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Boye Needle Case

During our IMLS grant work, our Collection Facilitator, Haiden Nelson, came across a Boye Needle Case. Read below as Haiden shares about what she found out about this item.

The Boye Brand was founded in early 1900’s Chicago. James H. Boye, the namesake, designed his commodity cabinet in 1906 and found his success by improving upon earlier needle product cabinets. He added a more detailed, illustrated list of sewing machine types and their required needles.

The piece show below is an example of clever engineering and attractive display. Known as a Commodity Cabinet or Rotary Case, this round contraption both stores, displays and dispenses needles for sewing machines.

Our rotary case is from the 1920’s. It is easy to imagine it sitting on a counter in an Omaha shop. Women come in with an old needle from their machine and compare it to the pictures on the case. They turn the arrow in the middle to the number that corresponds with their chosen needle. Then, they open the sliding door at the top and take out a wooden tube of needles! Our case is supplemented with additional sewing machine types. They must have been common with the sewing populous in Omaha.

Some of the mechanism is visible on the underside. Cleverly, if the sliding door is open, the wheel of needle tubes does not turn. This way, the shoppers and restockers didn’t lose their place.

Thanks for reading!


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