As I said in the previous post, I've been having a great time looking and reading my way through Janet Finley's book of antique photos, Quilts in Everyday Life.
Last night, I read about something completely new to me, the Davis vertical feed sewing machine. The photo in Finley's book shows a mother and her little daughter sitting at a Davis machine with a 4-patch quilt. Finley dates the photo to 1895-6. It is labeled by a photo studio in Afton, Iowa.
So I poked around this morning to see what I could learn. "Vertical feed" means there are no feed dogs. The fabric is advanced by the action of the needle and presser foot. The Davis machine was patented and came into production around the same time as the early Elias Howe and Singer machines. It's touted as being able to sew cleanly without pre-basting, to sew all sorts of various thickness of fabrics including leather very well, etc. It looks like the company produced machines between 1868 and 1924 or so. They are treadle machines.
Today, people talk about the mechanics as being similar to the walking foot, which also pulls the fabric from the top so as to even out the pull of the feed dogs. Otherwise, the bottom layer of fabric is pulled slightly faster than the top fabric. This is great for curved things, like setting in sleeves, with the sleeve fabric on the bottom so it is eased into the shoulder. Walking feet can be used for machine quilting, for matching plaids at seams, for sewing long seams on drapes and quilt backing, etc. I found a few references to today's quilters loving their antique Davis machines for machine quilting and for binding.
I've always wondered about the feed dog thing. It seems like it would make more sense to have the machine feed the layers evenly since there are many more uses for that. And then there would be an attachment or something for those times when easing in is called for. So the Davis mechanism makes perfect sense to me.
Here is a short video of one of these machines in action.