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Working for Singer
by Christian Henry
Looking back at books, magazines, and historical records it appears that Singer was a great company to work for. They provided many benefits and great facilities for their workforce. Singer wanted their employees to be able to state proudly, "I work for the Singer Manufacturing Company." So little is known about what it was like working for this industrial giant 60+ years ago, but we have obtained several records from Singer with awards for years of service, promotions, and testimonies from their employees that may reveal a glimpse of a chapter of history that seems so veiled.
Most of these records are from employee newspapers and accounts of Singer's history. We haven't had any first-hand testimonies direct from Singer employees during the Featherweight time, but the excerpts shared below paint a picture of a company that dearly cared for the staff.
One of the first instances showing the care for those employed is a prayer spoken by a Rev. Evan Gordon on May 18th, 1882 before ground was broke for the factory in Kilbowie.
This new factory that was being built was designed with a specific section to accommodate a park for the employees as well!
In 1953, Singer built a new regional headquarters in Hartford CT, but they were proud to state that not a single employee had been lost due to the relocation.
Promotions seemed to come quickly at Singer which was a great incentive to use one's mind and imagination to better the company. Here is a speech, given by George Neidlinger at the groundbreaking, who started with Singer at age 22, and in five years he was managing the company's operations in Germany.
John Felton began with Singer in 1948, and within 5 years, he was the Manager of a shop!
One of the greatest testaments of a good company to work for is a low turnover rate in employment. Singer did very well at honoring the employees who had been working for them for many years. There was even a Singer Veteran Employees Association for those who had been working in the Scotland factory for 40+ years. Here is the theme song for the Singer V.E.A:
It seems that Singer had women working in all departments, and Ruby Adams I am sure had a lovely demeanor as she made friends in many agencies.
Singer gave pins and other items as awards for years of service. Here is a photo of Director Grist pinning the 50-Years Service - Diamond Badge to the coat of Mr. Charlie Knight. There was also a 40-Years Service Brooch awarded to Miss L. Molineaux as well as nine more 25-year brooches for women and 13 25-year badges for the men during 1951.
It was recorded that Mr. Knight had told Mr. Grist a few moments prior, "I have sometimes been tired IN my work, but never tired OF IT."
Mr. Lachlan Mackintosh worked for Singer for 60+ years...about as long as the avg life expectancy at the time! Here is a write-up from Singer when he died in 1948 at the age of 99.
(Click image for larger view)
Singer also took notice of the recent happenings in the lives of their employees outside of work. This clipping from an employee magazine shows the company rejoicing with their employees who are happy and mourning with those who have felt a loss:
The Singer factory in Bridgeport, CT had a section in their employee newspaper for employees to sell various items or ask for rides to work. Each department also had a person or two that would write a little section about the happenings of the employees in that section. Truly a delightful read!
The Bridgeport factory also had a formal chorus group!
Singer also offered great discounts to employees!
There are far too many facets and departments of the Singer corporation to fit in one post, but we hope this has been a fun look and example of Singer's dedication to their employees.