Nathaniel Wheeler and Allen B. Wilson established the Wheeler & Wilson Company in Water Town Connecticut in 1852, A. B. Wilson had patented the rotary hook in the previous year and also patented the four motion feed in 1854.
Having produced about 3000 machines the Company moved to Bridgeport in 1856 and became known as the Wheeler and Wilson Manufacturing Company. By 1858 a total of only 20,000 machines had been produced but then production expanded rapidly and in 1861 the Company sold 19,725, 30,000 in 1862 and in 1865 some 50,000 were manufactured, production continued to increase and in 1871 yearly production reached 128,526 machines of various types. Production in 1876 fell to 109,000 machines.
The factory occupied a 2 acre site and by 1863 had a floor area of 5 acres. An office was opened in England in 1859 at 13 Finsbury Place, London. By 1866 offices & showrooms on Regent Street, London. c1878 the Chief Office was at 21 Queen Victoria Street E.C. and in 1880 there were 26 other Depots in Great Britain. By 1897 the Chief Office was at 11 to 21 Paul Street, Finsbury, London.
The Company won a number of Prize Medals, including at the Industrial Exposition, Paris 1861, International Exhibition London 1862, Exposition Universalle, Paris 1868, 1878 and 1889.
In 1904 Singer took over the retailing of Wheeler and Wilson sewing machines and aquired the remainer of the business in January 1907.
In 1866 the Company's range of machines consisted of:
No. 1 machine. The top of the range with silver plated fittings and available in a range of 11 different styles of cabinet work in Rosewood, Black Walnut or Mahogany.
No. 2 machine. With ornamental bronze fittings, there were only 3 standard styles of cabinet work although others could be supplied to order. The choice of woods was reduced to Black Walnut or Mahogany.
No. 3 machine The Basic machine with plain fittings again a choice of 3 styles of cabinet work from the two woods previously mentioned.
No. 4 machine. Referred to as 'Large' it was only available in a standard table of either Black Walnut or Mahogany.
No. 5 machine. Specially designed for shirt making or other work involving sewing sleeves. It was available with double motion at extra cost and only one style of table was available in either Black Walnut or Mahogany.
Button hole machine. Capable of making 100 button holes in an hour.
NOTE: The Company tended to renumber its machines when models were introduced or deleted from the range. Inparticular it's when it's curved needle manufacturing machines were replaced by the new straight needle designs.
For example the No. 5 machine was later re designated the No. 2 Machine!
Other machines produced later by the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company were:
No. 6 Bed & Cylinder machine introduced in 1872 - c1887 For Special Work.
No. 7 machine 1876 For Heavy Tailoring and Leather work
No. 8 machine 1876 - c1887. The No. 8 was designed for Family use & Light Manufacturing. It seems likely that production of the No. 8 machine ceased when the No. 9 machine was introduced.
No. 9 machine 1887 - 1905. Designed for Family use with its high arm it was advertised as 'The Only Perfect Sewing Machine for Family Use'. After Singers take over of the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company it was made under the Singer brand name until at least 1913. Very early No. 9 machines use the same bobbin mechanism as the No. 8. This was later changed and the basic design remained unchanged although it under went various improvements.
RIGHT: No. 9 machine Serial No.2292781.
Made at Bridgeport, Connecticut around 1897, this machine has a bentwood case rather than one with a handle recess. There is no accessory compartment, on later machines the wooden base was lengthened to accommodate one which had a hinged lid. The last patent date on the slide plate is Aug 2nd 1892 but we are unfortunately missing the other slide plate.
LEFT: No. 9 2347491.
This example was probably made in the same year but has a slightly different locking mechanism than the above machine which operates using a lever. The head is recessed into the base and held in place by the thumb catch.
LEFT: No. 9 2398019.
Although this No. 9 made around 1898 looks almost identical to the earlier machines it has a number of differences, most notably the bed is slightly shorter and concequently the slide plate over the bobbin is shorter, the balance wheel has been reduced in diameter and the machine is now attached to the base with hinges with a locking pull in the front of the base.
No. 10 machine introduced in 1880 For General Manufacturing, Leather work and Tailoring. In 1887 a new D10 machine was available.
No. 11 machine c1897 Medium for clothing manufacture.
No. 12 machine c1897 with seam trimer for leather, upholstery & clothing.
No. 15 c1897 machine for tailoring uphostery & carpets.
Meteor c1908 Produced after the Company had been bought out by Singer a surviving instruction booklet for this machine clearly displays the Wheeler & Wilson logo and the date March 1908.
No. 8 machine Serial No.173718.
This machine dates to 1880, it shows extensive wear and is missing its centre slide plate. It has a glass presser foot (patented in 1861) and the centre boss has the address 44 Union Square, New York. Note the flat edge to the balance wheel on later models this was rounded.