The founder of the company, Job A. Davis, began the small scale manufacturing of a sewing machine around 1860 in New York City. In all likeliness, he may have manufactured a sewing machine similar to the New England or Common Sense chain-stitch sewing machines that were popular in the 1860s and early 1870s. This would explain the “Vertical Feed” mechanism used on later Davis machines.
Although Davis machines created a lockstitch, both styles of machines used a walking foot to feed cloth through the machine. Like the New England and Common Sense machines, Davis sewing machines featured a walking foot, or “Vertical Feed,” which by the 1880s, had become a peculiar feature of the Davis sewing machine.
Lacking feed dogs, the Davis machine used a kind of “walking foot” to move cloth forward with each stitch made. These machines continued to be manufactured into the 1890s, at which time they were replaced with more conventional models employing feed dogs.
In 1869, the operation was moved to Watertown, New York, where the Davis Sewing Machine Co. was incorporated and began the large scale manufacture of the Davis Vertical Feed sewing machine from 1871 through 1886. After 1886, the operation was moved once again to Dayton, Ohio where production continued from about 1889 to 1924.
Beginning in the late 1890s with the introduction of the models featuring feed dogs, most Davis made machines were ‘stenciled’ models manufactured and labeled for retail outlets, catalog houses, and mail order companies. Taking over from the Free, Goodrich, and National sewing machine companies, the Davis company supplied most Minnesota brand sewing machines sold by Sears Roebuck & Co. from 1900 through 1912.
The first Davis sewing machine sold through Sears was the Burdick, introduced in 1900. This was soon followed by a number of different Minnesota models in the following years. The Minnesota “A” was the best of the models, featuring ball bearing movements and a positive feed mechanism. The models “B” and “C” were lower costing models which did not posses the “A” machine’s various improvements but which nonetheless were a superb deal for the prices they were offered for.
During this period, the majority of machines being manufactured by Davis were for sale through Sears. In 1910, all sewing machines featured in the Sears catalog were manufactured by Davis. But around 1912, Sears again began to contract with other manufacturers for sewing machines.
The Franklin, a copy of the Singer Model 27 manufactured by Domestic, as well as a Domestic made Minnesota Model A, were introduced that year. Slowly, the dominance that Davis had held in the Sears sewing machine product line began to decline. By 1919, the last year that Sears carried a Davis model, the only Davis sewing machine featured in the catalog was a Minnesota Model C.
Because the company had grown to become so dependent on sales through Sears Roebuck & Co. for its sewing machines, when Davis lost its contract with the company in 1919, it was unable to make up the loss in sales and eventually went out of business in 1924.
--From The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition