Five days to Typewriter DayOnce “The Original Typewriter Enterprise” (as typewriter historian Richard Current called it) had left the control of Christopher Latham Sholes and his development group of Glidden, James Densmore, Barron and Yost on March 1, 1873, its progress during the next quarter of a century was very much in the wonderfully capable hands of William McKendree Jenne (above).
Others, such as Byron Alden Brooks and Jefferson Moody Clough, were heavily involved at various times in this period, but Remington’s development of the typewriter, which had started life as the Sholes and Glidden in April 1874, was quite decidedly under the direction of Jenne.
The patent we will look at today was issued to Jenne on this day in 1895 and was one of nine Jenne applied for between 1875 and 1893. Of these, Jenne variously assigned them to The Type Writer Company (1875-1879), Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict (1879-1893), E.Remington and Sons (1880), and the Standard Type-Writing Manufacturing Company and the Remington Standard Type-Writing Manufacturing Company (1888-1889).
William McKendree Jenne was born on January 14, 1837, in Lenox, a little town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. For such a small place, it was at one time or another home to some notable people, including social reformer Henry Ward Beecher, Andrew Carnegie and author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Here we see Lenox in 1839.
Jenne was the son of Siloam S. Jenne, a native of Grantham, New Hampshire, and Amelia P. Jenne (nee Root). The Jennes arrived in American from Wales in 1720.
Siloam Jenne was described as “an ingenious and versatile mechanic” who manufactured special machinery, including assisting Chester Smith Lyman (1814-1890, pictured below)) build his combined 16-foot transit instrument and zenith telescope that was used to determine latitude, including that of Hawaii.
Lyman, a professor of astronomy and physics at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, was first to observe the delicate ring of light surrounding Venus when the planet is in inferior conjunction. This observation helped confirm the presence of an atmosphere around the planet.
William Jenne clearly inherited his father’s mechanical aptitude. He was said to have been “born with a strong predilection for mechanics”. He trained as a mechanic in Lee, Massachusetts, and “advanced rapidly and laid the foundation of the rare mechanical skill which became of so much importance to him in after years”. Jenne started work with Plaisted and Whitehouse in Holyoke. In 1861 that firm secured a large contract with E.Remington and Sons for the manufacture of parts of fire arms.
Jenne was sent to Ilion, where he so impressed the Remingtons he was given a contract for the manufacture of the Eliot pistol(above). In 1863, Thomas J. Halligan, of New York, brought to the Remingtons his sewing machine for heavy work on leather and using a waxed thread (pictured below). The Remingtons agreed to assist Halligan in perfecting his device and manufacturing it. Jenne was put in charge of working with Halligan on the machine. Before it was completed, Halligan was killed in an accident and work ended. But the Halligan machine proved to be the opening for the establishment by the Remingtons of sewing machine manufacture.
Jenne was under the superintendency of Clough when Yost brought to the Remingtons the first “crude” typewriter.
Jenne, as assistant superintendent to Clough at the Remington works, was one of a team of four Remington managers and engineers who looked at the Sholes and Glidden typewriter brought to them by Yost and James Densmore in late February 1873.
The others were Philo Remington (above), Clough and Henry Harper Benedict, who at the time was Philo Remington’s private secretary and treasurer of the sewing machine division. It was Benedict (below) who had urged Philo Remington to examine Yost’s prototype.
The historic conference took place in a room of Small's Hotel (Osgood House, below).
Once the decision had been made to develop the typewriter, and a contract signed in March 1873, a room 6 1/2 yards square in the upper Remington armoury was turned over to Jenne and Clough to supervise work on the machine. Later Brooks (brought on board by Yost in December 1875) became involved.
It is also believed that at early stages Matthias Schwalbach (pictured above), an artisan who had worked on the machine back in Milwaukee, and Lucien Stephen Crandall (pictured below), who had been employed by James Densmore and Yost as a salesman, might also have continued to work on the project.
When The Type Writer Company was formed by Densmore on December 28, 1874, Densmore assigned the previously issued patents of Sholes, Glidden, Schwalbach, Jenne and Clough to the company.
In 1903, Remington presented 30-year badges to Jenne, Benedict and other members of the early development group: Thomas Ringwood, J. C. Baker, I. W. Daniels and M. D. Tallman. Ringwood made the first screw for the typewriter and was foreman of that department. Daniels was foreman of the filing department, Baker of the polishing department and Tallman a moulder who made the first casting.
The actual typeslugs, and a machine to make them, were designed by Anson Merrick Howard. These give us the monogram Sholes and Glidden typeface with which we are familiar today.
Jenne's task was described as “hard and his labour long and difficult, but he persevered when the Remingtons lost faith and would have thrown it overboard”.
Jenne’s work on the typewriter was described as “congenial and profitable employment, which called forth his highest qualifications as a workman and inventor.
“To those who are conversant with the subject, it is known that the task of developing and perfecting the typewriter until it would meet the exacting requirements of a perfect writing machine was one full of perplexing disappointments, trials of new devices, overcoming apparently impossible mechanical problems, and the invention of new appliances to accomplish certain ends.
“In all of this work, Jenne has been the moving spirit and it is not too much to say that he has been more largely instrumental in making the Remington typewriter what it is today than any other person.”
The first typewriter was built by Jenne and Clough, and from that four others were built by Jenne as samples. “Since that time the changes in the machine have been constant and numerous, and Jenne has been in charge of their manufacture and substantially dictated as to what should and what should not be done in reference to their construction.”
At the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889, Jenne was awarded a silver medal and diploma for his typewriter inventions.
Ill health forced Jenne to retire on December 1, 1904. He was presented with a loving cup from the Remington Typewriter Company and an elegant gold watch from the shop foremen.
Jenne had married Mary McSherry (born London, England, 1834), of Lee, in 1859. They had four children: Willis P. Jenne, Elmer B. Jenne, Eva Alice Jenne, and George D. Jenne. Mrs Jenne died on August 12, 1902.
William Jenne died in 1918. Such had been his influence on the typewriter's development that a brief article which appeared in an Australian newspaper, The Hobart Mercury, on May 29, 1918, described him as “The Father of the Typewriter”. That might not have been entirely true, but William McKendree Jenne was most certainly the person who had raised and nurtured the first typewriter.
It is interesting to note that while Jenne was working for Remington, he was also involved with Novelty Works in Ilion. It was here that equipment, boxes and crates for the Remington typewriter, and for the McMillan Typesetting and Distributing Company, were made.
Jenne was buried in the Village of Ilion Cemetery on Benedict Avenue, in the town of German Flatts, Herkimer County, New York. Perhaps typewriter lovers of the world should unite and mark his grave, if it still exists, in some appropriate way as the centenary of his death approaches. The site can be seen at http://maps.google.com.au/maps?ll=43.010547,-75.037308&spn=0.003413,0.010525&t=h&z=17&lci=com.panoramio.all
On September 8, 1923, the 50th anniversary of the Sholes and Glidden was celebrated by the Herkimer County Historical Society when a boulder marker was unveiled commemorating the event (above). Lillian Sholes (then Mrs Charles L. Fortier), of Milwaukee, daughter of Sholes, and the first woman typist, and Charles Edward Weller, of Laporte, Indiana, the first male typist, were present.
Finally, let’s look at the patent which was issued to Jenne on this day in 1895.
In applying for it, Jenne said, “it is of great importance that each and every type strike at precisely the same point, in order that the characters printed be properly spaced and accurately aligned … It is also necessary to keep the size of the machine within reasonable limits, and to do this the pivots and type-bars, levers, or hammers must be grouped within a comparatively small compass; from which it results that the pivotal bars must be short and the bearing points must be kept close together if they are to be arranged in the same plane and in approximately axial alignment, as is customary. The consequence of such usual construction and arrangement is that very slight wear of the pivot or bearings, or the least variation in the adjustment of the bearings of the type-bar causes its inner end to be thrown considerably out of adjustment. My object is to overcome, as far as practicable, this difficulty, and to this end I construct and arrange the pivots and bearings that they may be overlapped or thrown into different planes without necessarily making the bars or levers of different length …”
Benefiting from the pioneering work of Jenne, the Syke Terrier of American actress and singer Jeanette MacDonald was able to use her Corona portable to help MacDonald answer her fan mail. MacDonald was born on this in 1903 in Philadelphia. She died on January 14, 1965, aged 61, in Houston, Texas.
American lyricist, songwriter and musician, Sammy Cahn, who wrote the haunting Oscar-winning Three Coins in a Fountain, was born on this day in 1913 in New York City. Cahn died in Los Angeles, aged 79, on January 15, 1993.