The Piccard, Pictet & Cie. (Pic-Pic) works, c. 1920

The Tavaro plant, which still stands on Avenue de Châtelaine in the Charmilles neighborhood of Geneva, is one of Europe's last great urban industrial sites. It's a small vestige of a great and proud manufacturing heritage more than a century old - of companies like Piccard-Pictet (automobiles), Sécheron (electric motors and regulators), Charmilles (wind turbines) and SODECO (mechanical counters). These are all sadly long defunct, but in classic Swiss fashion Geneva's watchmaking sector remains robust, with giants like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Frederick Constant, Alpina and Vacheron Constantin providing but a glimpse into those glory days.

Artist's depiction of a strength testing machine at avaro's research division, Journal de Genève, 1944

Tavaro's rapid growth continued through the late 30s as Switzerland mobilized and France and England declared war on Germany. Tavaro lost a contract, and employees, to Hispano-Suiza, but this was offset by others from the Swiss and German governments. An additional workshop was acquired - the former Cinegram watchmaking works at the corner of rues St-Jean and Beau-Site. But this expansion was not painless, and Tavaro's growing pains would prove nearly insurmountable. Tensions were building among the factory's workforce due to low pay and poor conditions, and a recent war profits tax threatened to virtually wipe out the firm's excess capital, at a time when orders had just been placed for new equipment.

Left: A young Jolson performing a repair in his workshop, 1955 • Center: Jolson presenting a $10,000 donation to Columbia University after receiving his American citizenship in Federal Court in Brooklyn, 1952 • Right: An elderly Jolson with his wife Anya photographed by J. Conrad Williams beside a Polish torah (Jewish liturgical scroll), ca. 1990

Hiding from the Nazis in a crawl space, built as a hideout behind a kitchen cabinet by his family in their apartment at No. 4 Kopernika Street in Warsaw, a young Leon Joszelson couldn't have imagined he'd later become a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist in the USA. In becoming Leon Jolson (1913-2009), the man who brought Elna to North America, he never forgot his humble origins, donating liberally to higher education and immigrant causes. But his story isn't a saintly one - he was a shrewd and ruthless businessman who did everything possible to skirt the law and stay a step ahead of his competitors. 

The original Elna Grasshopper came with everything needed to assemble a portable machine sewing kit. The most important accessory by far is the darning plate, without which the machine cannot darn per its fixed feed dogs. The bobbin tray and plastic spool tray are especially collectable, as they are delicate and easily bend or break upon impact. See below for a full and detailed list.

One of the once-mighty American sewing machine industry's last gasps was this Grasshopper copy: the Model J, made by the Portman Manufacturing Co. of New Rochelle, New York and sold under a variety of badges including Montgomery Ward, New Home, Compac, National and others.