Antique mail?
September 14, 2010 7:18 PM   Subscribe

In the cabinet of my grandmother's ancient Singer, I found an attachment for the machine which had been mailed to her from Chicago, Ill., to Yakima, Wa. It was mailed in a small manila envelope, and the postmark is unreadable, except for the postage meter "stamp" which says 3 cents. The instructions inside have no copyright notation. My question is how would I ascertain what year this was mailed to her?
posted by ljoct to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like the attachment was still in the envelope. Have you the envelope with the contents inside?
posted by alms at 7:24 PM on September 14, 2010

Um, of course that should read "Have you weighed the envelope with the contents inside?"
posted by alms at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2010

The limiting case: postage was "3¢/ounce" all the way from from 1932 to 1958.

(The rate for the first ounce (package or letter) went up from 2¢ to 3¢ on July 6, 1932.
The rate for the first ounce (package or letter) went up to 4¢ on August 1, 1958.
From 1919 to 1932, postage was 2¢, and additional ounces were also 2¢, so it would be hard to get a 3¢ "stamp" in that era.
Postage was also 3¢/ounce briefly (November 3, 1917 to July 1, 1919) during WWI.)

Rates were higher back in the 19th century, but I don't think the postage meter was in use then.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:37 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pitney's first patent was 1902, so it's not from back in the 19th century.

So it's either from WWI, or from sometime mid-century. (1932-58)

Fun Fact: Singer Sewing Machines have an excellent database of serial numbers:

Singer Sewing Machine Serial Numbers.

If you find the serial number and look up your machine, that might narrow down the range of possible years. (E.g., if the machine is from say, 1955, and postage went up in 1958...)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:48 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cross reference dates from Singer and the model of the sewing machine with AsYouKnow Bob's postage dates and you might get closer.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:54 PM on September 14, 2010

Wow!!! Thank you all so much. All responses are excellent!!
posted by ljoct at 7:59 PM on September 14, 2010

And the other piece of information you might be able to get:

What years did your grandmother live in Yakima? (e.g., Was she there only during WWII, she moved there after the war, etc.) That could help narrow it down.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:03 PM on September 14, 2010

Should add: Yes, I do have the envelope, and the item inside is an "two in one hemstitcher and rug maker". My digital bathroom scale does not register it all, and I do not own a kitchen scale. I have several of the attachments from this machine, and they all fit my 1950's era Singer. Thanks for the tips, though.
posted by ljoct at 8:15 PM on September 14, 2010

There are about 10 pennies per ounce if you want to make a balance scale.
posted by llc at 9:52 PM on September 14, 2010

Speaking of there any sort of marking on the attachment? If there is a patent number, you can search the USPTO database of patents to narrow down the time frame.
posted by Shebear at 4:11 AM on September 15, 2010

If the machine is from the 50's, you have a pretty narrow range of dates right there - from ~1950 until 1958, when the postal rates went up. Without a postmark, that's probably about as good as it gets. Maybe checking the machine's serial number would narrow things by a couple more years.
posted by Sara C. at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2010

I think looking at the machine may be a bit of a red herring. A lot of attachments fit a wide variety of machines; it's possible the attachment was bought not just separately from that machine, but for a different machine. Someone who sews might collect all kinds of things bought at various times, and stick them all in the drawer of the machine they currently have. So anything having to do with the machine may have nothing to do with the timing of the mailing of that particular attachment.

I have two sets of attachments that came with my 50's era machine when I bought it, and both sets don't actually fit it. They're for two different kinds of sewing machines--two different kinds than the kind I bought! But they were both in the cabinet, and the antique store owner said everything that was in the cabinet came right from the machine's one owner.
posted by galadriel at 7:15 AM on September 15, 2010

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