One of the most ingenious of the sewing machine inventors was Mr. Allen B. Wilson. He was born in Willett, New York, in 1824. In 1840 at the age of sixteen he worked as an apprentice cabinetmaker for a distant relative.

In 1846 while working as a journeyman cabinetmaker in Michigan, he began the development of a sewing machine, which was independent of the efforts being made by other inventors in New England. In 1849 he devised the rotary hook and bobbin combination, forming the special feature of the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine. Wilson obtained a patent for his machine in 1850. In 1854, he patented another sewing machine that included the important and effective four-motion feed for moving the work after every stitch. The four motion feed is used on all sewing machines today.

When he retired from the company in 1853, Wilson continued to receive money from his patent renewals and was still paid a salary by the company. Although his contributions to the invention of the sewing machine were considerable, he did not receive significant monetary rewards. Compared to what Isaac Singer and Elias Howe were making from patent fees, his reward was a pittance. Wilson noted that he received only $137,000 during the first patent extension period. In comparison, Howe received two million dollars for a machine that he likely did not invent and in any case did not sew for any practical purposes.

Founded in late 1851, the Wheeler & Wilson Company began the manufacture of sewing machines at Watertown, New York. In 1856, the company was renamed the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company and moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut where it began full scale manufacturing of sewing machines.

Although Singer sewing machines would eventually become the most popular brand, Wheeler & Wilson machines were the most popular (and most widely copied) machines in the 1850s and 1860s. Only with the advent of the Singer Model 12 New Family machine did the Wheeler & Wilson company begin to lose ground in the late 1860s.

Although both companies were competitors, they did cooperate with each other both as member of the Sewing Machine Combination which lasted until 1876 and in the latter part of the 19th Century.

The Wheeler & Wilson company was eventually bought by Singer in 1905, which continued the manufacturing of the D-9 into at least the 1920s. Singer also continued manufacturing industrial machines from Wheeler & Wilsonís product line, as well as newer versions based on Wheeler & Wilson models, into the 1960s.

--From The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition

Wheeler & Wilson D-1

Wheeler & Wilson No.1 sewing machine (Courtesy of Mary Ann Carey)

Wheeler & Wilson D-2

Wheeler & Wilson No. 2 sewing machine

Wheeler & Wilson D-4

Wheeler & Wilson No. 4 sewing machine
Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine (Photo)
Higher angle shot of the W&W machine, manufactured in 1868 (Photo)

Wheeler & Wilson D-5

Wheeler & Wilson No. 5 sewing machine (Photo)
Cabinet of the W&W No. 5 sewing machine (Photo)

Wheeler & Wilson D-8

Wheeler & Wilson No. 8, treadle model (Photo courtesy of G. Bethell)
Treadle cabinet of the W&W No. 8 (Photo courtesy of G. Bethell)
Wheeler & Wilson No.8 (From OLD SEWING MACHINES by Carol Head)

Wheeler & Wilson D-9

Wheeler & Wilson No.9 installed in a 7 drawer cabinet (Courtesy of Mary Ann Carey)
W&W No. 9, 5 drawer style cabinet
W&W No. 9, 7 drawer style cabinet
Wheeler & Wilson No.9 installed in a drawing-room cabinet (Courtesy of Mary Ann Carey)
Closer picture of the W&W No. 9
3 drawer style Wheeler & Wilson cabinet with 'coffin top'
5 drawer W&W cabinet with 'coffin top'
7 drawer style cabinet for the W&W No. 9
Wheeler & Wilson 5 drawer treadle cabinet for No.9 (Courtesy of Mary Ann Carey)
Another engraving of the 5 drawer cabinet
Wheeler & Wilson No.9, decal work worn away (Photo)
Hand-Crank version of the W&W No.9 (Photo courtesy of Matt Clawson)
Close-up shot of the needle bar/presser foot area (Photo courtesy of Matt Clawson)
Wheeler & Wilson No.9 Sewing Machine
Instructions for inserting the bobbin into a W&W No.9
Instructions on threading the Wheeler & Wilson No.9
Oiling diagram and instructions for the No.9

Wheeler & Wilson D-12

W&W No. 12, industrial & leather sewing version of the No. 9
Photo of the Wheeler & Wilson No. 12 sewing machine (Photo)

Wheeler & Wilson D-15

W&W No. 15, industrial version of the Wheeler & Wilson No. 9

Copyright © 1996-2001 by Charles Law (Webmaster)