Saturday, June 19, 2010

Marie's treadle sewing machine

My son called early this morning and told me that just two blocks away there was an estate sale. Of course I went right over. And I bought this extraordinary sewing machine. One of my secret desires has always been to own such a machine. This one is in a very nice cabinet, which is not shown here.

Marie's Life: from a short recounting by two of her daughter's children, from whom I bought Marie's Singer treadle sewing machine at the estate sale held by her daughter's family this fine sunny Saturday morning. As I was leaving, her granddaughter told me she was glad I liked her grandmother's sewing machine. I went back in the afternoon to find out at least the name of the original owner, so I could put it in the cabinet.

Marie Archmisbere was from Hisparren, France. At age nine she was indentured to kitchen service in a large home or castle. Later, her sister was able to buy out the remainder of her indenture and arrange a marriage with John Beterbide, an American-immigrant Basque sheepherder based near Golconda, Nevada. Marie emigrated through Ellis Island in 1913 and made the train trip west with her destination pinned to her coat, since she could not speak English. She was met in Nevada, and worked there for a year, since Basque custom decreed that couples be engaged for a year before they marry.

After their marriage, John and Marie traveled throughout northeastern Nevada, living in sheep camps while John worked at sheep herding.

In the early 1920's, with a decline in the sheep business, the couple moved to Reno, Nevada. There Marie was a cook in a boarding house on California Street in Reno. Her daugher, the mother of the people I met today, was born in 1923.

The sewing machine, which we think was manufactured in 1919, was too heavy to carry in the sheep herding life. Their grandson thinks they bought it after they went to Reno, when it was probably new or nearly new. It may have been later fitted into its current wooden cabinet, which does not resemble the Singer cabinets I have been able to find, and which seems to have more of a Thirties look.

Later in the 1920's, the Beterbide family moved to Susanville, California, and opened a Basque boarding house there.
Here is a Google translation from a Spanish periodical article about Basque boarding houses in Nevada and California which is posted on the web.

In Marysville there were only three hotels and Uriz Hotel continues, although it is not Basque.
In the town of Susanville, Hotel St. Francis still active with the owners Richard and Angie GoñiIt was built in 1914 and Richard's mother, Marie Jeanne Goñi, bought it in 1947. Basque dances were organized each month and it was a popular place for the Basques and non-Basques. Other hotels were the Basques in the Pyrenees town of John and Marie Beterbide, and Marion's Hotel Larrea family. The Commercial Hotel Basque worked as a pension in the early 40s, but in the 60s of the Twentieth Century a fire destroyed it.

Both John and Marie are buried in Lassen Cemetery in Susanville and are listed on the Cemetery website:
 Marie: born 3 Feb 1894, died July, 1983.
John: born 15 Jan 1887, died 3 Jan 1966.

I would like to thank the family for sharing their family history with me.

I brought the machine straight home. My son carried it into the bedroom for me. I mended three items I had been planning to stitch up by hand, since my sewing machine is at the other place. Tomorrow, I plan to clean and oil the machine, if I can get a little brush and some sewing machine oil. The Singer works like a charm and makes a beautiful, even, straight stitch. I learned to sew on a machine like this. It was my mother's, but had been electrified by my father. He made the iron base into a small table, which eventually broke and was thrown away. I need to practice treadling, but it is sort of intuitive. If you stop and restart you may go backwards and break the thread, This machine should, however, be ideal for the short straight seams of quilt blocks. I won't try making anything too complex until I get better at it.

This whole happy experience has made this an excellent day. It has made me think about immigration, Western history, manufacturing history, clothing history, Basque culture, sheep herding and the whole splendid pageant of the past and its partial preservation in its material remnants. I have made an inventory of the things in a small box that was in the cabinet. Here it is:

Marie's Singer treadle machine Accessories Inventory; most of these items were in a worn, but intact vintage dark green cardboard box with embossed lettering. It had contained ½ pound of #7 “Crescent Superior Quality Bank Pins.” The embossing on the box shows an example of each of the sizes of straight pins. It is hard to scan or photograph, but I will keep trying.

6 bobbins, each wound with short lengths of different colors of thread
1 large wooden spool of white Talon mercerized sewing thread
8 Singer needles, assorted small sizes in Singer paper packet,
look unused
11 needles for hand sewing, assorted sizes
73 straight pins, assorted sizes and types
5 dress hooks on partial card; one hook fastener, loose
½ snap
3 white buttons, each unique
1 straight pin with fake pearls on it
1 tiny brass safety pin
2 ball-headed pins
6 large pins, really too large for sewing
5 bent pins, really unusable, but still saved
1 tiny pin, size 7 on the box
½ inch nail
5 small paper clips
2 attractive old keys to the cabinet, one of which locks it
4 thimbles, three of which fit me
1 poor-quality mended measuring tape
Felt needle holder: removed from neck of machine. I am using it for the needles.
Small screw driver, looks as if it was fashioned from another tool, ground down shaft shows a brass tip.

This is an inventory of thrift.

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