UNTANGLING THE TALE
"So wholly unworkable as to require no comment"
-Will Davis (2006)Charles Wellington Walker has been somewhat maligned in typewriter history. Showing a rare touch of lightness in his Antique Typewriters (1997), historian Michael Adler said of a supposed 1909 “Walker typewriter” that it was “noiseless, ribbonless and basketless in addition to having a motionless carriage. It was also productionless – the inventor sold out to a Boston concern in 1912.”
All very amusing, but only some of this is actually true. The typewriter Walker did design in this particular period of his life was the Yost Visible, and it was none of the things listed above. What’s more, the Yost Visible very much went into production, as did most of Walker’s other, earlier typewriters.
Walker did nonetheless design two noiseless, ribbonless, basketless typewriters with motionless carriages, but not until around 1917, just before he died. And both patents, when they were finally resurrected and applied for (in 1921-22) by Walker’s younger son, Ario C. Walker, were unassigned.
They were issued in a three-week period from Christmas Day 1923 to January 15, 1924, to Ario, as administrator of Charles’s estate.
These Walker designs are for the typewriter to which Adler refers, but they were a long way from being Walker’s only typewriter inventions.
As Paul Lippman had previously pointed out in his American Typewriters (1991), Walker had invented the Yost Visible, which appeared in December 1908. Adler mentions the Visible, but not Walker in connection with it. Lippman wrote that the Yost Visible was first made by Merritt Brothers at Springfield, Massachusetts, and later by the Yost Typewriter Company in Walker's home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Adler, who refers to Walker as “C. Wellington Walker of Stamford, Connecticut”, says he was an “ex-employee of the Union Typewriter Company … leaving his job in 1909 after 18 years with the company to promote [the Walker typewriter]”. This, too, is only partly true.
Walker didn’t so much “leave his job” as retire at the age of 64. And he was much more than just a mere Union employee. He was a highly valued company mechanical engineer, who patented at least eight typewriters under the Union umbrella.
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, AustraliaWhat’s more, he was always known as Charles W. Walker, not C. Wellington Walker. Upon joining the Union Typewriter Company in 1894, Charles Walker moved his family (wife Elmina, daughters Grace and Eunice and sons Charles W. Jnr and Ario) to Bridgeport, and they remained there for most of the rest of their lives. Charles Snr did move to Stafford, near Bridgeport, in his dying days, not Stamford.
After Walker retired from the Union company, he continued to design typewriters in the years before he died (aged 72, in 1918), one of them jointly with son Ario.
These later Walker patents were looked at in great detail by Will Davis in an article in the September 2006 edition of ETCetera (No 75):
Will Davis in ETCetera No 75, September 2006Will had acquired two stock certificates for the Walker Silent Typewriter Company, a corporation of Connecticut, dated August 22, 1921 (see below), and was inspired to look into the Walker typewriter.
Will was in awe of the designs, but thought them impractical, especially the first:
Nonetheless, Will said the finding of the certificates “appears to update and possibly change information previously given in the literature under this topic”.
How right he was that the information needed changing. As Will suggests, the certificates and the coinciding patents indicate Adler got his dates completely wrong.
Ario C. Walker is listed on the stock certificates as treasurer of the Walker Silent Typewriter Company and Roy H.Hover, a wealthy Lima, Illinois, businessman with a “natural aptitude for mechanics”, as its president.
Charles Walker’s elder son, Charles Wellington Walker Jnr, was the famous, award-winning Bridgeport, Connecticut, architect, the man responsible for the designs for mansions (below), theatres, hospitals, post offices and many other notable structures in that region.
Charles Jnr (in 1889) and Ario (in 1891) were born in Strang, Nebraska, where Charles Snr was living when he patented his first two typewriter designs. The second patent was issued to him on this day in 1894 (below).
Below: Walker's first typewriter design, 1891Charles Snr was not working for the Union Typewriter Company at that time, but he soon came to that cartel’s attention. In particular, his second design looked quite similar to the existing upstroke Yost. His third patent, in 1896, was his first for Yost. Clearly Yost was preparing to make the change to visible typing - that is, until the Union Typewriter Company stepped in:
Charles W. Walker in fact worked for Union for 16 years, and did not retire from it until sometime after 1910. The so-called “Walker typewriter” of 1909 would have been a Union product, not a private venture. As such as it could not have been sold by Walker to a Boston concern in 1912, as it was already assigned to Yost.
1906 Walker design for Yost
1907 Walker design for YostDuring his time with Union, Walker’s typewriter designs were almost exclusively assigned to the Yost Typewriter Company – eight of the nine. He did design one other typewriter, a Remington, for Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict, in 1910.
Adler, who at least described the last two, post-Union Walker typewriters as ”interesting”, got the basis of his fleshed out information from Typewriter Topics (1923). This publication called Walker "C. Wellington Walker, of Stamford", and claimed he had sold the rights to his 1909 design to a Boston concern.
During his time with Union, Walker was head of a team of company designers. Others who worked on the same machines with him included Lewis H. Perry, Arthur W. Smith and Lyman R. Roberts – the last named being the man who later designed the Roberts Ninety. Roberts had been able to get his hands on Blickensderfer patents, tools and dies after George Canfield Blickensderfer died in 1917, and at first marketed the Roberts Ninety as the Blick Ninety. The Blick Ninety appeared in December 1919, two years before Roberts died. A month after his death, the Blick company became the Roberts company and the model name was changed to the Roberts Ninety.
Charles Wellington Walker was born in Southborough, Worcester, Massachusetts, in August 1846, the third son of the Reverend Charles W. Walker and his wife Dency Maria Fuller Walker.
Charles Wellington Walker’s 12 typewriter patents were:
May 5 1891, 451629
August 14 1894, 524364
September 29 1896, 568645 (Yost)
December 8 1896, 572737 (Yost)
September 22 1903, 739626 (Yost)
February 23 1904, 753017 (Yost)
January 15 1907, 841288 (Yost)
June 12 1908, 823010 (Yost)
May 22 1910, 952771 (WSB)
December 25 1923, 1478591 (with Ario)
January 15 1924, 1480919
This is how Will Davis explained the "unworkable" Walker designs in ETCetera:
On this day in 1885, Japan's first seven patents were issued.
Today the Japan Patent Office (JPO; 特許庁 Tokkyochō) is in charge of industrial property rights, under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It is located in Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda, Tokyo.
The first substantial patent law in Japan was established by the "Patent Monopoly Act" on April 18, 1885. (In 1954, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan declared April 18 to be Invention Day.)
The first patent under the Patent Monopoly Act was granted to lacquerware craftsman Hotta Zuisho for an anticorrosive paint. Takabayashi Kenzo obtained Patents 2–4 for tea processing machines.
The Patent Monopoly Act was replaced by the Patent Act in 1888; the Patent Act was replaced by the Patent Law of 1899, which was revised in 1909. The Patent Law was revised twice, in 1921 and finally in 1959.
The following year, 1960, the US Patent and Trademark Office registered Brother as a trading name for Nihon Mishin Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha of Nagoya, a manufacturer of typewriters, sewing machines and knitting machines.
On May 8, 1962, a patent was granted in the US for one of the most enduring of Japanese typewriter designs. It was issued to Akio Kondo, of Aichi-gun, and assigned to Nihon Mishin Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha. The application had been filed on December 19, 1960, four months after being filed with the Japan Patent Office.
This Brother all-purpose "template" machine has got to be the easiest typewriter in the world to take apart and put back together again. I did my self-funded "apprenticeship" with it. I think I could just about put one back together blindfolded now, in about five minutes flat!
For his design, Kondo referenced the Underwood Golden Touch portable of 1956,
and this 1960 design by Charles J. Jaworski and Edward J. Johnson, of Hartford, Connecticut, for Royal McBee of New York. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this model Royal – could it possibly be an early step toward the Safari? Either way, it must be one of the last designs for what was intended to be a US-made Royal.
In turn, Jaworski and Johnson referenced two Underwoods, the glorious DeLuxe Quiet Tab designed by Paul A. Braginetz and the model generally known as Leader, designed by Raymond Spilman.
Alan Seaver CollectionAs well, they referenced a 1958 Imperial DeLuxe, a Remington and the Olympia SM3 of 1959.