The Jewish Museum

Jewish Britain

A History in 50 Objects


Singer treadle sewing machine

This Singer sewing machine dates from around 1912. It was owned by a family in the East End and used for both commercial and private purposes.

Many Jewish immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in London and Leeds, earned a living working in tailoring workshops. The Jewish tailoring trade played a key role in developing the ready-to-wear clothing industry. Traditional English tailors produced made-to-measure clothes for individuals. The immigrant tailors made cheap off-the-peg clothing, which was affordable for a wider section of society.

Working conditions were extremely hard with long hours, low pay, overcrowding and seasonal unemployment. Tailoring was divided into processes and each worker had a different task. Pay and status varied with each process with lower rates for women and unskilled labour. Many joined unions to campaign for better pay and working conditions.



Anna Kwederowicz

My great grandfather was also a Tailors on cable St.My grandfather and also my father. They had moved to Bethnal green by then.When I was born,my parents lived under the work shop in Blythe st, I remember the sound of the machines well!



My great grandad Joseph Benjamin was a tailor with all his family my grandad was a tailor Solomon my father Ralph a tailor finally myself just haveing retired at 70 working at henry poole in savile row


Stan Jones

The machine shown here is the common domestic version. The tailors' machine was much bigger and I have that model which was made in 1885 andI am quite happy to give this to anyone interested in it. It would be very appropriate for any museum connected to the tailoring and it's history. Although well-worn it is in perfect working order

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