Class 1200 Single Needle Ten-Inch Flatbed Machine, released 1882.
(Shown: Style 1200AB for attaching borders to sweaters.)
A new type of machine for a new type of manufacturing.
As the founders of the Union Bag Company began to make their way in the sewing machine business, they had a vision of building machines designed for just one operation, and performing that operation better than any other machine. Unfortunately, apparel manufacturers didn’t share that vision. Current thinking said a sewing machine should perform a variety of operations, and a garment should be sewn entirely by one machine whenever possible. Apparel manufacturers were reluctant to invest in specialized machines that would only perform one operation.
An additional factor complicating the introduction of special sewing machines was the lack of uniformity in garment design and construction. Union Special had a vital role in introducing standard seam constructions to the sewn product industries. The company developed a number of seam constructions, including the two-operation seam and cover seam for sweaters, bathing suits, and underwear; the flat seam in which the raw edges of knit goods are overlapped, sewn together, and covered in a single operation; and the double lap felled seam used in the manufacture of shirts, overalls, and underwear.
Class 1800 Improved Bag Seaming Machine, released in 1886
As the first users of the Flat Bed Single Needle Machine adopted the machine into their production, they were laying the foundation for a manufacturing concept (later to be known as segmented production) that was virtually unheard of in apparel manufacturing—or any manufacturing—at the time. These manufacturers gradually redesigned their production so that a machine operator, instead of performing several operations on a conventional machine, did one operation on the specialized machine. These operators became highly proficient on this one operation and achieved unheard-of production. (Early 20th century Union Special Sales Bulletins are filled with stories from around the country of production records being set in apparel plants.) Naturally this resulted in a reduction of labor costs for these apparel manufacturers.
This did not go unnoticed by the rest of the garment industry. Studies of manufacturing methods in the garment industry would quantify the efficiency of segmented production, and gradual acceptance of this system and standardized garment construction occurred. The new ideas and special machines pioneered by the Union Bag Company were transforming the sewing industry.
11900 side wheel cylinder twin needle machine, 1894.
The first coverseamer for underwear