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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Welzie Raymond Shilling and the Short-Lived Shilling Brothers Typewriter: Briefly Visible and Hardly Reliable

The Shilling Brothers No 22 typewriter in the Dietz Collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum must be among the rarest of all rare typewriters. According to Typewriter Topics in A Condensed History of the Writing Machine (1923), only a few were ever made, in a few months between late 1921 and early 1922.
Nonetheless, the Shilling Brothers was, as Richard Polt pointed out in his excellent article "Saved From the Key Bandits" in the March 2009 issue of ETCetera (No 85), the "last incarnation" of a typewriter with a "noble history".
Typewriter Topics published this - the only known advertisement for the Shilling Brothers machine - in its January 1922 edition. It might almost be considered a stillbirth, since so few were made and sold, and so very few still survive. (The typewriter has also been called, in some publications, the Schilling, but it was never sold as this.)
Quite why this one-off model was called the 22 seems to remain a mystery. But its origins lie in the Pittsburg Visible No 12, a 1911 advance on the 1890 Daugherty and the original Pittsburg Visible of 1898 (Model 10, 1902; Model 11, 1908).
Soon after the No 12 was introduced in 1911, Pittsburg started work on a new design, with a squared-off top and deeper front replacing the familiar sloping sides. The machine was designed by James Denny Daugherty and John W.Paul for the Union Trust, which controlled the Pittsburg company. The changes led to production problems and the Kittanning, Pennsylvania, factory was closed in 1912. A receiver was appointed for the Pittsburg Writing Machine Company in mid-1913. The plant was sold in July 1914. Rights to the design were acquired by the Reliance Visible Typewriter Division of Montgomery Ward & Co in 1916.
Welzie Raymond Shilling in 1957. aged 68.
The man behind the final resurrection of the Pittsburgh Visible and the Reliance Visible-Reliance Premier was Welzie Raymond Shilling (also known as Welzick and Wesley Shilling).
Pittsburgh No 12 (1911)
Alan Seaver's Reliance Visible
This is Richard Polt's Spanish keyboard Aztec, which is virtually the same model as the proposed new Pittsburg Visible and the later Reliance Visible-Reliance Premier. Richard described his brilliant restoration of this rare machine in his article in ETCetera in March 2009 (No 85). He also reviewed the history of the machine from the Pittsburg through to the Shilling Brothers, including an American Model 9.
The back of the Shilling Brothers
Mark Adams' Reliance Visible. See Mark's blog post on this model here.
The brother in this enterprise was Herman Thomas Shilling. The pair arrived in Pittsburgh in 1912 and the following year established the Fort Pitt Typewriter Company - which, to the best of my knowledge, still exists. One version of the Shilling Brothers typewriter is said to be the Fort Pitt, but no examples of this are known to exist. The Shilling Brothers acquired the assets of the Pittsburg Writing Machine Company from Montgomery Ward's Reliance Visible division in 1921.
On an Underwood 5
The Shillings were born in Murphysboro, Jackson, Illinois - Welzie on September 18, 1888, and Herman on March 25, 1890. They were the sons of Kentucky-born coalminer George Shilling and his wife Lily Cooper Shilling. The divorced George appears to have raised the boys by himself in Oakwood, Illinois, from when they were a young age.
Welzie started work as a waiter in Belleville and then became a travelling typewriter salesman based in Springfield, Illinois. Herman joined Welzie in Belleville and Springfield and by the age of 19 was also a travelling typewriter salesman, based in Houston, Texas.
Certainly, by the time Welzie and Herman Shilling reached Pittsburgh, they were already experienced typewriter technicians, having travelled to various parts of the US in the course of selling and repairing machines. After founding the Fort Pitt Typewriter Company, Welzie travelled further afield, to Bermuda and Cuba, while Herman lived in England from 1925-29.
1916 advert from Mark Adams' blog post
From the early 1920s through to 1940, Welzie Shilling maintained in census returns that he was the proprietor of a typewriter factory. Whether Fort Pitt actually made typewriters, however, is questionable. Throughout its history, Fort Pitt sold a wide range of brands.
1917 advert from Mark Adams' blog post
In 1924 Fort Pitt moved from the Bakewell Building to the old McCloy Stationery Building at 644 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh. It expanded these headquarters in July 1936 and moved to a modern five-story building next door on Liberty Avenue in June 1957 (see article above, advert below). Herman had died, aged 53, in Albuquerque on August 19, 1943, and Welzie died in November 1967, aged 79, in Daytona Beach, Florida.

2 comments:

Richard P said...

Welzie ... what a name!

Thanks for providing some insight into the Shilling Brothers and the Fort Pitt TW Co.

According to Herman's records, known Shilling Bros. serial numbers are 61125, 61331, and 61729.

Ted said...

Hey, I just found mention of the Shilling Bros No. 22, described with specifications on pages 406-407 of the 1924 American Digest of Business Machines. It does mention an interesting difference between the Shilling 22 and it's ancestors: "Entire type section can be removed from the frame of the machine" and "It also permits the substitution of separate types for writing foreign languages".

http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/ADBM1924.pdf