Total Pageviews

Sunday, 11 March 2012

When Two Typewriter Companies Went to War

The Very UnCivil
Typewriter War
of 1898-1899
The Union Army
Oliver’s Army*
As fully described in the book
The Battle of Detroit
and reproduced below. It contains talk...
*Of a bomb being exploded
in the enemy camp
*Of inspectors ready to
kill typewriter agents
*Of fighting it out
on the battlefield
*Of Oliver’s general being armed
and loaded with ammunition
*Of humiliation and tragedy,
of a seance
*Of comparisons with Napoleon
and Waterloo
*Of the Oliver typewriter
that was never made
*Of the Oliver typewriter
that was stolen
*Of a monumental all-out war
(But there was much, much more at stake)
If anyone ever wanted to study dirty, underhand and negative tactics employed in big business, the Union Writing Machine Company, formed in New York on March 1, 1893, would surely have to provide the classic example.
I had been under the impression that Remington, the driving force behind this trust, wanted to block the advance of the Franz Xaver Wagner-designed Underwood “visible” typewriter. But since this Underwood did not emerge until after the trust was formed, I will have to revise that notion. The Wagner frontstroke was patented in April 1893 and the Underwood company started making typewriters two years later.
Judging by a book, small in size but very big in fighting talk, the trust was actually formed to counter the arrival of another “visible” writing machine, the Oliver, which had first gone into production in 1892 and had started to make major inroads into the market previously dominated by Remington, Smith Premier et al.
The book is called the
Battle of Detroit:
An Impartial Account of the Fierce War
Waged in the Board of Education
by the Typewriter Trust
against the Oliver Typewriter,
in the year 1899
Being written and published by Oliver - though based on Detroit newspaper reports of the time – the summary of events is hardly impartial. And yet it is a valuable account, exposing as it does the rotten tactics employed by the Union trust to stop the advance of typewriters generally. As the book states, what happened in Detroit in 1898-99 was a microcosm of what was happening across America, as the Union worked vigorously and viciously to stymie typewriter development.
This fascinating little document was published by the Linotype Company of Montreal, which at the time was making Oliver typewriters for the Canadian and South American markets (the main factory was in Woodstock, Illinois).
A copy of Battle of Detroit, held by the Seminary of Quebec Library, is now in the public domain and has been digitised. It is available on the Internet Archive and the Open Library, to be downloaded in PDF and various other formats. It can be found at
I reproduce it here in full (almost exactly as it was published, except for a few corrections to typos), since I believe that for typewriter historians it is a story that should be known.
Oliver's Army
William Augustus Waterbury, the brilliant general of the Oliver army, marshaling his forces with speed and efficiency. Waterbury was at the time of the war the manager of the Oliver Typewriter Company in Chicago. He was born in Stamford, Connecticut, on April 28, 1861, and died on March 13, 1924, in Chicago, aged 62. At the time of his death he was manager of A.B.Dick and Co, Chicago, where he had also been sales manager. Described as physically a “small chap”, he obviously had the tactical nous of Napoleon.
Charles Frank Zielke (born New York, 1865), was Waterbury’s first lieutenant, as the local Detroit agent for Oliver typewriters.
Union Army
H. M. Strader, general of the Union forces. A rather mysterious figure who was president and treasurer of the General Typewriter Company on Griswold Street, Detroit. Described as a “big fellow” in stature, but short of fighting ability.
Harry Sherman McCormack (born New Jersey, 1869), a prolific typewriter inventor, went from New York to represent the Union as Strader’s Second-in-Command. Soon after this war, McCormack left the Union to join Underwood.
Marr and Adams, school inspectors who were Strader’s “Fifth Columnists” within the school board.
In the Middle
The Board of Education for the City of Detroit Text Book Committee inspectors, under the chairmanship of George M. Lane.
William Teagan (born Detroit 1869) was chief clerk of the Detroit Justice Court.
Replevin: In creditors' rights law, replevin, sometimes known as "claim and delivery," is a legal remedy for a person to recover goods unlawfully withheld from his or her possession, by means of a special form of legal process in which a court may require a defendant to return specific goods to the plaintiff at the outset of the action (that is before judgement).
Hougement: Sorry, can’t help, maybe someone can enlighten me.

An Impartial Account of the Fierce War Waged in the Board of Education by the Typewriter Trust against the Oliver Typewriter, in the year 1899.
Compiled from Contemporary Publications and issued by The Linotype Company of Montreal in Canada, Manufacturers of the Oliver Typewriter.
The Waterloo of the Typewriting Trust of the United States against the new visible writing Oliver was fought out and lost in the City of Detroit. The campaign was a winter one, opening in September last and closing with the Waterloo, which will henceforth be known as the battle of Detroit, on January 10th, 1899.
The opposing forces were the Typewriter Trust of the United States and the Oliver Type-writer. The Typewriter Trust represents the union of the Remington, Smith-Premier, Caligraph, Yost, Densmore, and Brookes [sic] machines, together with the whole range of exploded ideas in typewriter construction. It has for many years held the Typewriter business by the throat, and by its enormous capital and influence, which it has not hesitated to use unfairly, smothered the newer ideas of typewriter construction, so as to prevent progress. Its investment in old machines (the product of old ideas) has been so enormous — running up into the millions — that it could not afford to adopt any radical improvement without rendering this immense capital worthless. Therefore, it smothered everything looking towards the betterment of their machines, that could not be adapted to them and charged for, hoping through their multitudinous patents and great prestige to rule the earth as Napoleon did Europe when he was allowed to. Indeed, it is upon its patents, as much as upon its control of all the large typewriter plants in existence when it was formed, that the gigantic capitalization, $20,000,000, of the trust is based. Messrs Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict from the first began absorbing patents of every kind, so long as they bore on a free type bar, and in addition to the great accumulation of patents that this course naturally resulted in, “a blanket patent,” was applied for and granted. This “blanket patent,” prepared by the most competent patent experts, acting with the most skilful typewriter experimenters that money could secure, was confidently expected to fill up all the gaps that by any possibility could exist in the patent fences of the trust, and absolutely prevent anyone outside the trust from building a typewriting machine, having a free typebar. It was the deliberate opinion of the trust that any machine depending on mechanical alignment, was not a competitor with machines like the Remington and the Smith Premier, having a free typebar; that indeed such machines, being necessarily short lived and with a heavy touch, would usefully serve the ends of the trust by opening up a market for the standard machines. Through this mass of patents and expert patent juggling, a new machine, founded upon a radically new principle, cut its way, as the ram of a modern ironclad does through the seas, and the Oliver machine became an accomplished fact. This machine, the only typewriter outside the trust, having a free type bar, is the invention of Thomas Oliver, a Canadian, whose machine has been built in Woodstock, Illinois, for several years, the head office being in Chicago, and which is now being built by the Linotype Company, Montreal, for Canada and South America. This machine the Trust could not afford to buy on account of the revolutionary character of its construction, which would render all its present immense plant and most of its stock useless, and besides it is in the hands of a close corporation composed of wealthy business men, who understand just what they have got, and intend to hold it. Direct purchase being impossible, the trust’s only alternative was to resort to vilification and threats of patent infringements. This was the machine which entered the list against the trust machines at Detroit, and on Jan. 10th, 1899, the typewriter Waterloo was fought and won.
The battle ground was the Board of Education in the City of Detroit, the Hougement, an order for twenty-four machines for the use of the public schools of that city. The fight is thus described in publications issued at the time: -
As far back as last September the question of introducing a large number of typewriters in the public schools took on definite form, and at a meeting of the Board of Education nearly every typewriter on the market received a hearing at the hands of a committee appointed for the purpose of investigating the comparative merits of the different machines. The fight waxed hot, during session after session, with the visible writing Oliver, a preferred favourite, and the trust machines close seconds. The Remington and Smith Premier enjoyed distinctive consideration, but all their reputation could not outweigh in the eyes of the committee the advanced features and superiority of the visible writing Oliver, and the recommendation to install it was practically unanimous.
Here was shown the fine work of the Trust. Pressure was brought to bear, and influence exerted, to defeat the sweeping victory won by the Oliver, and induce the Board to divide the order. The grossest misrepresentations were indulged in, the machine maligned, and even second-hand Olivers were gathered up from different parts of the country and offered by a competing company at reduced prices to discredit the machine, or at least prevent the Oliver Company from enjoying the fruits of its well earned labors.
It finally resolved itself into a fight of anything to down the Oliver, and typewriter representatives from different parts of the country were imported to stem the irresistible and inevitable tide that had set in toward that machine. Second-hand machines, a stolen machine, and even machines that had never been manufactured entered into the contest to check the stampede, until it appeared to the Board of Education so palpable a fraud and imposition on the integrity and wisdom of the committee that by a vote of 15 to 1 the Board reaffirmed its decision of January 13th, and twenty-four visible writing Oliver Typewriters were ordered purchased, and twenty-four, more or less, discredited and humiliated typewriter men departed from the Board meeting to reflect on the folly of opposing a progressive, visible writing typewriter that asked no favors, appealed only to the common sense of the Board, and announced boldly that it was not in the trust, didn’t want to be, and regarded its friendship and ill will alike.
A brief review of the case will be interesting. It was in September, 1898, that the Board decided to consider the question of adopting typewriters in the high schools of that city. A meeting was called and the text book committee was instructed to advertise for bids, the same being opened on October 17th. The purchase of 30 typewriters was recommended. Announcement was made in the daily papers on the 19th, and the Oliver Typewriter Company were notified that their bid had not been among those considered, as they had not been solicited for proposals. Through its agent in Detroit they had the entire matter reconsidered, and new bids were solicited. After the opening of the bids, and after a thorough investigation extending over a period of several weeks, on the 3rd day of December the committee reconsidered its original recommendation and asked for the purchase of 26 Oliver Typewriters. The recommendation for the adoption of the Oliver machine, which to that city was a comparatively new and unknown, was a strong indication of something radically superior to that with which they had been familiar, and the overturning of the original recommendation was strongly resented by the typewriter trust and other competitors of the Oliver.
Pressure was brought to bear from all sides to defeat the action of the committee, and misrepresentations of the grossest kind indulged in as to the reputation of the Oliver machine, its durability, price and general standing. The pressure was so strong that the competing companies succeeded in getting the order divided and a recommendation for 7 Olivers, 7 Smiths, 3 Densmores, 3 Hammonds and 3 Remingtons was adopted by the Board.
The action of the committee in recommending the purchase of 26 Olivers, the entire bid, and the success of the other companies in getting the order divided by such misrepresentation, impelled the Oliver Type-writer Company to enter a vigorous protest and demand a thorough investigation and exoneration from the charges brought by the other companies or their representatives. From the 8th of December to the 11th of January the Oliver Company were engaged in running down the charges that had been made and proving their falsity and the Board of Education, be it said to their credit, with a sense of fairness that was commendable, held the matter open pending the result of the investigation to ascertain the truth. On the 11th of January, the committee decided to make final disposition of the matter, and to that end invited a representative from the home office of the Oliver Company to appear before the Board and answer the charges that had been preferred by the numerous typewriter representatives and other competitors. Every charge made and brought up at that meeting was speedily disposed of, and the committee exonerated to the fullest extent the Oliver Type-writer Company from any complicity in or suspicion of unfair dealing with the Board and renewed their recommendation for the purchase of 24 Oliver machines, which recommendation was confirmed the following night at the regular Board meeting, and an order given to the Oliver Company to equip the high schools of the city of Detroit with visible writing Olivers for use in the Commercial course. The other companies still unheeding the decision of the Board and challenging the wisdom of their selection, undertook to force the mayor of the city to veto the proceedings, and, with numerous affidavits of misrepresentations and false charges, to prevail upon him to again reopen the case; but being thoroughly discredited by their actions in the past, and the committee appointed for the purpose having already made a thorough investigation of the relative merits of the different typewriters, their attempt was unsuccessful, and the matter declared closed. The following extracts from the Detroit daily papers are offered to show the opposition that was experienced, and the success that met the Oliver, (which it has met wherever merit and honest consideration are determining factors in a comparison of writing machines) and the extract from the mayor’s report, supporting the decision of the Board, made final disposition of a typewriter contest that for severity and bitterness was the most pronounced in the history of typewriters, and the Oliver once more proved its superiority.
Detroit Tribune, Jan. 11th.
One Booked for To-Night in Typewriter War — Talk of “Trust” is Rife — Agent of the Oliver Coming from Chicago — He Wants to Fight it Out — Claimed that Detroit is Being Made the Battlefield of a Trust-Anti-Trust Scrap.
The School Board committee meeting to-night for the purpose of, as is hoped, finally disposing of the type-writer imbroglio, promises to be a warm one. Chairman Lane of the committee says that he has sent invitations to all interested members of the Board to attend the meeting, and a full representation of the agents of the leading machines which were practically voted down by the Board at its recent meeting is expected.
A fighting representative of the Oliver machine, which found favour with the Board to the extent that it received the order for the majority of the 26 typewriters desired, is on his way to Detroit from Chicago, and will reach here this morning. He is out with an invitation to all the representatives of the “trust” machines which have been bucking his local agents, to come out into the open at this meeting and fight it out, with the committee room as an arena, and the School Board committee on text books as judges.
“There is more in this typewriter fight than seems to be generally understood, “declared an official of the School Board yesterday. “It’s a big trust and anti-trust war that is being carried on by the typewriter people all over the country, and the battle has centred here in Detroit. The outcome means much more than the mere placing of the anti-trust machines in the Detroit schools.”
The evidences of the struggle have been plainly apparent in recent School Board meetings. The committee which presented the report favourable to the introduction of typewriters into the high schools reported in favour of the Oliver machine, which is generally known as “ not made by the trust.” The battle, as a matter of fact, began in the committee, and before the report was made.
The text books committee is composed of Inspectors Lane, Ellis, Scholl, Gentsch, and Adams. At the time the report was adopted in committee Adams was the only member dissenting from the general decision, and he presented to the Board a report favouring the Smith-Premier, said to be in the “trust.” This proved the opening wedge, and after the bids of this and other alleged “trust” machines had been peeled down by the Board and the Board’s figures declined, it is charged by those favourable to the non-trust machine that the representatives of the machines in the combination did not lose their interest in the fight. They were on hand in the lobby at a succeeding Board meeting.
It was at this meeting that Inspector Marr flashed the circulars purporting to show that the Oliver machines could be bought for $43.50. A reading of the circular revealed the fact that the machines quoted were held by a New York agency dealing in various machines, and were described as being “almost absolutely new.” The anti-trust people claim that these are second-hand machines, and declare that the issue was raised only to befog the minds of the inspectors. The introduction of the “Woodstock” machine into the discussion is claimed to have been a similar dodge. Inspector Marr had some correspondence with a Chicago firm, from whose circular he derived the information that the “Woodstock,” a cheaper machine, was the same as the Oliver. He wired the Chicago house and was told that the Woodstock machine is no longer manufactured and that prices could not be quoted on it.
The text books committee will meet to-night at 7.30 o’clock. W. A. Waterbury, manager of the company which manufactures the anti-trust machine, will be on hand to take up the cudgel against the alleged “trust,” and it is broadly intimated that he will have some entertaining stories to tell of “trust” methods in the type-writer business.
Detroit News, Jan. 11th.
Typewriter Men Will Make One To-Night.
There is going to be a hot time at the Board of Education offices to-night. W. A. Waterbury, the manager of the Oliver Typewriter Company, of Chicago, is in the city. He says the representatives of the trust machines better come prepared to play ball, for he is loaded with ammunition. The arguments that will be presented to the text book committee will be so red hot that they may bleach the hair of some of the members.
Mr. Waterbury says the trust has waged unsuccessful war upon the Oliver Typewriter for years.
“The Olivers that are being offered at $42.50 by the New York Typewriter Exchange are second-hand machines, as I shall prove to-night,” he said.
H. M. Strader, of 165 Griswold street, says he has half a dozen Oliver Typewriters that are absolutely new and that he is prepared to sell for $50.
H. S. McCormack, of New York, will participate in the scrimmage.
Detroit Journal, Jan. 12th, 1899.
Conflict of Trust Companies Against Anti-Trust Firm Before the School Board — Oliver Won the Round Manager Waterbury Here to Represent His Company — Says He Has More Trumps Up His Sleeve for To-Night — End of the School Board’s Controversy Over the Matter is in Sight.
The case of the Williams typewriter et al, vs. the Oliver anti-trust typewriter was tried at the Board of Education Rooms last night. The jury was the School Board’s committee on text books, composed of Inspectors Lane, Ellis, Scholl and Gentsch; Adams, the fifth member of the committee was not present. The attorney for the defence was W. A. Waterbury, manager of the Oliver Company.
The principal attorney representing the other side as H. M. Strader. He was reinforced by agents for various other typewriters which have made a bid for the Board’s patronage.
The status of the case against the Oliver Company was this:
Many weary weeks ago the School Board committee on text books recommended that 26 Oliver Typewriters be purchased for use in the commercial course at the high school. At the next Board meeting Inspector Marr flashed a page from a late catalogue of Montgomery Ward & Co., in which a machine known as the “Woodstock,” and closely resembling the Oliver, was listed. The inference was that the Oliver Company was playing the Board for suckers. Mr. Marr’s attention had been called to the Woodstock by the agent of another company.
Close upon the heels of this came a circular from a dealer in second-hand typewriters in New York, offering the Board 10 second hand Olivers.
Finally, last week, Mr. Strader offered to deliver to the Board 8 Oliver Typewriters, all but two of the latest make, for $50 each. The idea conveyed by all of this was that Oliver Typewriters could be bought almost anywhere and at prices to “fit everybody’s pocket,” as the bargain “ads.” say.
The report of the committee was rejected by the Board, and the whole matter thrown up in the air again. Agents for other typewriters declined the patronage of the Board, based on a division of purchase among seven or eight machines.
Meanwhile the much badgered committee had been worked up into such a state of irritability that the individual members stood ready to kill a typewriter agent on sight. Their meeting last night was a final desperate struggle to extricate themselves from the slough of despond in which they had been mired, and for this purpose Manager Waterbury was invited to come from Chicago and personally speak for his company.
Mr. Waterbury isn’t much on the speak. His strong forte lies in letting the other fellows do the talking and then he selects the solar plexus of their argument and gives it a punch which lays it out stiff.
“Am I to make my remarks in the nature of an argument or a defence?” was the first question he asked of the Board. “If in the nature of a defence, I want to know who my accusers are.”
The row of typewriter agents seated against the wall smiled blandly at one another.
“Oh, an explanation by all means,” volunteered Inspector Marr.
“Very well, gentlemen,” replied Mr. Waterbury, and then proceeded to take up the matter of the “Woodstock” machine. This he easily disposed of by showing that it was an unguaranteed, cheap machine of which19 were all that were ever made.
“Our firm is now printing a special circular offering $5,000 to anyone who can produce 20 of these machines,” was his final shot at this charge.
The offer of the New York firm to furnish 10 second-hand Oliver machines “almost absolutely new,” was next taken up. By reference to office books which lie had brought with him, Mr. Waterbury traced he history of each of these machines, from their numbers, showed that they were made two years ago, had been sold and resold until they finally found a resting-place with the second-hand dealer.
At this juncture Inspector Gentsch arose and said he had to leave the meeting.
“I’ve heard enough to satisfy me,” was his ambiguous remark. “You can tell me the balance later.” Mr. Gentsch favoured the Oliver from the start.
But Mr. Waterbury was going right in and next took up the matter of Mr. Strader’s offer to the Board of 8 Olivers at prices below the company’s figures.
“Is the agent of the Williams Company present and can he furnish the numbers of these machines?” inquired Mr. Waterbury.
“The representative is here and can and will furnish the numbers of those machines,” responded Mr. Strader, rising.
Mr. Strader is a big fellow and Mr. Waterbury a little chap. For a moment they looked squarely into each other’s eyes.
“Will the gentleman kindly tell me his name?” courteously inquired Mr. Waterbury, and from outward appearances one would never have suspected that these two men were old acquaintances who had been formerly associated in business for years. Yet such was the case.
Mr. Strader gravely handed over his name and then read the numbers of the machines which he had to offer.
The announcement was startling.
When number 11,722 was reached, Mr. Waterbury, who had been examining his record book, whirled it around under Chairman Lane’s nose, with the simple remark:
“Gentlemen, No. 11,722 does not exist. It was never manufactured.”
Mr. Strader was visibly taken aback and protested that he certainly had a machine of that number.
When number 6,341 was read, Mr. Waterbury, who was again running his finger down the pages of his book looked up with a quiet smile on his face and said:
“No. 6,341 was stolen. It is our property, and if is in Mr. Strader’s possession we claim it.”
“Certainly, certainly,” exclaimed Mr. Strader, who was probably the most astonished man in the room. “If we have a stolen machine that belongs to you, just get out a writ of replevin and you can have it.”
“I’ll do it at once,” said Mr. Waterbury. “Is there a justice near by?”
Judge Teagan had but a moment before wandered into the room. His entrance was no part of a grand-stand play. In fact, he thought the whole matter a big joke, but he was introduced to Mr. Waterbury, and stated, laughingly, that if the latter would sign a bond he would get out a writ at once and secure the machine.
Mr. Waterbury concluded, however, to let the matter go over until to-day. Then he entered into a dissertation in which he showed how for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain, the typewriter trust could give the heathen Chinee pointers every minute. He showed how the Oliver machines were drummed up all over the country by agents of companies in the trust, bought at a good figure and sold at a sacrifice in order to convey the Impression that his company did not deal on a fair basis.
“And now, gentlemen,” he said, “I guess I’m through. Have you got any more questions you want to ask?”
The silence that ensued was painful.
“If you have, I’ve got something more up my sleeve, he said, coldly.
Inspector Schubel broke the silence by remarking loudly to Inspector Lane:
“The whole question simmers down to this: Do we want to buy old, second-hand Oliver machines, not guaranteed, or do we want good, new machines, guaranteed for a year and a half by the company that makes them?”
Then the Board went and conferred with itself, with the result that it decided to once more, recommend the purchase of the Olivers.
Meanwhile Manager Waterbury and several newspapermen went over to Agent S trader’s office, where they found the stolen machine, 6,341.
Then Mr. Waterbury went to bed at the Metropole to recuperate for the big show which will take place before the Board to-night, when the matter will come up for final settlement.
“And as for the committee, we’ve had enough of type-writers to satisfy us for the remainder of our natural lives,” said Inspector Scholl.
Detroit News, Jan. 13th.
School Board Typewriter Fight Drawing to a Close.
A sensational session of the School Committee on textbooks was held last night. H. W. Strader offered to furnish the Board with 10 Oliver machines at $50 each. W. A. Waterbury, general manager of the Oliver Company, showed that the Olivers offered by the New York Typewriter Exchange are second-hand machines; that the “Woodstock, claimed to be identical with the Oliver, has been out of date, was placed on the market as a second grade machine and is no longer manufactured, and that the Olivers offered by Strader were obtained from an ex-agent and not from an authorized representative. He exploded a bomb in the camp of the enemy by asserting that machine No. 6,341, which was among those offered by Mr. Strader, had been stolen and that he would replevin it. After a number of other type-writer agents had been given an opportunity to make a plea for their respective machines the committee went into executive session and decided to recommend the purchase of Oliver Typewriters. The Board of Education will take the matter up to-night.
Detroit Tribune, Jan. 12th.
One Took Place in Typewriter War — Alleged Stolen Machine — Among Those Offered School Board — Replevin was Threatened — Oliver Won Out Before the Text Book Committee — Its Purchase Desired Manager Waterbury Found an Oliver Claimed to Have Been Stolen.
The typewriter war now waging before the Board of Education last night developed a very sensational session of the committee on text books which has in hand the selection of machines for use in the commercial course at the high school.
H. W. Strader had made an offer in writing to the Board to furnish it with 10 latest improved Oliver Type-writers, if the Board desired to purchase that kind, at$50 each. W. A. Waterbury, manager of the Oliver Company, was present. He demanded the numbers of the machines, then alleged that one of the machines offered, No. 6,341, was a stolen one, and declared he would replevin it. Realism was lent to this threat by the presence of Justice of the Peace Teagan, who announced himself ready to issue the necessary papers.
As a result of the session, the committee, after the agents present had left, decided to recommend to the Board that it purchase 26 Oliver machines.
There were present all of the members of the committee. Inspectors Lane, Ellis, Scholl, Gentsch, and Adams, besides Inspectors Marschner, Marr and Sherrill. Mr. Waterbury, and C. F. Zielke, local agent of the Oliver, were called before the committee, and it was then decided that the other typewriter agents present should be admitted. Half a dozen of them filed into the committee room and took seats.
Chairman Lane outlined the fault found with the Oliver offer. He stated that it was claimed that the Woodstock machine was the Oliver under a different name.
“Shall I make my talk in the nature of a defense or an explanation?” asked Mr. Waterbury. “If it’s to be a defense, I would like to know who the accusers are.”
It was suggested that he make an explanation, and Inspector Marr stated what he had been told about the similarity of the Woodstock machine to the Oliver.
Mr. Waterbury then admitted that the Oliver Company was the manufacturer of the Woodstock machines. He stated that while made on the general principles of the Oliver machine, the Woodstock was not guaranteed, and had been manufactured strictly for sale to large department stores. He declared that only 19 of them had been made, that all of those had been sold to Montgomery Ward & Co., of Chicago, that none could be bought of the factory now, for love or money, and that no more of them had been or were to be made. He said they were a second grade machine, under a contract that they were not to be marketed for less than $60.
“We have a circular now in print for circulation offering $5,000 for 20 Woodstock typewriters.”
The committee was satisfied with the explanation, and the offer of the Oliver machines by circular for $42.50was then taken up. The circular was produced, showing it to be issued by a New York typewriter agency, and it offered Oliver machines, “almost absolutely new,” for $42.50.
Mr. Waterbury explained that the machines offered bore numbers beginning with 5,000, were of an old design, and declared that they were second-hand machines when disposed of to the New York concern. He said he had similar machines in Chicago, which had been taken back in exchange, and offered to duplicate the circular offer on such machines. He also produced two books, which he termed “ring books,” in which he said every typewriter ever made by his company was recorded so far as its travels could be followed by the company. The book supported the truth of his statement as to the use of the typewriters and their final disposition to the New York concern.
The offer of the Williams Company to sell 10 Oliver machines at $50 each was next taken up. Meanwhile Justice of the Peace Teagan had wandered nonchalantly into the room and dropped into a seat.
“I would like to know the numbers of those machines,” said Mr. Waterbury. “Is the Williams representative here, and can he produce them?”
“The Williams representative is here and will produce them,” said Mr. Strader, rising.
Mr. Strader called attention to the offer which specified that eight of the machines were of the 11,000 series and two were older machines which had been remodeled. He read off the numbers of seven machines among them the number 11,772, and gave as the eighth number 6,341.
It developed that several of the machines offered had been obtained by Mr. Strader from one J. W. Moore, of Cleveland, Ohio.
“No Oliver Typewriter numbered 11,772 has ever been made,” Mr. Waterbury declared with considerable effect. ‘”Machine No. 6,34’l is a stolen machine, and if the gentleman has it in Detroit, I will replevin it.”
He had Chairman Lane turn to the record of 6,341. The record was endorsed, “This machine stolen.”
“Can I get a writ of replevin to-night?” Mr. Waterbury asked.
“There’s a justice,” someone said, pointing to Teagan. The official said he would issue the papers if desired, and a proper bond was furnished.
Mr. Strader spoke up and volunteered to turn over the machine without a replevin if Mr. Waterbury would furnish a bond to protect him. After considerable discussion, Mr. Strader remarked rather sneeringly:
“I’ve sent for that ‘stolen’ machine and for the machine that was never made, and they’ll be here in a few minutes.”
About ten minutes later the same gentleman announced that the machine No. 6,341 had not reached his office but was in transit and promised to produce it this morning. He also stated that his messenger had been unable to find the machine numbered 11,772, but showed his letter stating that it was among the machines shipped him and declared it would arrive.
Agent McCormack called attention to the bid of the Manhattan Company, put in a few days ago, to furnish the Board 15 or more Manhattan machines. The committee decided that it did not care to reopen the bidding without instructions from the Board and declined to consider it.
After the committee dismissed the typewriter men, Mr. Waterbury, Mr. Strader and several newspaper men visited the office of the Williams Company on Griswold street, to check over the numbers of the Oliver machines there.
The machine numbered 6,341 was found there.
Later, in executive session, the committee decided to recommend the purchase of 28 Oliver machines.
“After what has developed, I think the Oliver people are entitled to the contract,” Inspector Ellis remarked, after the session.
Free Press, Jan. 12th.
Among the Typewriters Offered to the School Board — Oliver Company’s General Agent Demonstrated the Fact — Text Book Committee Tired of the Troublous Questions.
Tragedy followed comedy in quick succession at the School Board text book committee meeting last night, when W. A. Waterbury, general manager of the Oliver Typewriter Company, discovered, by the aid of his account books and the statement of H. M. Strader, that Mr. Strader was in possession of an Oliver Typewriter that had been stolen and was so reported by the Oliver agent at Washington some months ago. Mr. Strader had offered the Board of Education ten Oliver Type-writers that he claimed were absolutely new and in good order, at a reduced price. Among these machines was the stolen one.
At the last regular Board meeting, Inspector Marr claimed that the Oliver Typewriter Company was attempting to sell Oliver machines to the Board of Education at $60, while they were sold in New York at $42.50, under the name of the Woodstock typewriter. There commendation to purchase 26 machines was reduced to 10 machines, and the purchase of the other 16 was referred back to the text book committee.
W. A. Waterbury came before the committee laden with account books, letters, and telegrams, and gave an explanation. He claimed that the trust was making an effort to down the Oliver Typewriter. George M. Lane, chairman of the committee, read the accusation made by Inspector Marr, and showed the circular advertising the sale of twenty Woodstock typewriters, manufactured by the Oliver Typewriter Company, at Woodstock, Ill. The circular was issued by the Typewriter Headquarters, 102 Fulton street, New York. It said that the machines were “almost absolutely new.”
“In the first place,” said Mr. Waterbury, “the Oliver Company manufactured but nineteen of the “Woodstock machines, and since this accusation the Company has placed with the printer a hand bill, offering $5,000 reward for the return of twenty Woodstock typewriters. The machine was made for department stores and wholesale houses, and was never guaranteed for a minute. The only firm that ever purchased those machines from us was Montgomery Ward & Co., of Chicago. The Montgomery Ward people contracted to sell the machines at $60. We stopped the manufacture of the Woodstock typewriter after it had been on the market less than ten months.”
“We have an offer here for 10 Oliver Typewriters, absolutely new. The offer is made by the Williams Typewriter Company.”
“Is the agent of the Williams typewriter present, and can he produce the numbers of those machines?” said Mr. Waterbury.
“He is, and will produce them,” said H, M. Strader, rising and drawing a slip of paper from his pocket. “I would like to sell them for $50 each. It is a purely mercantile transaction.
"Mr. Strader read the numbers, and Mr. Waterbury assisted Chairman Lane in finding them in his account books. In nearly every case, he found that the machines in the possession of the Williams Company bad been returned to the Oliver Company, which sold them to E. M. Miner, the proprietor of the Typewriter Headquarters in New York. He also proved that the machines had been bought from an ex-agent of the Oliver Company, and not from the authorized agent of the Company. When Mr. Strader mentioned No. 6,341, Mr. Waterbury read an extract from his account book that stated the machine bearing that number had been stolen.
Justice of the Peace Teagan was present and jocosely offered to serve a writ of replevin. Mr. Waterbury stated that he thought the Board of Education did not care to buy stolen typewriters and have to waste time in the court room.
The committee members expressed themselves as tired of the typewriter question, and refused to entertain further bids from the agents present. The Oliver Typewriter Company was unanimously exonerated from the charges brought against it. An executive session followed, but the chairman would not give the decision until this evening. The stolen machine was exhibited after the meeting, and Manager Waterbury, of the Oliver Company, said he would take legal action for its recovery to-day.
Detroit Tribune, Jan. 13th.
Hot Session Last Night — Bought Oliver Typewriters.
There was a mild seance over the typewriters. The Oliver machine was voted in, there being but one nay vote, that of Inspector Adams. Twenty-nine cabinets were bought of the same company at $9.00 each. The only objectors during the debate were Inspectors Hall and Marr.
Detroit Free Press, Jan. 13th.
A melodious chorus of sighs of relief arose from the members of the School Board last night when Secretary Chamberlin finished the reading of the affirmative ballot of fifteen members on the motion of Inspector Lane to purchase Oliver typewriters for use in the public schools and the superintendent’s office.
“Thus ends the typewriter war,” said Inspector Marschner, and another deep sigh of relief went forth from the inspectors.
Detroit Journal, Jan. 13th.
Was Finally Settled by Awarding the Contract to the Oliver Machine.
The committee which had the matter of typewriters in charge recommended that Olivers be purchased, bringing the total number of the machines ordered up to 24, and after a futile effort to divide up the patronage, the report was finally adopted. Typewriter men hint, however, that the matter isn’t settled yet, and an effort may be made to hold up the Board’s proceedings in the matter when its report reaches the mayor’s office.
Detroit, Jan. 30, 1899.
To the Honourable, The Board of Education, Detroit, Mich. : —
Gentlemen. — In considering the complaints made regarding the proposed contract ordered by the Board of Education, to be made with the Oliver Typewriter Company, I find the charges not sustained. I find no evidence of concealment, deceit or fraud on the part of the committee on text books of the Board of Education. I find that the offer of the Williams Typewriter Company to furnish Oliver Typewriters at a price of fifty dollars each was not made in good faith, because the typewriters were not what they were reported to be, latest improved and first-hand, but rather second-hand machines and one of the number was shown to have been stolen. I find that the committee in the exercise of its wise discretion chose to purchase for use in the schools, as being more durable a single key-board machine. I find from the evidence that the committee did not receive proposals for typewriters after the expiration of the time limit placed in the advertising, but did receive statements in the shape of proposals which they considered in so far as they bore upon the matter arriving at a just conclusion as to proposals made upon typewriters within the legal time. The committee did not award the contract to any company whose bid was informal and not presented within the time limit.
I find in the proceedings of the Board, session of Jan.12th, that individual inspectors moved the adoption of typewriters other than the Oliver, stating the prices thereof, and the Board, by decisive vote, refused to confirm such motions, but did, by vote of 15 to 1, confirm the report of its committee. I find that the statements or proposals, so-called, of companies presented after the limit for proposals expired, were known by those who presented them to be irregular and the fact was also known to the committee. Inspectors Lane and Scholl have shown that the receipt and consideration of them was meant to be advisory only and with reference to their bearing upon bids regularly presented.
I find that although the price to be paid the Oliver is a few dollars in excess of what other machines might have been obtained for, that the statement of the chairman of the committee on text-books, that the Oliver was a single bank machine, stronger and giving promise of being more easily repaired or having less parts to repair, were reasons fully sufficient to warrant the few dollars excess in price over machines which, in the opinion of the committee, did not possess all these merits. For these reasons I will confirm the action of the Board. Respectfully submitted, W. C. MAYBURY, Mayor.

Detroit, Mich., Jan. 10, 1899.
Oliver Typewriter Co., Chicago, Ill. :
Gentlemen,— I have just returned from the Mayor’s office (6 o’clock), and have his approval of the contract. Will receive formal order to-morrow.
Yours very truly.
The C. F. Zielke Company, Agents.

Canadian Manufacturers,
The Linotype Company, 156 St. Antoine st., Montreal.
May, 1899.

*Eighty years later, Elvis Costello would celebrate this victory by writing and performing Oliver’s Army:
Oliver's army is here to stay
Oliver's army are on their way
And I would rather be anywhere else
But here today
(Well, it’s as good a guess as any I’ve seen as to what Oliver’s Army is all about!).
Did you know?: That the US Civil War involved a Union army and that the English Civil War involved an army under an Oliver (Cromwell)


Rob Bowker said...

Costelloe's Oliver was Cromwell, the army his New Model Army (itself the name of a reactionary Yorkshire indie band formed in the 80s). I'm going to come back to the post and read it through more thoroughly! Good work.

Bill M said...

Excellent post! Olivers are on of my favorite old typewriters. I hope to get one sometime this year.