Charles Godfrey Patterson was a bright young Irishman, born in Ulster at Christmas time 1836, who arrived in America in 1855, aged 18.
He settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and took
up newspaper work. But Patterson began to see his future in law, and in 1860 he moved into New York City to enter Columbia Law School. He graduated in 1865. It was to prove a highly profitable investment of his abilities, his time and energies.
Ottawa, Kansas, a year after Patterson left it
In the short term, however, Patterson returned to journalism. On September 18, 1869, aged just 32, Patterson bought his own newspaper, The Republic, situated in Ottawa, along the Marais des Cygnes River, 50 miles south-west of Kansas City. Patterson quickly changed the paper’s name to the Ottawa Journal and edited it himself. In June 1871, he sold it to E. H. Snow and C. W. Nelson.
Patterson’s return to New York, to practise as a corporation lawyer, was timely indeed. In 1873 the typewriter was born, and for more than 20 years, from the late 1870s, there were almost as many law suits involving typewriter patent infringements floating about as there were new typewriter brands coming off production lines. The New York City air was thick with writs. Litigation was the name of the game.
One example of the fun and gains attorneys had
Among those at one another’s throats in the NYC courts were typewriter inventors James Bartlett Hammond and Lucien Stephen Crandall and typewriter promoters James Densmore and George Washington Newton Yōst.
James B.Hammond was dogged by litigation, but sailed above it all
One of the more notable, perhaps, was Crandall’s 1890 libel suit against the executors of Densmore’s will, including Densmore’s younger stepson Ernest Ryan Barron. Crandall claimed he had been called “lecherous and immoral” and labelled a “liar and scoundrel”.
These people imaged there was plenty of money at stake – trouble was, they didn’t have a lot of it in their hands to pay for the legal costs involved. It was what we now call “speculative” action: that is, lawyers agree to fight the case in return for a sizeable share of the spoils. The plaintiff, if successful, would gain little more than the saving of face and the dubious delight of having proved his point.
C.Godfrey Patterson plunged right into the thick of all this. The waters were too warm, too inviting to resist. Patterson was only too willing to speculate; for him, these could only be win-win situations. Regardless of the outcome of the suits, Patterson had a deal stitched up. I’ll argue your case, he would say, on condition you assign me your next invention.
Thus Patterson became the owner of countless patents – including those for typewriters, and including those from the like of Crandall, Yōst and Densmore’s estranged stepson Walter Jay Barron. Other typewriter patent trade-off deals were struck by Patterson with Amos Densmore (in 1891) and Jerome Burgess Secor in the early part of the 20th century.
But one legal battle in particular had other rewards for Patterson: fame, and with it more fortune. This was the prolonged fight between Yōst and the Remington Typewriter Company. It ended in a “draw”, an “amicable understanding”, an out-of-court agreement, so that neither Yōst nor Remington could claim the satisfaction of victory. There was only one winner: C.Godfrey Patterson. His name was “made” in New York City legal circles.
Yōst and Remington had got off to a bad start. No sooner had Yōst and Densmore got Philo Remington to agree to make the Sholes & Glidden than Yōst, acting on his own behalf, put in an order for $25,000 worth of typewriters at cost price (around $60-$65). Yōst had to sell them, and sell them quickly, in order to make a profit and pay off his debt. He didn’t.
To compound things, Yōst then borrowed $50,000 from Remington so he could buy out Amos Densmore’s one-fifth share in The Type-Writer Company, a move which enabled Yōst to take a controlling interest in the company. Not that that did him much good, as The Type-Writer Company wasn’t making enough money for Yōst to be able to service this second debt to Remington.
These Yōst debts placed James Densmore and The Type-Writer Company in an impossible position when it came to negotiating with Remington over patent rights and royalties. Remington held the whip hand, and used it. Yōst found a way around Remington’s constraints so he could produce the Caligraph, but that only made matters worse.
Inevitably, Yōst and Remington headed to court. And there was C.Godfrey Patterson, cute Irish corporate lawyer, waiting for them, with open arms.
Attorney Patterson dined out on the Yōst-Remington case for many years to follow. His final claim to fame, however, was for acting on behalf of the stockholders of the Bay State Gas Company of Delaware in a case which dragged on for 13 years and ended in 1909. It must have cost many millions.
And it was through gas, heating and electrical lighting that Patterson came to do further typewriter trade-off deals, with Crandall (1892) and with Virgil Warren Blanchard.
Bye, bye Attorney Patterson and all his typewriter patents
Patterson died of nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) at his home in the Fairbanks apartment house in Orange, New Jersey, on January 4, 1910, aged 73. He was buried in Middletown, Connecticut, beside his wife Annette M. Hall Patterson, who had died almost exactly a year earlier. They left a son, Dwight Horace Patterson.
Almost seven months after C.Godfrey Patterson’s death, on July 30, 1910, one of Patterson’s typewriter patent-trading clients, Dr Virgil Warren Blanchard, died, aged 79, at his summer home in Middlebury, Vermont. Thus ended one of the more colourful careers among would-be typewriter inventors.
Blanchard’s obituary was exceedingly kind to him. It said he had “attained considerable eminence in his profession. While still a young man he practised for several years in Bridport and later in Weybridge and Middlebury. About 20 years ago he went to New York City and built up a very lucrative practise, but after a few years abandoned it in order to devote all of his time to his inventions and to the formations of companies to put them on the market. He was a prolific inventor and it is said that he had obtained patents upon about 200 [well, at least 52 anyway] different products of his brain, ranging all the way from typewriters to furnaces.”
Blanchard's 1887 typewriter, image courtesy of Dirk Schumann
Two of Patterson’s other typewriter-inventing clients, Yōst and Crandall, were, as regular readers of this blog will by now have gathered, at least a little bit crazy. Yōst finished up in the grip of spiritualists and “transcribing memoirs from the grave” on his typewriter, while Crandall once had James Densmore’s wife and niece locked up over a court case which had nothing to do with the two women. Compared to Yōst and Crandall, however, I suspect Blanchard was the truly nutty inventor.
How Patterson came in contact with Blanchard was through Yōst, oddly enough.
Yōst died in 1895, leaving a spring patent in Patterson’s name through the executors of his will, Charles W.Yōst (perhaps a nephew?) and George Yōst’s widow Sophia Church Yōst, but assigned to the surviving Densmore brother, the millionaire Emmett Densmore, and Emmett Densmore’s wife Helen Barnard Densmore. James Densmore had died in 1889 claiming, in his will, to be still owed money by George Yōst.
For much of the last 10 years of his life, Yōst, had been “actively associated with Dr Virgil W. Blanchard, of New York, in the financial management and development of his [Blanchard’s] system of inventions, embracing furnace, boiler, engine, electric light etc.” No doubt these would also have included Blanchard's typewriter idea, since Yōst was constantly on the look-out for new typewriter designs.
Virgil Warren Blanchard was born in Brattleborough, Vermont, in July 1833, and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1859. That was the year he first proposed his theory of “A New Mode of Treating Disease by the Application of Heat and Cold Over the Ganglionic Centres of the Sympathetic Nervous System”, His work on this subject was published in 1864, referring to an earlier paper on diphtheritis.
Blanchard's work was taken up by Englishman John Chapman (1821-1894), then a Paris-based publisher and doctor, who in 1865 treated Charles Darwin using the method. Following an outbreak of cholera in Europe in 1884, an article appeared in the American Press concerning Dr Chapman’s treatment of it. Blanchard wrote to The New York Times pointing out that this treatment was his discovery.
In the meantime, Blanchard had “withdrawn to other fields of labor” – including trying to invent a typewriter.
In 1877 Blanchard published The Blanchard System of Physical Culture: Embodied in the Scientific Application of Food for the Prevention and Cure of Physical and Mental Disease.
By 1878, when Blanchard published Lectures and Essays, he had established the Food Cure System and the Blanchard Food Cure Company, based at 27 Union Square, New York.
A very unflattering review of Blanchard's book in
Popular Science in November 1877
On January 1, 1888, Blanchard incorporated the
Standard Electric Light Power Company of New York, with $1 million in assets.
Most of his patents related to gas heating, gas stoves, steam boilers, hydrocarbon furnaces and the like. But he patented two typewriter designs, one relating to keys. The other, assigned to Patterson, was issued on this day (November 22) in 1887.
The PDF drawing of the first page of this patent has somehow been obliterated on Google, meaning it looks like one of those join-the-numbers drawings. Luckily, I have Dirk Schumann’s The Patentbase: US Typewriter Patents 1829-1915 CD to fall back on, so readers can see what Blanchard had in mind for his typewriter.