The earliest versions of the No.1 machine made in the early to mid 1850's had very intricate castings on later machines the castings, particularly for the bed, were simplified and improved. Today these later machines are identified by collectors as slab, waisted and raised (or box) bed machines however the basic mechanism of the machine remained largely unchanged over the 50 years it was in production.
Originally the different model numbers simply denoted the different styles of finish to the machine. The company produced three curved needle models of this particular size which were recommended for family use and light manufacturing use. The No.1 was the most ornate with silver plated fittings, the No. 2 with bronze finish while the No.3 was the basic model with jappaned arms. These machines were also available with a range of covers - Quarter, Half or Full which were made in a choice of woods.
When the Wheeler & Wilson Company's patents expired October 1866 the No.1 was imitated and improved by many different manufacturers particularly in Great Britain. Follow the link for an example of a Wheeler & Wilson Principle machine.
When the Singer Manufacturing Co. aquired the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Co. in early 1907 it continued production of this machine as the No.1W. It was mainly used by manufacturers and was still available in 1924.
Wheeler & Wilson No.1 Serial No. 1022374
This machine was made c1874, it is the later version of the No.1 with raised (or box) bed into which the Wheeler & Wilson brass medallion is inset.
The raised bed was a very late improvement designed to cover the motion of the eccentric arm and it appears few machines with this feature have survived presumably because the No.1 machine was superseded for family sewing by the introduction of the No.8 machine two years later.
The Gold decoration on this example is in very good condition with little wear although the plating on the cloth plate and the arms has worn off. Unlike earlier examples there are no patent dates stamped into the cloth plate. Sadly the machine is missing a few parts.
The table and side box appear to be of Walnut but it doesn't seem that this machine ever had a cover as there is no lock keep set into the table top.
The tread plate is in the shape of shoes and originally there would have been leather straps to hold the operators feet in place. These machines use a wide flat leather belt rather than the more common round leather belt.