A solid history of the Singer company from the invention of the sewing machine to the days of leveraged buyouts.

Unraveling the Threads


A corporate history of one of the world’s leading sewing machine manufacturers.

In this debut business book, Buckman traces more than 150 years of Singer’s history, from the first commercially successful sewing machine produced in the mid-19th century to the hazards of leveraged buyouts and takeovers in the 1980s and its more recent revival after several ownership changes. The “notoriously public private life” of Isaac Singer (father of more than two dozen acknowledged children by a variety of wives and mistresses) and his partner Edward Clark’s more patrician lifestyle serve as the backdrop for the company’s early history, and Buckman makes it clear that the philanthropic and professional pursuits of the Singer and Clark families—the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Dakota, the famous Manhattan building; the Baseball Hall of Fame—have been nearly as significant forces as the sewing machine itself. As the company moved away from family ownership, however, its management displayed a mixed track record, pursuing unwise acquisitions and moving into the aerospace field until it drew the attention of corporate raiders who came close to finishing it off. Buckman analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each period in the company’s development, pointing out the confluence of factors that led to early market dominance (an unlikely union of complementary personalities and control of necessary patents) and placing it in the context of the global business trends of the 20th century. Buckman demonstrates a solid understanding of Singer’s business and evolution, though the book stumbles somewhat over imprecise history (“Prior to the nineteenth century, mobility was relatively rare”; “The notion of ‘free time’ for their wives was an oxymoron”) and awkward phrasing (“he named it after the American Indian word for ‘home,’ the ‘Wigwam’ ”). But the book’s thorough grounding in primary sources and its adept blending of human drama with balance sheets outweigh the shortcomings, making it a valuable contribution to the field of industrial history in the United States.

A solid history of the Singer company from the invention of the sewing machine to the days of leveraged buyouts.

Pub Date: May 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4575-4661-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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