, Christian, and Joy were accompanied by Wendy, The Featherweight Shop Office Manager, to revisit some of the most notable exhibits, including Singer Featherweight related displays.

Glass bridge viewing the 9,000 poppies below at the World War I Museum. 

The brilliant red poppies blooming on a war-torn battlefield in the spring of 1915 became the source of inspiration for Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, Brigade Surgeon (1872-1918) as he scripted the poem “In Flanders Fields.” Little did John know that this simple act for his fallen comrades would spark an international outpouring of support that would last for decades to come. 

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
  ~John McCrae

 

During World War I, the grave devastation to the countryside in Western Europe turned lands once abundant with vegetation into a barren, somber landscape, desolate of life. As winter melted away into spring, a delicate gift adorned the countryside – red poppies. The trauma and turmoil to the soil rendered it uncapable of growth, except for the poppy. One of the most resilient “weeds,” yet it also has one of the most vibrant red petals. These adept little flowers soon came to decorate the fields by the thousands, gently easing the memories of devastation. 


View looking down from bridge at the poppies. World War I Museum. Kansas City, MO.

Word of the resilient poppy traveled from the countryside of Ypres Salient, Belgium where John McCrae composed his acclaimed poem, all the way to America, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The now infamous Moina Michael of the United States was the revolutionary influence to campaign the poppy as the official symbol of remembrance. Purchasing and selling nine million poppies on November 11, 1921, Anna Guerin and Earl Haid of the Royal British Legion created such elation, that the “Poppy Appeal,” raised over £106,000 to help veterans.

The bright red poppy color became peacefully recognizable and loved by many for decades and generations to come.   Singer painted a Sewhandy 20 child's machine a poppy red color and more commonly seen in Europe.  Whether this was a nod to a familiar reference or just a paint color choice for marketing purposes, we aren't sure, but it is interesting considering that their 'Red S' was otherwise a different red hue. 

"Poppy Red" Sewhandy sold at Featherweight Faire

While touring the World War I Museum, April’s favorite exhibit was the Panthéon de la Guerre, a reimagined panorama painting dating to 1918 in Paris, France. The original painting, circular in shape, spanned 402 feet wide and 45 feet high. The composition includes over 5,000 portraits of Allied war heroes and government officials. Since the Panthéon de la Guerre's painters constructed this masterpiece in France, Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, and Auguste François-Marie Gorguet, made France the focal point of the artwork.

Rearranged scale of the Panthéon de la Guerre, utilizing only 7% of the original artwork.

Original scale of the Panthéon de la Guerre.

After the initial release in Rue de l'Université, the Panthéon de la Guerre stayed in Paris for nine years and over three million people viewed the art. In 1927, it made its way to America and was purchased by three businessmen who sent it on a United States tour, making a few notable stops. After the initial release in America at Madison Square Gardens, the Panthéon de la Guerre was displayed at the Chicago 1933 World Fair. While on display at the Chicago World's Fair, the Singer Featherweight made its debut to the fair and market as well.

Chicago World Fair Badge on a Singer Featherweight


Read more about the Singer Featherweight debut at the Chicago World Fair of 1933 here.

The final stop of the United States tour for the Panthéon de la Guerre was the Golden Gate Exposition in 1940, also known for the scarce Singer Featherweight featuring the Golden Gate Centennial Badge insignia.


Golden Gate Centennial Badge. Learn more about the Golden Gate Singer Featherweight here.


After the last stop of the U.S. tour, the Panthéon de la Guerre was stored in an outside storage facility for twelve years due to its massive size. In July 1952, the painting was auctioned for $3,400 to William H. Haussner. 22 workers and a 48-foot trailer truck were involved in opening the giant crate. Haussner came across Daniel MacMorris, a U.S. World War I vet who was up to the task of repairing the painting. The Panthéon de la Guerre was donated to the Liberty Memorial, what is now the World War I Museum, in Kansas City. MacMorris kept only 7% of the original artwork and rearranged it to have a U.S. focal point. 

 *Removing the Panthéon de la Guerre from its crate after it had been stored outdoors for over twelve years.

*Daniel MacMorris delicately working on rearranging the Panthéon de la Guerre at the Liberty Memorial

Singer Manufacturing Company
WWI and WWII Wartime Efforts

In addition to the increase in weaponry production and decrease in sewing machine production, Singer Manufacturing Company produced one of the most iconic Singer Featherweights, the Blackside. The Singer Featherweight Blackside finish is black oxide used in substitution for the Chromium finish which was in short supply. 

Read the history of the Singer Featherweight Blackside


Singer Manufacturing Company was impacted not just by production, but also by the devastation of lives lost. Throughout World War I, Singer lost an astounding 435 members of the Singer family. They created this special monument in remembrance of those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice.


Roll of Honour of Employees of the Singer Manufacturing Company
Singer, Clydebank



*Photo Credit: CNN.com
**Photo Credit: Legacy-Collectibles.com

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