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