Denise Jones

The Birth of a Sewing Machine

I’ve been researching the Singer Factory, Kilbowie, Clydebank, Scotland, which closed in 1980, and came across this link called ‘The Birth of a Sewing Machine’ made circa 1934. The film is silent and in black and white and has been kept by The Scottish Screen Archive.

The film was made to show the industrial process and the magnitude of the production at the site (in 1913 the factory produced 3 million machines). What you see in addition, are many dirty and poorly protected hands working with fast and dangerous machinery and the demarcation of female and male jobs, – women for instance, test the machines and decorate them with transfers, polish and clean them, whilst the men deal with casting the iron, making the metal and wooden parts, assembly and packing.

It is a window into a bygone era of mass production in Clydebank and lives of endless daily repetition and toil. What we try to fill in when viewing the film is the noise of the factory, the smell, the heat and the oily grime. It has some very powerful images. I thought that this film was and is, a solid reminder of our industrial past that was peopled.

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