If you come across a vintage “White Rotary” sewing machine, then you’ve hit a gold mine. They were well made, durable and hardy machines capable of sewing the thickest of material.

At the young age of 22, Thomas White and his partner pooled together $350 to start their own company. The tough machines were sold for a mere $10. Funds were very short, so the partners would have to sell one machine to afford to build the next. The company’s business eventually took off in 1876 and in four short years they sold over 80,000 units.  White’s advertising “stressed the machines simple construction with a minimum amount of parts, plenty of room under the arm, along with a self-setting needle and self-threading shuttle”. Eventually a new model known as the “White Family Rotary” was introduced and became one of the most popular machines. It continued to be made well into the 1950s with only small design variations.

In the late 1890s, the “White Sewing Machine Company” began expanding into other products such as roller skates, bicycles, lamps and eventually automobiles. In 1901, the new White Motor Company began building steam engine vehicles and in 1910, they produced their first gasoline powered truck.

In the early 20s, White began producing machines for retailers such as Sears Roebuck, Franklin, Domestic and Kenmore. With the onset of WWII, White retooled their sewing machine factory and began making much needed supplies for the war effort. After the war ended, there was a shortage of sewing machines. European and Japanese companies began producing cheaper machines which the American companies could not compete with. Eventually most of the American manufactures went bankrupt or were absorbed by foreign companies. The White Sewing Machine Company was purchased by Husqvarna/Viking Sewing in the 1960s ending one of Americas forerunners in sewing machine business.

The antique White Rotary machine located at White Pine Public Museum was made in 1911. It was donated by a local family and how it came to White Pine County is unknown. But surely it was used to clothe a new family. Possibly it was used by a bride to make her own wedding dress or a grandmother to create a baby quilt for a beloved grandchild. What’s the story of your antique quilt?


February’s monthly event will be a display of antique quilts from the surrounding area. We will be taking entries Thursday and Friday, 12 till 3:00. If you are interested in sharing your heritage and telling the story of your quilt, please contact us at 775-289-4710 for more information.