Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Martha Washington sewing cabinet

When my parents visited our new home last this fall, they brought with them my Christmas present--an absolutely beautiful Martha Washington sewing cabinet. I didn't know anything about this type of cabinet, so I started doing some research.


Martha Washington sewing cabinets were popular during the first half of the 20th century. I've read that they spiked in popularity during the depression when furniture makers were looking for smaller, less expensive pieces to sell.

They were modeled after popular federal-period sewing cabinets dating around 1800-1815. It is possible that Martha Washington owned one--but I couldn't confirm that.

A phot of a Federal sewing cabinet from The Antiques Directory.


I found the 20th-century versions in the Sears Catalog. The 1928-29 catalog advertises one for $6.35, but it must have been popular. By 1931, Sears was offering a bargain version for $7.55 and luxury versions in solid walnut ($17.75) or mahogany ($17.65) that cost about $267 in 2014 dollars!

An ad from the 1928-29 Sears Catalog.


These tables generally have three drawers in the center front, with rounded pockets on each side that flip open, revealing deep storage for yarn and fabric. My cabinet differs in that the pockets rotate out to reveal a deep pocket capped by a short one. This leaves the table top a solid piece and a perfect place for my great great grandfather's lamp!


Because my cabinet is unusual, i wanted to know who made it. A manufacturer's sticker on the bottom reads "made by SHEETS MFG. CO. Wapakoneta Ohio." The manufacturer's number is written in crayon on the bottom: #234. While I was looking online for information, I found that the owner of cabinet number 235 is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


There is very little information about the Sheets Manufacturing Company. In desperation, I called the Wapakoneta library, but even they couldn't find much. I did find a reference that states that the company was started in Botkins, Ohio, a few miles from Wapakoneta, in 1903 and specialized in furniture for export. I have not been able to verify this information, but the company name does show up in lists of furniture distributers.


There are a lot of photos online of furniture that people have acquired with the Sheets Manufacturing Company label. People like it, and interestingly enough, the rotating pockets show up on other pieces--such as desks. It must have been a signature feature.


I wish I could have found out more, but that is not going to stop my loving this piece of furniture. It is the perfect size for storing the projects and needles, threads and patterns that I work with during evenings in front of the television. Thank you Mom & Dad!



  1. I am envious this is not just practical but beautiful looking piece of furniture too

  2. I am looking at a piece that seems almost identical to yours, and love it. Do you know what a reasonable market price might be?

    1. The Martha Washington cabinets were made during the depression (1920s) when people who wanted/needed to buy furniture couldn't really afford any. The furniture makers responded to the need by making small pieces that cost less.
      The pieces are dated by the type of hinges used. Martha Washington's sewing cabinet had no drawers and a lower center work area that you could pull a chair up to. Those are pretty rare to find these days.
      As to value, the piece shown in the Sears ad (nice find, btw!), are bringing up to $200 at auction if in very good condition. They generally sell around $125-$150 otherwise, if you can find a buyer.

      Nice cabinet.

    2. I have the exact same cabinet only that mine has a signature on the bottom that looks like it says "Dwane Craig." I've been trying to find out who that is, but so far no success.

  3. I have one I am selling for $195. I have it online in the glenwood springs post independent online ads. Mine is Mahogany and in good condition.