Mount Pleasant father and son renovate antique sewing machine | Education


Jeremiah Benton with the refurbished sewing machine.

Antiques often have a rich personal history attached to them. This is what Jeremiah Benton and his father Eugene discovered when they carefully unwrapped a 1926 Franklin pedal sewing machine sealed with shrink wrap and placed in a storage unit for many years.

Their goal was to clean and refurbish the sewing machine without disturbing the character of antiquity.

The most agonizing part of the project didn’t break any of the tricky parts, Eugene said. Jeremiah, a junior at Academic Magnet High School who is interested in mechanical engineering, explained that if they damaged any part of the 95-year-old sewing machine, it would be nearly impossible to find replacement parts.

“We wanted it to work; you can sit in front of it now and pump the pedal and the needle actually sews, ”Eugene said. “We didn’t want to lose that aspect. “

The foot-operated sewing machine is attached to a “cabinet” that looks like a desk with drawers. The machine operates without power supply. Instead, the operator continuously pumps a large pedal back and forth, which sets in motion a leather belt and a wheel that allows the needle to move.

A family friend, Shari Sebuck of Mount Pleasant, donated the sewing machine to the Bentons because she wanted the historic relic to be restored instead of in storage. Sebuck rediscovered the sewing machine while Eugene helped him empty a storage unit after his mother died.

Old sewing machine

The 1926 sewing machine before being restored by Jeremiah and Eugene Benton.

The sewing machine was owned by Sebuck’s grandmother, Inez Ethel Arbogast Trent, who was born in 1909 and lived in the mining town of Saint Albans, West Virginia.

“My grandmother used this sewing machine to sew anything and everything,” Sebuck said. “They were not a wealthy family, so the sewing machine was seen as a necessity, not a luxury.”

While inspecting the sewing machine, Jeremiah and Eugene found several objects that provided a glimpse into the life of a 1930s seamstress. One was a handwritten letter from Sebuck’s mother to his mother Inez, the grandmother. mother of Sebuck. In addition, there was an old Sears & Roebuck catalog, needle and thread, tape measure, buttons and owner’s manual that dated the machine from 1926.

The father-son duo cleaned decades of gravel and grime from the tiny crevices of the sewing machine. They had to oil the metal parts, including the wheels and the pedal, as they lay dormant for many years. Plus, they carefully used brushes and sponges to stain the wooden desk.

“The sewing machine was very delicate, so we had to be very careful when cleaning it,” Jeremiah said. “It had been in storage for so long that we had to lightly wash the old wood and oil the hinges, especially the pedal. Everything was still working perfectly.

Eugene and Jeremiah often find projects around the house to work on, so they were up to it when they got the opportunity to refurbish the sewing machine. Coincidentally, Eugene and Jeremiah occasionally sew as a hobby.

Reconditioned sewing machine

The old sewing machine after restoration.

Jeremiah started sewing in the last year after studying materials science in a mechanical engineering class; however, he prefers to sew by hand as he has more control over each stitch. Currently he is working on a pair of leather gloves. Eugene learned to sew from his grandparents when he was younger. Most recently, he has done a variety of sewing projects, including repairs to his children’s sports jerseys and other home decor projects like pillow cases.

Eugene and Jeremiah donated the restored sewing machine to the Costume and Fashion Design Department at Charleston County School of the Arts, which shares a campus with Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston.

“We wanted Shari’s grandmother’s legacy to continue,” Eugene said. “We wanted to allow students to see how far technology has come, even with sewing machines. “

He said it was a great opportunity for fashion design students to see such an old machine that is still in good working order.

“We are very grateful to receive such a unique piece of history,” said Kelly Martin, professor of costume design and fashion at the Charleston County School of the Arts. “It’s an amazing way to show students how fashion has evolved and been influenced by culture, economy and location. “

Martin said it was especially an honor to have an antique from a local family.

In another effort to give back, Jeremiah used his 3D printer to make N95 masks for the South Carolina Medical University when there was a shortage of masks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moultrie reported. News in April 2020. MUSC provided detailed instructions for Jeremy to follow and he received the materials from the Engineering Department of Academic Magnet.

Currently, Jeremiah is concentrating on his classes, planning his senior year schedule and preparing to choose a university to attend. He studies mechanical engineering programs at Georgia Tech, Clemson University, MIT and elsewhere.

“My dream job would be to work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or with Space X until I start my own business,” Jeremiah said.


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