The American BeautyI had originally started this page in an attempt to track down information about my late mother's American Beauty Sewing machine. The web being the wonderful thing that it is, I was actually successful beyond my wildest hopes! Tracking down information about my mother's old American Beauty - or ANY American Beauty had been a challenge. At the beginning of my quest, "American Beauty" was NOT listed on any of the Sewing Machine collector's lists I'd seen online. There was an obscure reference I found with Google that states in part: "A sewing machine named 'American Beauty' that was made in Japan would not be allowed as it would be a misleading trademark" (paraphrased, more on this below). As I knew that my mother's machine WAS an "American Beauty" and that it WAS made in Japan - this lead me to believe that they were not imported under the American Beauty name for very long. As it turns out, this assumption was wrong. My mother purchased her American Beauty mail order in about 1957.
I inquired of the American Beauty Tool Company, longtime makers of soldering irons and similar equipment to find out if they had any relationship with American Beauty sewing machines. Turns out they did not, their business has always been with appliances that generate heat; their soldering irons (I have one from the 1940s!) and the famous American Beauty laundry irons - but not sewing machines.
As time went on, I found out more. Most, but not all, "American Beauty" machines show up in one of two liveries - the well remembered painted on script font with a rose on the bed as my mother's machine had. The second livery consists of a metal badge reading "American Beauty", usually with a crown above the name - and no roses anywhere. It was NOT at all obvious at for the longest time that these two liveries were indicative of the same company. Through the contributions of quite a number of contributors who kindly came forward, I can now definitively state that these Japanese American Beauty sewing machines were all imported by a company called Birginal-Bigsby, who purchased them from a variety of sources - mostly Japanese.
Both the painted livery and the metal badge livery utilize the exact same font - that I've termed the "Birginal-Bigsby font" - kind of obvious in hindsight, but not so much when I first started my research. The painted livery precedes the metal badges. I've roughly assumed the painted was in the 1950s, then they switched to the badges sometime in the 1960s - although I doubt the switchover was made on 01/01/1960!
As this research is on-going, I'd *LOVE* to hear from any and all who have an "American Beauty" sewing machine, or know something about them. Pictures are always a welcome plus!
However, before continuing with the story of the Birginal-Bigsby machines, it turns out that they apparently weren't the originator of the name "American Beauty". Indeed the experts at the Needlebar site, told me that "American Beauty" is/was NOT a registered trademark so "anyone could use it". That may have been true at one point, but according to some of the later Birginal-Bigsby badges, they evidently registered the trademark.
I had seen pictures of American Beauty sewing machines made by USA's "National Sewing Machine Company", which would pre-date the Birginal-Bigsby imports. I had also been interested in a National-made machine generically called the "Reversew Rex", and I managed to acquire one with the "American Beauty" name:
Thanx to my input, the National Sewing Machine Company page at the Needlebar
now lists "American Beauty" as a National badge. This machine has its own page.
This is the well-known NSMCO "R40", the immediate predecessor to the "Streamliner"
Similar to the top picture, the worn painted badge on this one is also "American Beauty".
Thanx to "Heather" who graciously came forward with these pix!
Eventually, by sheer accident, I ran across an old White on eBay which got my complete attention because this was the EXACT same machine as my Mother's American Beauty, except for the color (green) and branding. It had been somewhere between 30 and 35 years since I last saw it, but I'd recognize that machine anywhere. Shortly thereafter, I ran across a picture at "Relics" of the same:
Supporting the idea that this model was available from several importers, Linda at Relics (www.sewing-machine-manuals.com) sells a manual for them, generically marked; if you have one you can buy the manual here.
The web is a wonderful thing. Thanx to Google, a very nice lady found this page and sent me some cell phone pictures of her "305 De Luxe", which is exactly like my Mother's:
"American Beauty" is painted on in the Birginal-Bigsby font.
Unlike the machine the motor was made in USA, which was pretty typical of Japanese machines of this era.
The Model number TZ-17 - and news at last: this machine was made by TOYOTA!
So now the mystery is solved at last - the "305 De Luxe" machines were made by Toyota. A check of the Toyota website even allowed me to figure out what the model number means. Their first zig-zag machine was called a model TZ-3. Obviously the "TZ" means "Toyota Zig-Zag". How they progressed from TZ-3 to this TZ-17 I have no idea (and what happened to TZ-1 and TZ-2?); and where the "305 De Luxe" comes in is anyone's guess.
Therefore, the story now becomes bifurcated. I eventually acquired a TZ-17 of my own, for more info on that particular machine - regardless of badging, go to the TZ-17 page. For more info on "American Beauty", continue reading!
Birginal-Bigsby imported MANY other machines that they badged "American Beauty"!
A contributor had a beautiful story to tell:
Hello, I came across your page when I searched for information about the American Beauty sewing machine online. I have a nice story to tell about mine. My mother bought me my first and only sewing machine as a gift when I was 15 years old, from a second hand store in Fallbrook, California. It is still running and will outlive me I am sure! I told my daughter I will pass it on to her someday.
I have the original booklet and it was made in Japan. It is a ZigZag Automatic sewing machine. The original owner purchased it via catalog, and it was delivered in June 1969. It is a very nice color of white and light mint green. The booklet is fun to read, because the Japanese translations were often incorrect--but a good attempt.
Read your research and history of the company, being sued for the name because it implied "deception" since it was not assembled in America...interesting.
Well, my old sewing machine is special because it is well built, solid metal...sewing machines today are not made that way anymore. Also, it holds special memories... my mother's gift to me.
The "JA12" indicates this machine was built by Brother, and I have also seen this model badged as "Good Housekeeper", with "1500" on the pillar badged instead of this example's "175" as well as Bell, also on the pillar badge.
However, the shipping label in the right hand picture is the real find. It associates Birginal-Bigsby with the riveted badge machines by its presence with one of the same, as well as proving the painted livery machines as Birginal-Bigsby as well by the use of the same font for the words "American Beauty". The 1969 date for this machine, coupled with the 1957 date for my Mother's machine, is consistent with the idea that the painted livery came first in the 1950s; riveted badges came later in the 1960s.
A very nice lady, "Tina", came forward with these pictures. This one is rather noteworthy as its motor was made in Japan. Virtually ALL Japanese Machines from this period have US built motors - something to do with import tariffs and/or restrictions.
Note the original instruction manual, in common with the (reproduction) manual from "Relics" for my Mother's "305 De Luxe", bears no brand name!
The only other factoid is to note that the riveted badges all appear to use the same Birginal-Bigsby font - the answer was in front of everyone the whole time!
From a kind contributor: A machine quite similar to the above, Identified as bearing JA-18.
JA-18 has been identified with with Toyota.
The machine's owner assures me this says JA-18. It would make a bit more sense if it were really JA-12
due to its similar appearance to the above Brother made machine.
Mystery lever on top. The owner doesn't know what it does - neither do I! "B" for Buttonhole?
Sent in by Cyd: This machine, dubbed "Marilyn", bears JC-4 and JA-12 numbers,
the latter of which indicate another Brother built machine.
Courtesy of eBay seller "kmar6574", this machine with unknown JA/JC numbers
*may* be of Brother manufacture. Note rose added to existing bed graphic.
Yet another Brother built machine, courtesy of eBay seller "Lo442".
I have also seen this exact machine with an "American Beauty" riveted
badge, indicating that Birginal-Bigsby imported it for some time,
through the transition from painted livery to riveted badges.
This exceptionally beautiful machine was sent in by a contributor.
A 600 De Luxe, loaded with features!
Seems to be JA-34 - my sources are silent on this one...
The table it is in.
eBay seller "Flovett738" contributed this picture which appears to be the exact same machine
as the above, with slightly different cosmetics. JA-34 confirmed on this one as well.
Sent in by Karen: This wonderful pink machine has the usual rose on the bed, sharing space with
the OEM's graphic. First one I've seen like this - usually the rose is on the bed by itself, or on
the pillar if there was already a graphic on the bed. Unknown JA/JC numbers, if any.
Same machine, same situation with the rose, different color. Photo courtesy of eBay seller "85wagon".
This JA-12, another Brother built, was sent in by Jane. She reports:
There is a kinda sweet story to go with this: Many years ago there was a little office supply
shop in our town -- the sort of Mom-n-Pop store you don't see anymore. The owner collected
and repaired old sewing machines, which he had displayed around the store and occasionally
sold. I was a flat-broke design student back then, and like many design students I was (and
still am) enamored of Mid-Century Modern design. Every few weeks I would wander in to Conley's
to visit my favorite sewing machine -- a gleaming 1950's pink American Beauty (with more
chrome than a Chevy). It could be had for the princely sum of $125. One day Mr. Conley
waved me over; he said, "I've seen you in here off and on for over a year. You always look
at that pink machine." I replied yes, I adore that machine, but alas, there's no way I can
afford it. He asked me what I could afford. "Oh, jeez. I have maybe $40," I said. "Sold." he
said. "To a good home."
This one was made by Koyo...
As evidenced by the JA-13 marking.
Motor made in Japan.
These pictures were sent in from a kind contributor. Seems like a double-badged machine. Would seem that it was NOT made by Toyota. Another contributor thinks this one is "probably" a Brother due to the presence of "folding" spool pins.
D and D's Domestics on eBay graciously donated this photo. Unknown JA/JC, but looks very similar to the above.
"Michele" came forward with her Mother's machine, also of Koyo construction.
Shares the same brand of Japanese motor as the above example.
Michele thinks the machine was purchased ca 1962, which would jive with what we know about badging.
Looks like the same ink and stamp used as the above machine.
Michele found another example of this particular model, badged "Imperial".
Indirectly attributed to someone named "Teena Sorrell", this American Beauty is the very first JA-14 I've encountered!
Contributed by "Laura", this one is by an unknown maker...
"GNS" must mean something, but I don't know what. Niether does Randy...
Another contributor volunteered this earlier machine. Unknown JA/JC numbers.
Motor made in Belgium! Different tariff structure than Japan?
eBay seller "its-all-about-the-shopping" contributed this 'Beauty!
Lonnie sent in this American Beauty very similar to the above two.
Note the coexistence of the American Beauty rose with the OEM Graphic.
Contributed by eBay seller "irishredmond", this unknown 'Beauty has a very unusual factoid...
...Note the NON-Birginal-Bigsby font used here. We'll probably never know the how or why. It could be
anything from "hurry up and get it to market" to being imported by someone other than Birginal-Bigsby!
Contributed by eBay seller "Merryp123", this is another instance of the above machine. Slightly different badge,
but the same non-Birginal-Bigsby font. JA-13 shows these as Koyo built. Compare to very similar (Koyo) machine
above that DOES have the regular Birginal-Bigsby font - perhaps BB changed their font late in their existence.
Thanx to "D and D Domestics" on eBay, here is yet another instance of this same machine, but with the
usual Birginal-Bigsby font. Earlier example? Later? Mayhap the non-Birginal-Bigsby font badges were a
stopgap - perhaps they needed some badges in a hurry and using a standard font got them in the door quicker.
Contributed by "Anita", this 'Beauty was made by Sanshin.
From Randy: Sanshin made a lot machines back in the 1960's - under more different names than we will
ever know. So many detail differences that they are hard to identify as Sanshin unless you look on
the bottom. In my opinion - they are one of the best made [ unless ran too long without oil, or used
to death ]. Lot's of satin stitches, each with a R, C, and L needle position giving three different
patterns for each pattern selected.
Sent in by a kind contributor: This riveted badge American Beauty is also badged "De Luxe Zig Zag 666".
A devil of a machine! I've also seen this particular model badged "Royal".
This cool looking American Beauty was contributed by eBay seller "Maddy6018"
Contributed by eBay seller "adelinesatticstore". Note Rose graphic displaced from bed to side of pillar.
Sent in by a kind contributor: A class 15 "American Beauty" with what appears to be GOLD painted livery!
More probably just flash blowout of the usual red.
Another contribution: This "30 De Luxe", another class 15, is yet another American Beauty where
an existing OEM graphic forced the placement of the rose on the pillar. No maker's marks evident
on the bottom, although "Precision" appears on the top of the arm. Photo courtesy Bobbie Vonderheide.
Another example of the above model, this one courtesy of "Mike".
The riveted badge indicates this class 15 American Beauty was most likely imported in the 1960s.
Dig the cool, chrome motor! This machine's pix courtesy of eBay seller "jaygiampapa2012".
Sent in by "Rhonda": A particularly nice black class 15 "American Beauty".
Courtesy of eBay seller "Garage-Sale-Junky", another black beauty!
Contributed by eBay seller "mil-picker": A nice, and rare VS (Vibrating Shuttle) "American Beauty".
Japanese Vibrating Shuttle machines of any sort are quite uncommon.
A dual-tone class 15. Photo courtesy of eBay seller "cheeseheadcollectibleswi".
A "Super Deluxe" class 15, courtesy of eBay seller "cuz_jer".
Picture courtesy of eBay seller "Pendleton2015": Similar, yet slightly different
from above. With base in great shape. Note "Trade Mark Reg" on the badge (inset.)
Sent in by "Misty", this shares the "Trade Mark Reg" on the badge. These last four are all "Precision Built"
HA-1 machines. With the exception of the VS machine, all these "old fashioned looking" ones are HA-1, and
may or may not all be "Precision Built" as well. They sure are pretty!
This fine looking example was contributed by eBay seller "eastthetfordcollectables".
Close-up of manufacturer's badge.
"Aimee" sent this one in, an American Beauty with riveted badge. I'm going to go out on a limb here and GUESS that it is yet another Toyota from the similarity of the Zig Zag knob and the control to its immediate right to similar controls on my Mother's 305 De Luxe.
Guessing this one is from the late 60s or early 70s due to the riveted "American Beauty" badge.
Not a particularly helpful badge.
From a kind contributor: An American Beauty in painted livery. No "Toyota" or other meaningful marks on the bottom were reported.
This one is a De Luxe 105 as opposed to De Luxe 305 as my mother's was. Interestingly, the "American Beauty" text isn't
bracketed by the little "Henna like" curlycues like most other Birginal-Bigsby machines I've seen. Not enough room?
This light apparently isn't original equipment - in fact it looks like a
"Singerlight" identical to the one on my Singer 99k!
A co-collector sent this photo of the same model. It shows a matching lite fixture.
"Linda" came forward with the same machine as above, but in this stunning black and gold paint scheme.
As with the above machine, no "Henna Like" Curlycues on this one either, and the gold is atypical too.
However, the above blue De Luxe 105's "SingerLight" (apparent) replacement wasn't a bad choice upon
seeing this machine's similar unit. I had to "amp up" the gain in this picture to see the black on black!
Yet another with no "Henna Like" Curlycues, but the usual rose on the bed...
... and a second rose on the faceplate cover! First one I've seen with two roses!
Blurry picture of backside shows rather awkward stitch cam door.
Despite no JA/JC numbers, the maker of this one is obvious. Photo courtesy of St. Vincent De Paul Thrift.
This one is labeled "110" on its pillar. Photo courtesy eBay seller "Banjo-ben".
From the Victorian Sweat Shop forum: This nice American Beauty bears no under-bed markings to tell its tale.
Another contributor came forward with this "555" (flashed out, but there on lower pillar). Cool looker!
"Kathy" came forward with this very interesting machine. The hull is obviously derived
from the 305 DeLuxe, but has slightly different controls, including what appears
to be a Left-Middle-Right needle homing control!
This American Beauty looks newer than any other yet encountered.
This particular one was found in Israel, but I've seen them occasionally
in the US. It bears the familiar Birginal-Bigsby Font on the badge.
Melanie Cansew graciously granted permission to use this picture. Her Etsy Shop
I have also seen the above machine badged as "Stradivaro". These were made in Taiwan.
Someone emailed this picture to me years back, and I forgot I had it!
In any event, this rebadged (apparent) Fridor is the only instance I know of of a
European-built American Beauty, Birginal-Bigsby sourced or otherwise.
Motor- Vigorelli, robot Motor made in the USA. Note non-matching color. Replacement or original?
Painted livery with rose on the bed, yet with riveted badge "ModernAge".
Serial number 568829 and somewhat blurry photo shows "HZ1"
Familiar painted Birginal-Bigsby livery, and blue color as seen on my Mother's machine.
"ModernAge" is another "who knows" brand name that came out of Japan that usually isn't associated with American Beauty. Here's a typical example:
Another "ModernAge". Photo courtesy of The Needlebar. Most likely made by Koyo.
Another double badged machine, this time with Morse. Morse was one of the better known Japanese
badges, built by Toyota and several others and has a cult following to this day. The builder
of this version is, however, unknown.
Singer vs. Birginal-Bigsby
In the ever shifting world of online searches, I found a now deleted page, a detail of a 1963 lawsuit between the Singer Sewing Machine Company and Birginal-Bigsby Corp., the importers of "American Beauty" sewing machines as I noted above.
It turns out that Singer eventually lost; their attempt to have a trademark such as "American Beauty" on a product of foreign (Japanese) origin outlawed failed. This decision has apparently been quoted as precedent in trademark law ever since.
Looks like Singer was "fighting the fight" well before the above litigation took place!
This was from a commemorative dish Singer had made per its inscription.