The Most Famous Singers of All

Many of Singer's presidents were accomplished singers. Isaac Merritt Singer had a wonderful voice, as did his last wife Isabella; they often performed arias and art songs together. Each of Singer's 24 children received expensive private tutoring in music. Singer's daughter Winnaretta, Princesse de Polignac, was an accomplished painter and pianist who became one of France's best-known and most successful music patrons (she dedicated a substantial part of her fortune to supporting modernist music.)

Winnaretta is most famous for the original music she commissioned for her Parisian salon from musicians like Debussy, Satie, Stravinski, and Manuel de Falla.

The Clarks, heirs to half the Singer fortune, were also extremely musical. President Clark's son Alfred Corning, the force behind the Singer throne for many years, was a singer, composer and noted music patron and philanthropist, who discovered the next two presidents of Singer at music recitals. He first heard Frederick Gilbert Bourne sing at New York's Mendelssohn Glee Club. Soon Bourne was attending Singer board meetings in Clark's place, and rose swiftly in the company.

Clark met Singer's next president, Douglas Alexander, in the same way. Though trained as a lawyer, Alexander hoped to become an opera singer. Clark dissuaded him with the comment, "think of your legs in tights". 

Not surprisingly, for many years Singer employees believed that "the way to get ahead in Singer is to sing". Singer capitalized on this reputation in its advertising. It commissioned songs, which it printed and distributed at its shops. The most famous were "The Singer Polka" and "The Merry Singer" by composer Henri Le Verne.

In the 1890s Singer put out a series of cards featuring American songbirds. The cards were "educational", describing the habits of the birds and showing their distinctive eggs and plumage. These cards proved immensely popular, and were used in the American school system to educate children about birds for the next thirty years. A former Singer executive now in his mid-eighties tells me he remembers using these cards to learn about birds when he was a schoolboy. 

Singer advertising on the cards, at first quite discreet, became increasingly overt as the years went by.

Back of a Singer card

Singer continued its "singing" theme in its international advertising. 

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