Allen Benjamin Wilson

Allen Benjamin Wilson, inventor, was born at Willet, Cortland County, New York, Oct. 18, 1824, and was the son of a wheelwright. At the age of eleven he was indentured to a farmer, remaining only a year; but he continued to work on a farm until he was sixteen, meanwhile learning the blacksmith's trade. He was next apprenticed to a cabinet-maker at Cincinnatus in the same county, but soon left the place, returning to his regular trade, as a journeyman and found his way to Adrian, Michigan later in 1847


While there and early in 1847, he conceived the idea of a sewing machine, never having heard of one, though in this country Elias Howe had already patented an invention, as had Barthelemy Thimonnier in France. Owing to an illness of several months duration, Mr. Wilson was not able to develop his ideas, although he had the various devices and adjustments clearly defined in his mind.


In August, 1848, he removed to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he had obtained work and soon began to put his ideas on paper in the form of full-size drawings.


The firm with which he was connected dissolved in February, 1849, but Mr. Wilson remained with Amos Barnes, who continued the business, with the privilege of working evenings in the shop. On February 3rd he began the construction of his first machine and about April 1st completed it, making with it dress waists and other articles requiring fine sewing. His machine differed from those invented by Elias Howe, in the fact that, having a double-pointed shuttle, combined with the needle, it made two stitches instead of one with each complete movement; that is, one stitch on the forward movement and one on the return. In 1849 he removed to North Adams, Massachusetts and induced Joseph N. Chapin, of that place, to purchase one-half of the invention for $200 and with this money Mr. Wilson secured a patent, November 12, 1850, which covered also the device of a two-motion feed bar, his being the fifteenth patent recorded for an improved sewing-machine. While his application was pending, parties owning an interest in a machine patented in 1848 by John A. Bradshaw, of Lowell, Massachusetts, claimed that the latter's patent covered a double - pointed shuttle, and threatened to oppose Mr. Wilson. A compromise was made by which Mr. Wilson conveyed to Kline & Lee of New York city, one half of the patent. He also agreed to go into the manufacture and sale of the machines with those parties, but on Nov. 25th sold them his interest in the patent, except the right, for New Jersey and that to sew leather in Massachusetts, for $ 2,000. Before the end of the year, Nathaniel Wheeler, of the firm of Warren, Wheeler & Woodruff, of Watertown, Connecticut, saw one of the machines in New York city, contracted with E. Lee & Co. to make 500 machines and induced Mr. Wilson to remove to Watertown to superintend the work.


Mr. Wilson soon became a partner in the firm, which had obtained the sole right to manufacture his machines and on Aug. 12, 1851, patented a new machine, in which a rotary hook and bobbin, making an improved lock-stitch, were substituted for the shuttle. Later, to avoid litigation, he contrived a stationary bobbin, which became the permanent feature of the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine. On the same day. August 12th, Isaac M. Singer, received his first patent on a machine that became a formidable competitor.


The first completed machine, that finished in 1851, sold for $125. A new co-partnership was now formed, under the name of Wheeler, Wilson & Co. and in 1853 the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Co. was organized.


In 1853, Allen Benjamin Wilson retired from active participation in the business, but received a regular salary and considerable sums of money on the renewal of his patents.


On December 19, 1854,  Mr. Wilson Patented his four-motion feed, which the machines of other inventors were forced to adopt. The advantage of his improvements was that the stitching made the strongest possible seam, being exactly even on both sides, with no threads showing; above the surface that would be liable to wear off and cause ripping.


In 1856 the firm removed to Bridgeport, Connecticut. 


In 1863, he became a resident of Waterbury, Connecticut, where he engaged in other enterprises.


Mr. Wilson Allen Benjamin died at Woodmont, Connecticut, April 29 1888.





Wilson's Patent Model  US 7.776, November 12, 1850


US 7.776 November 12, 1850, which covered also the device of a two motion feed bar


Prototype, A. B. Wilson sewing machine, Ca. 1852


US 12.116 December 19, 1854
US 12.116 December 19, 1854

What I claim as my invention and desire to have secured to me by Letters Patent, is the device above describe in a sewing machine for feeding the cloth along, consisting of a bar furnished with points or notches, having a vertical or up and down motion for fastening the cloth upon and releasing it from said bar by striking it against a plate or spring and a lateral motion or motion forward and back for feeding the cloth along after each stitch, substantially as above set forth.

Allen B. Wilson



Sources : 

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography