|What is a Blackside 221?
Manufactured before and after WWII when
chromium and nickel were difficult to come by, the Featherweight
Blackside machine has a japan finish and gold decals identical to the Standard 221 but its faceplate is not plated like the standard
machine, it is coated black.The coating provides a dull, non-reflective finish.
In an effort to determine the
method Singer used to blacken parts, I am gathering information on the passivation and
phosphating processes used during the time of 221 blackside production. If you have
information which may aid the search, please contact
Although the handwheel rim on
the majority of reported Featherweight 221's prior to AG818000 is silver, the handwheel
rim on all reported blackside machines is the shiny black japan finish.
Additionally, the backplate on
the stitch length regulator is solid black (with the exception of the stitch length
markings) on all reported blackside machines.
The presser foot lifter bar on
reported blackside machines is predominantly shiny black instead of silver.
There are currently two
identified production runs that contain Featherweight 221 blackside machinesJuly 1,
1941 and September 19, 1945. The serial numbers of blackside 221 machines are not
consecutive, they are intermixed with standard machines in the production runs.
There are also non-blackside Featherweight machines in the two known production runs
that have a black presser foot lifter bar and non-blackside machines with a solid black
stitch length regulator backplate.
After more than 50 years it is likely that these machines are not in 'original'
conditionparts break, become misplaced, and get replaced. It is unknown whether all
blackside 221 machines originally included a black presser foot lifter bar, bobbin
case, bobbins, presser feet, or accessories... and it probably will never be known.
Machines documented as blackside 221's in the database coincide with a known
blackside 221 production run, have a black scroll faceplate, and have a black handwheel
The Featherweight 221 was not the only blackside model Singer produced and not the
first; in the AF and AG series alone there are model 66, 99, and
128 machines with black coated faceplates, presser feet, and accessories. All parts on
the blackside machines are standard, the finish is simply different.
Urban Legend: 221 Blackside with a Black Pressed Steel Faceplate
In the book "Featherweight 221 - The Perfect Portable" by Nancy
Johnson-Srebro, the author states that a 221 machine from the November 22, 1946 production
runAG883740has a black pressed steel faceplate, much like the faceplates used
on the 221K white and 221J tan machines and a teardrop-shaped faceplate retaining screw.
221K white and 221J tan faceplates are easily identified; they have a slot
approximately 1/4" long and 1/16" wide at the very top of the faceplate that is
used to locate a supporting screwhead. Additionally, 16 standard Featherweights with
serial numbers ranging from AE to AM have been reported with repainted or stripped and
plated 221K or 221J faceplates.
The database contains 489 other model 221 machines from the November 22, 1946
production run, all of which are standard machines.
In September of 2009 a similar machine was sold on an Internet auction site for $341.67
Both the seller and buyer granted permission to use their pictures on this website.
This machine is from the September 16, 1946 production runAG811471.
The database contains 426 other model 221 machines from the September 16, 1946
production run, all of which are standard machines.
After viewing the pictures my observations are:
- The paint on the faceplate has what appears to be spiderwebbing indicative of spray
painting rather than a baked on finish.
- There appear to be file marks on the edges of the casting where the faceplate is
- The faceplate fits poorly.
- The screwhead is not centered in the receiving slot and has damage marks from the tool
used when it was removed or installed.
Based on the current information available it is logical to surmise the machine has
been modified with a replacement faceplate that has been painted black, most likely from a
221K (originally white/green) or 221J (originally tan/beige) machine. It is not reasonable
that Singer would produce a product configuration with such poor aesthetic and
Blackside Scroll Faceplate
221K White Faceplate
The new owner communicated with both myself and Graham Forsdyke regarding the
machine calling herself Rachel Smith when e-mailing me and Danielle (no last name) when
e-mailing Graham. Graham arranged to have the machine brought to the Charlotte, North
Carolina, ISMACS Sewing Machine Convention in October of 2009 intending to thoroughly
check it out including measuring the screw thread size and comparing the faceplate to that
on tan and white machines.
After the convention Graham contacted me indicating that Danielle/Rachel "failed
to show for the appointment to hand the machine over to Lloyd for transport to Charlotte
and hasn't been heard from since."
In October of 2009, the new owner listed the machine on the same Internet auction site
with an initial opening bid of $1,999 and buy-it-now of $2,500; the listing was
continuously renewed through May of 2010 with the opening bid as low as $799 and as high
Then on May 7, 2010, the machine was listed as a 7-day auction with an opening bid of
$0.99 and no reserve.The revised ad stated the machine was evaluated by an unnamed expert
who concluded the faceplate was from a 1960's 221J.
The machine sold on May 14, 2010, for $401.01 plus shipping.
AG811471 Screwhead Alignment
AG811471 Faceplate Fit
Concerning the teardrop-shaped screw:
After studying the picture of this machine on page 72 of the 1997 edition of "Featherweight
221 - The Perfect Portable", a member of Featherweight Fanatics
pointed out that any Featherweight 221 can appear to have a teardrop-shaped screw by
raising the presser foot lifter bar and simulating the angle at which the picture was
taken. On page 204 of the 2001 edition of her book, Ms. Srebro retracted the statements in
earlier editions regarding the teardrop-shaped screw.