Sewing machines provide the first of three detailed case studies. Sewing machines represent a class of small-scale, multiuse technologies, typically sold as products themselves and integrated into production systems in households, workshops, and factories. Sewing machines arrived early in Mexico, and by the 1870s, they were diffused widely across urban and rural Mexico and become nearly ubiquitous by the century’s end. The Singer Company was not alone, but it dominated the market. Sewing machines were adopted by thousands of women in their homes and by men in workshops and new clothing factories. They made possible a rapidly growing sector for ready-made clothing, marketed to middle-class Mexicans in department stores across the country. But this was a fragile diffusion. Adoption was highly sensitive to economic downturns, and use of the machines was dependent on access to spare parts and repair expertise, which was often difficult to come by. Their consumers quickly mastered the ability to use sewing machines, but learning did not extend to a ready ability to repair, modify, and replicate them.
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