Wheeler & Wilson

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Plant of the Wheeler & Wilson manufacturing company

Wheeler & Wilson was an American company which produced sewing machines.


Allen B. Wilson in 1849 made possible one of the world's greatest industries, and the sound administrative policy of Nathaniel Wheeler and his associates was responsible for the transformation of the industry from the modest confines of 1854 in Watertown, Connecticut, shown in the accompanying illustration, to the plant in Bridgeport, employing about 2,000 hands in 1905.[1]


Advertisement of Wheeler & Wilson (1875)

Mr. Wilson first conceived the idea of a sewing machine while engaged in his trade as a journeyman cabinet maker at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. After months of application he constructed the first practical sewing machine and obtained a patent November 12, 1850. Other improved machines and patents followed, and during one of the exhibitions of his invention in New York in 1850, Nathaniel Wheeler became interested.[2] Mr. Wheeler was then manager of the firm of Warren, Wheeler & Woodruff in Watertown, Connecticut, and foreseeing a great field for these machines, succeeded in forming a co-partnership for their manufacture at Watertown, known as Wheeler, Wilson & Company, which name was changed October 5, 1853, to The Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company, with a capital stock of $160,000. The following officers, who were among the incorporators were, Alanson Warren, President; George P. Woodruff, Secretary and Treasurer; and Nathaniel Wheeler, General Manager. On the resignation of Mr. Warren in 1855, Mr. Wheeler succeeded to the presidency, continuing as general manager also, both of which offices he held until his death, December 31. 1893.

In 1856 the company moved from Watertown, Connecticut to Bridgeport, Connecticut, occupying the old Jerome Clock Company's factory.

The company's capital stock was increased in July, 1859, to $400,000, and June 29, 1864, the company was granted a special charter by the State of Connecticut, and the capital stock was further increased to $1.000,000. After Nathaniel Wheeler's death in 1893, his son, Samuel II. Wheeler, succeeded to the presidency. His official associates were George M. Eames, vice-president, and Newton H. Hoyt. secretary and treasurer.

The other general offices of the company were held for many years by Isaac Holden as vice-president, William H. Perry as general superintendent, secretary and treasurer, and Frederick Hurd as secretary and treasurer.


The company won a number of Prize Medals, including at the Industrial Exposition, Paris 1861, International Exhibition of London 1862, and the Exposition Universelle, Paris 1868, 1878 and 1889.

At the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, from over 81 competitors from all parts of the world, the owners of Wheeler & Wilson were awarded the Imperial Order of Francis Joseph, received the Grand Medals of Progress and of Merit, and several medals went to employees. r Other awards received were the Gold Medal of Honour of the American Institute, New York, in September 1873, the Gold Medal at Maryland Institute in October, and a Silver Medal (the highest premium for Stitching Leather at Georgia State Fair in November 1873, the judges of the various Agricultural shows in the United States have endorsed these favourable verdicts by conferring similar awards upon the company.

In July 1874, the jury awarded the First Prize, a silver cup, on account of the "ease of working, the little noise, speed of executing work, and durability of the sewing machines made by the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company.", at the Bury Agricultural Show in August 1874 the first prize, at the Manchester and Liverpool Agricultural Show on September 10, 1874 the Society's Silver Medal for "excellence of manufacture, progress and novelty in mechanism, and superiority of work done by it." and at the Cheshire Agricultural Society's Show in Warrington on September 23, 1874 the first prize.


Singer Corporation took over the Wheeler and Wilson Manufacturing Company in 1905.[3] Singer continued to produce the Wheeler and Wilson #9 model sewing machine under its own brand name until at least 1913.[3][4]

Wilson sewing machines[edit]

Wilson sewing machine earliest model filed in Patent Office November 12, 1850
Wheeler & Wilson four-motion feed sewing machine from 1852

Allen B. Wilson's achievement was in the area of inventing and perfecting sewing machines. Two of those were considered the most ingenious and beautiful pieces of mechanism: the rotating hook and the four-motion feed. He claims to have conceived the idea of a sewing machine in 1847. His first machine was built during the spring of 1849, while he was in the employ of a Mr. Barnes, of Pittsfield, Mass., a cabinet maker. In the same year he built a second and better machine, and "up to this time," says, "I had never seen or heard of a sewing machine other than my own." He sold a one-half interest in the invention to Joseph N. Chapin, of North Adams, and with the proceeds took out his first patent, which bore the date November 12, 1850. It formed a lock stitch by means of a curved needle on a vibrating arm above the cloth plate, and a reciprocating two-pointed shuttle traveling in a curved race below the plate. The feed motion was obtained by the two metal bars which are seen intersecting above the shuttle race. The lower bar, called the feed bar, had teeth on its upper face, and by means of a transverse sliding motion it moved the cloth, which was placed between the two bars, the desired distance, as each stitch was made.[5]

In 1851 Wilson patented his famous rotating hook, which performed the functions of a shuttle by seizing the upper thread and throwing its loop over a circular bobbin containing the under thread. 'This simplified the construction of the machine by getting rid of the reciprocation motion of the ordinary shuttle, and contributed to make a light tool silent running machine, eminently adapted to domestic use.[5]

Wheeler and Wilson Number 3 Sewing Machine from about 1872

In 1852 Mr. Wilson patented his four-motion feed, which, in combination with a spring presser foot. The feed bar, as its name indicates, had four distinct motions, two vertical and two horizontal. It was first raised by the action of an eccentric on the driving shaft, then carried forward by a cam formed on the side of the eccentric (by which operation the work was shifted the desired distance), then it dropped, and finally it was drawn back by a spring to its original position. This machine used the curved needle and embodies the rotating hook and the four-motion feed. The latest type of this machine used a vertical needle bar and a straight needle.[5]

Wilson had the good fortune soon after securing his patent to interest Nathaniel Wheeler, a young carriage maker who possessed some capital, in his machine, and out of this connection grew the great house of Wheeler & Wilson. Unquestionably, the association of Mr. Wheeler with the sewing machine at the very inception of the industry was very largely answerable for its early and rapid success. It is rarely that the inventive and the commercial instinct are combined in the same man. It is certain they were not in Wilson. Wheeler, on the other hand, was eminently qualified by his wisdom, tact, and engaging presence to promote the interests of the new device. He succeeded in interesting some of the wealthy capitalists of the day, and the successful career of the Wheeler & Wilson establishment was a tribute to his undoubted business ability.[5]

Early company sales[edit]

Year 1853 1859 1867 1871 1873 1876
Sales 799 21,306 38,055 128,526 119,190 108,997



  1. ^ "WILSON, Allen Benjamin". The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. IX. New York: James T. White & Company. 1899. p. 460. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  2. ^ "WHEELER, Nathaniel". The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. IX. New York: James T. White & Company. 1899. p. 460. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  3. ^ a b http://www.sewmuse.co.uk/w&w.htm
  4. ^ http://www.sewmuse.co.uk/Wheeler%20and%20Wilson.htm
  5. ^ a b c d "The Sewing Machine". Scientific American. July 25, 1896. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  6. ^ http://www.machine-history.com/THE%20SEWING%20MACHINE

External links[edit]

Media related to Wheeler & Wilson at Wikimedia Commons