The Legend of the Union Special 43200G
The Union Special 43200G was built for hemming jeans in 1939. It was used in production until it was discontinued in 1989. The first ones manufactured in the 1930’s were black like most sewing machines of their time before the 1940’s. There are many a denim enthusiast who consider the Union Special 43200G to be the holy grail of industrial denim sewing machines. Part of this mythology is probably due to the rarity of the machine. In the 60’s the Japanese started buying them up to recreate the iconic vintage look of American jeans. Later in North America during the denim resurgence of the 90’s most denim aficionados found that the Japanese had already beaten them to the punch by acquiring most of the machines. A huge part of the iconic vintage look inspired by the Union Special 43200G is the classic chainstitch and roping effect created when hemming. This roping effect is in fact really a “feature” of the feed differential as it goes through the folder and under the foot in the Union Special. Unfortunately, most factories today now use the more common and cheaper lockstitch found in consumer sewing machines to hem jeans.
Locating a Union Special 43200G, maybe restoring one and keeping one running is also not for the faint of heart. There are only a few dozen of these left in the world today and these vintage machines have original parts that are extremely hard to come by. Finding a Union Special 43200G’s online will probably cost you anywhere around $5000 + even if it’s in complete disrepair.
However, although there seems to be all these drawbacks, I believe there is nothing better than hearing the rumbling purr of one of these monuments of industrial craftmanship in action.
Originally referred to as “Black Beauty”. I have a particular name for mine…. I call her the “Black Swan”.