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Chicago World's Fair
The Singer Featherweight 221 Model Sewing Machine first debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934. This Exposition was held from May to November 1933 and May to October 1934 with the motto “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms”. The official theme was “A Century of Progress” commemorating Chicago’s 100-year anniversary. Technological innovation with advanced aircraft, dream cars and “Homes of Tomorrow” all drew large crowds with exhibits featuring many modern conveniences.
On October 3, 1933, 10,000 Featherweight 221 models were commissioned. The earliest machines in that first run were in the testing phase and will have slight variations from machine to machine. Decal differences, throat plate styles, drip pan textures, hook assemblies, etc. are just a few examples that Singer was fine-tuning with their new design. Many of these adjustments were standardized for the debut at the Chicago World’s Fair, seven months later in May 1934.
To find a Singer Featherweight with the rare “Century of Progress Chicago 1934” badge is quite scarce today and special to its class, but more specifically to its model. No records have surfaced as to the exact number of Featherweight models sold at the fair. Therefore, with the exposition having been open only five months in 1934, there are only a handful of Chicago World’s Fair Featherweights reported today, with only a handful on record with historians. As of 3/25/2020 there are 29 Chicago World's Fair Featherweights known to exist.
The original case to a first run 1933 Featherweight would have had a teal green interior lining (Style #1) with a compartment top tray. This type of tray has a hook built into the right “compartment” which allowed the foot controller to hang in position. You will see this in the photo above. The bracket in the top lid of the case has a rubber washer on the base of it. When the lid has closed this presses down onto the machine holding it in place.
You’re actually not seeing double, because we had two Chicago World’s Fair Featherweights on consignment at one time!
#1 — The first one we had was discovered quite by accident earlier this year – a diamond in the ruff so-to-speak. Graded a 7 and in good condition for such a rarely badged machine. The machine sold for $4,695.00 in 2015. There are only a handful of these machines reported, so while fetching a collector price tag, the owner has one of the most sought-after Featherweights in the world.
#2 — The second one we had was unique in its own right and sold for about $6,000.00 in 2015. Not only was this machine so unique because it was a Chicago badged Featherweight, but because the original owner knew what she had and meticulously cherished her machine from the day she purchased it at the fair. Original Chicago World’s Fair booklet and paperwork were also included. In addition, an original 1934 “Century of Progress” Singercraft Guide – another commemorative from the exposition - accompanied the machine. Be sure to take note of how the original owner typewriter-typed her name and information and affixed them both to the machine and case. Although she used and enjoyed her machine and sewed many things over the years, she was fastidious about maintaining it. I am sure the original owner would be delighted to know that her sweet little Chicago-native Featherweight was passed on to another fellow sewist or quilter, who will also love and cherish this machine for many, many years.
*A special thanks to Tre Perry and J.C. Elliott for compiling this list!