Did you know that Toyota made vintage sewing machines?
This was news to me a couple of years ago when I kept seeing the Toyota name popping up on eBay listings. So I did a little research and it turns out that long before they started building cars, Toyota manufactured commercial textile equipment. Then came cars and World War II. The Japanese economy needed rebuilding and the US government stepped in with financial and material aid.
One of the US government's gifts was sewing machine manufacturing technology. Someone saw an opportunity to capitalize on a lapse in Singer's patent on the Class 15 sewing machine and a new industry was born! Japanese manufacturers like Toyota cranked out millions of "15-Clone" sewing machines from the late 1940's into the 1960's.
The Japanese machines were cheaper than their Singer counterparts and more colorful. Singer was still clinging to Henry Ford's "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black" aesthetic. By comparison, the Japanese imports were exotic birds in brilliant colors and flashy chrome trim.
Very few Japanese machines carry an identifiable maker's mark. The machines were imported into the US in huge numbers and sold to US retailers under a wide variety of names. Western Auto stores sold 15-clones under the "Wizard" name. Montgomery Ward marketed theirs under the "Signature" name.
It can be difficult to determine which Japanese factory produced your 15-Clone due to missing and incomplete factory records. But it is known that Morse contracted with Toyota for the model 200, which means the machine pictured above is a "Toyota" product. Very cool in my book!
For more information, check out the Yahoo forum on this topic.
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.