The late 1950's and early 1960's were times of change on every level around the world and throughout society.
The 401A Slant-o-Matic was Singer's flagship sewing machine during these momentous years and its production spanned a critical shift in brand image from "Old Fashioned" to "Modern."
The changing face of Singer is captured in the evolution of the badges and markings on the 401A. A comparison of 4 individual machines reveals the progression. First up is #NA775005:
I'm partial to the "early" 401. It's prettier than its younger siblings. Note the stenciling on the Special Disc lid. It's two-tone brown and gold. The stenciling on the back is also two-tone. And the badge is a lovely bright gold embossed shield with the Singer "S" superimposed over crossed needles and a shuttle bobbin. The model number has its own plate mounted below the badge. All of these details give the early 401's a more "embroidered" look.
Before long, Singer began to streamline the decorative elements, as seen on 401A # NA810187:
The Singer badge and model number plate are unchanged, but the stencilled letters on the lid and back side of the machine have been changed to a simpler, monotone brown.
Singer's "Red S" logo was launched around 1960. It was sleeker, more modern. With the new logo came additional changes for the 401. The trend was toward a cleaner, less fussy design aesthetic, which is reflected in the next machine we'll look at, #NB519064
The model number still appears on its own plate just below the badge, but the lid stencil has vanished and the rear stencil is monotone brown. The mechanics of the machine are un-changed, but the overall appearance is getting plainer.
But the trend toward plainer was not yet complete. The late-run 401's are even less embellished, as seen on #NC009804:
The model number has moved to the stitch-length plate, further reducing production costs. Same machine, but cheaper to produce. Increased market competition from Japan and Europe was pushing Singer to simplify and economize.
The times were changing, and Singer was changing with the times.
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.