Wheeler & Wilsons No. 8 machine was introduced in 1876 and remained in production until at least c1887 when the company introduced the No.9 machine. It was the company's first domestic straight needle machine and it was hoped that it would turn around the company's fortunes as its main rival the Singer Manufacturing Co had a few years earlier become Americas largest manufacturer of sewing machines.
The No. 8 was designed for Family and Light Manufacturing and could be adapted to run by hand, treadle or steam power. The new No.8 along with the company's other new straight needle machines (no's 6 and 7) was awarded The Grand Gold Medal and Diploma at the Paris International Exhibition of 1878.
Follow this link to a copy of the Wheeler & Wilson No.8 Manual
No. 8 machine Serial No.173718.
This machine dates to 1880, it shows extensive wear and is missing the right hand 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 face of the balance wheel on later models this was rounded.
No. 8 machine Serial No.600729.
This machine can be dated between August 1885 (the patent date on the bobbin case) and 1887 when the New No.9 was introduced although it's likely there was an overlap in availability of the two models.
It has the geared hand crank which was designed to make sewing easier. It also removed the need for a special balance wheel as a standard treadle head could be used as a result the wooden base is longer than on the earlier machine. On this example the balance wheel can be disengaged for bobbin winding.
The right hand slide plate is stamped with four patent dates the last being for August 1878. While the centre boss has the Wheeler & Wilson Trade Mark it no longer incorporates the address of the company's New York office.