The St. John Sewing Machine Company, which was the predecessor of the Free S.M.Co., was founded in 1870. In 1883, it was renamed the Royal Sewing Machine Company. After the company relocated to Rockford, Illinois, it was renamed once again in 1897 as The Free Sewing Machine Company after company president William C. Free.

Most machines made by the Free company were for sale by mail-order companies and department stores. For instance, machines that are marked “Illinois Sewing Machine Co.” were made by Free.

In the mid-1920s, Free became associated with Westinghouse which became the sold supplier of motors and electric equipment for Free brand sewing machines. As such, the earlier electrically driven Free sewing machines are labeled Free-Westinghouse.

The Free sewing machine company merged with the New Home Sewing Machine Company in 1927. In the early 1930s New Home models were phased out of production and ‘New Home’ basically became a brand of The Free.

The post World War II period saw the large scale importation of cheap Japanese-made sewing machines into the United States. Trade barriers favorable to American companies had protected the country’s sewing machine industry from lower cost (and quality) foreign made goods. However, the Marshall Plan coupled with the new ideas of free trade slowly eliminated them.

In an effort to stay solvent, Free/New Home merged with National in the early 1950s. However, the resulting corporation was not able to compete against cheap overseas labor, and the company was bought out by the Japanese in 1954.

The historical and technical contribution of The Free to sewing machine development was negligible. Like many of the other small manufacturers, they basically made machines based more or less on designs from the larger manufacturers.

--From The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition

Royal sewing machine (Photo courtesy of G. Bethell)

Oiling diagram for the sewing machine head
Parts diagram for The Free sewing machine head
Threading diagram for The Free
The Free vibrating shuttle sewing machine head (Courtesy of Bobbie Kopf)
Underside view of The Free sewing machine (Courtesy of Bobbie Kopf)
View of The Free sewing machine in a treadle cabinet (Courtesy of Bobbie Kopf)
Illustration of a Victorian woman readying the machine for use (Courtesy of Bobbie Kopf)
Side view of The Free sewing machine cabinet (Courtesy of Bobbie Kopf)
Close-up shot of throat plate area
The Free Elgin sewing machine (Photo courtesy of G. Bethel)
The Free sewing machine (Photo courtesy of G. Bethel)
The Free McCaskill sewing machine (Photo courtesy of G. Bethel)
The Free sewing machine (built-in motor) (Photo courtesy of G. Bethel)

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