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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Novel, Peculiar, Bizarre, Strange and Odd. Part III - British Typewriter Hits and Misses 1884-1894


English typewriter inventor John Gardner tries out his machine.
See the entry for the Gardner below.
Overreaching schemes and designs, a widespread reticence to invest in newfangled contraptions called typewriters, and a lack of qualified workmen all conspired to cause the “Great Typewriter Graveyard” that was Britain in the 20 years between 1884-1904. Here are some of the machines that came and, in most cases, pretty quickly went:
ANGLO-AMERICAN: In July 1885 a massive amount of newspaper publicity, most of it paid advertising, was given to a machine called the Anglo-American Patent Type Writer. Sadly, no images of it appeared. This machine was said to be of American design, with the patent rights offered to British investors, the plan being to manufacture it in England and sell up to 200,000 typewriters a year. A similar deal with the Singer sewing machine was cited as a shining example for potential shareholders. Since it only had 25 parts and would sell at three guineas, this was presumably some sort of small index typewriter, and was described as being suitable for a child to use. It was to employ metal type and produce up to 60 words a minute, as well as manifold. The corporation had offices at 58 Lombard Street in London and a supply of American-made machines was already in stock.
William Maxwell Douët
       The AAPTW claimed to have gained British patent rights from a discredited former bank manager and merchant called John Tester through Jamaican-born William Maxwell Douët (1859-1926), secretary and a trustee for the corporation. It sought £100,000 capital in £1 shares. Alfred Eames, chairman of the Bromhead-Tester Manufacturing and Trading Co Ltd, was on the board, along with Tester, who was the Singer sewing machine importer. A year later two directors and major investors defaulted on 330 guineas worth of share payments, alleging fraud and misrepresentation was involved, and in 1887 Tester’s business stock was auctioned off. It seems the Anglo-American enterprise was nothing more than a double-dealing grab for quick bucks.
DAW: Thomas George Daw (1827-1893) was a printer, publisher and bookseller at 145 Cheapside in London when, on June 21, 1884, he advertised in the Birmingham Daily Post seeking an “Estimate for the Manufacture of Type-writing and other similar Machines.” Daw picked the right place to ask, and he placed his ad in no other newspaper. Birmingham was the original industrial heartland of Britain, and at that time the home of the nation’s most skilled metal workers. Daw duly got a reply from one such metal craftsman, the 28-year-old Alfred Taite, living at 22 Chapel Street. From just such an expedient arrangement, the machine usually referred to as the “Daw and Tait” (without the “e” and sometimes even as the Daw and Tate, without the “i”), first emerged from Daw and Taite Patent Typewriting Manufacturers of 63 Regent’s Place, London, that same year. On May 6, 1885, Daw exhibited his “models of dictation and verbatim type recorders and writers” at the Royal Society’s annual “conversazione” at Burlingham House on Piccadilly on Mayfair in London, where Daw was received by the society’s president, Thomas Henry Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”.
Image from Typewriter, by Paul Robert and Peter Weil (Sterling, 2016)
Daw was born in Modbury, Devon, in 1827. He moved to London by 1851 and in the 1870s he was a printer based at 373 Regent Street, where his wife Elizabeth Hilder Daw carried on a millinery and dressmaking business. Daw and his son Hilder Daw (1865-1930), also a printer but later a civil engineer, patented an “apparatus for producing impressed and printed surfaces” in January 1884. This was for a machine which would impress matrices or molds for stereotype plates and would operate in a similar way to a typewriter. The machine Daw exhibited to the Royal Society is more likely to be the Daw typewriter historians are more familiar with, the one with a circular keyboard and typebars hovering obliquely over a platen.
Perhaps because so few examples exist today, it is widely believed the Daw typewriter never went into full production. However, in the first week of August 1891 a number of British newspapers published a story saying the Daw’s Typewriting Company had taken “a long stride forward” in producing three kinds of “A New Typewriter-Writer and Reporter”. The first was the matrix machine, which was to overcome the need to manually pick up and distribute individual type slugs. The second was a typewriter which would “overcome the irregularities of spacing, which are inevitable with many other machines”. The third was the verbatim reporting machine capable of producing 100 words a minute, fully spelt out and simultaneously manifolded. In 1887 Thomas and Hilder Daw patented their machines in the United States, and in 1892 in Australia and New Zealand.
From the London Times, May 2, 1885
  In George Carl Mares’ The History of the Typewriter (1909), Mares described the “Daw & Tate” (as he spelled it) as “curious machines” dating from 1885, and as “relics of the early days of English typewriters”. Mares thought only two models were made, describing the one we know as a typewriter as a light portable instrument intended as a mechanical shorthand machine, “using ordinary characters under a code of contraction” and differential spacing. “The paper was carried under grippers on a hollow cylinder at the base of the machine, and this was made to revolve between letters on an Archimedian [sic] screw* (the first example of this movement ever attempted in typewriters).” Printing was done through carbon paper. (* The Archimedes screw consists of a spirally cut screw inside a hollow pipe.)
The Daws lived the latter part of their lives at Quakers Hall, Sevenoaks in Kent. From 1888 Thomas Daw described himself as a “patentee and inventor” and marketed such things as a truss and back drying board. He died in October 1893.
On December 12, 1980, an 1886 Daw and Tait typewriter went to a German bidder for £3000 at Sotherby’s Auction House in Belgravia, London. It had been expected to fetch between £500 and £800. This was for more than a decade a world record price for a typewriter. 

From Iron, January 22, 1892
EGGIS (also known as the VELOGRAPH): Fribourg, Switzerland, inventor and banker Adolphe Prosper d’Eggis (1855-1941) patented this as a typewriting machine in Britain in 1886. That same year the Velograph was made by Czeslaw Rymtowt-Prince of Geneva (which in 1911 made the Darling). A company called the Eggis Patent Type-writing Syndicate attempted to introduce production of it to England in early 1892, with headquarters at 38 Leadenhall Street, London, but after a joint-stock meeting in December the public company was voluntarily wound up in April 1893. Mares described the eight guinea Eggis as an index machine which worked both as a typewriter and a cypherwriter.
It sounds very similar to Marshall Wier’s 1889 Cryptographic (see in next part under Pneumatic). In 1904 d’Eggis was a co-founder of the Freiburg Conservatory and finance officer of the Holy See. He was an active member of numerous learned societies and started two popular science journals, Le Monde de la science et de l'industrie in 1879 and La Science pratique in 1886 . He was a half-brother of the writer Etienne Eggis.
Anything but 'Perfected'
ENGLISH REMINGTON: Mares was very dismissive of this machine, which he said required, but did not deserve, mention in his book. From 1875 the original British agents for the Sholes & Glidden-Remington were Marsland & Son of Blackfrairs, Bridge Mills, Manchester. In 1881 the rights were acquired by Beeman and Roberts of 6 King Street, Cheapside, London. According to Mares, “certain of the earlier patents had expired, and they [the agents] accordingly set to work, and produced a very crude form of machine, to which they gave the title [The English Remington].The commercial career of this machine was, however, very early nipped in the bud.” The plan was to reduce the cost by 25 per cent compared to other, imported typebar machines, to £16 (see attached 1885 advert). But Mares said these models could be easily identified by “extreme roughness of the castings and finish” and the absence of patent marks. As a result of all this, in September 1887 the company’s American owners, Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict, took direct control of the Remington’s sales, from offices they set up at 100 Gracechurch Street, London. 
FITCH: The 11lb visible writing Fitch was the work of Eugene Fitch, born at Garrattsville, Otsego, New York, on August 15, 1846, but living in Des Moines, Iowa, when he invented his typewriter. He was granted a US patent on the design in 1887. The next year Fitch signed a contract with Brady Manufacturing of Brooklyn to manufacture the typewriter and machines were available on the market by 1889. In the meantime, in July 1888, Fitch moved to London, where he remained for 10 years. In 1890 Fitch was behind the formation of the Fitch Type-Writer Company Limited, with offices at the City Bank Building on Queen Victoria Street, London’s typewriter row. The organisation was incorporated with £150,000 capital in £1 shares. The chairman of the board of directors was Lord Walter Gordon Lennox (1865-1922), a British Conservative Party MP for Chichester. Fitch, as managing director, undertook to “give his whole time to the development and management of the business for the first two years at a fixed salary.”
Lord Walter Gordon Lennox backed the Fitch.
       For £25,000 cash, the English Fitch company acquired worldwide patent rights except for North and South America on April 14, 1890. It expected to sell typewriters “at a large profit, half the price of the best existing machines”. Its prospectus said, “Type-Writing all over the world, except in the United States, is still in its infancy, especially in Great Britain, where it has only quite recently made an impression on the public. Indications are not wanting, however, that now, both for business purposes and for private correspondence, a steady, growing and permanent demand has set in … Very few type-writers, if any, are at present made in this country, while production in the United States is stated to be about 30,000 a year. … In the first instance, machines supplied to customers will be imported from America, but arrangements will be made to manufacture in this country, and special tools and machinery are being procured from America for that purpose.”
        The British-made Fitch 2 had emerged from the company’s factory at 53 Clerkenwell Road by early February 1891, and the plan was to make 5000 a year. Mares said one of the British versions employed script letters (“not italics, but round hand”) and “the work turned out on this machine presented an exceedingly attractive appearance”. However, proceedings to wind up the company started on December 26, 1892, it was in liquidation by February 6, 1893, and the shutdown was completed on November 13, 1893. A series of auctions sold off 55 remaining typewriters and the plant equipment. Mares said “machines were sold at amusingly low prices, and somebody must have been a very heavy loser”.
Fitch returned to Britain briefly in 1913, He died in The Bronx on February 17, 1918, and is buried at Kensico Cemetery, Westchester County.
GARDNER: Mares merely passed it off as “novel”. Richard Polt says it is “one of the most peculiar constructions in the long history of the typewriter”. Martin Howard says it’s a “wonderful early English typewriter with a most unique design”. Darryl Rehr said it was “rather bizarre”. Typewriter Topics said it was “odd machine”. This British curiosity seems to have been one of those typewriters doomed to fail before it even got off the ground. Yet off the ground it did get, unlike so many others mentioned here, and astonishingly continued in one form or another until the start of the 20th Century. It was an attempt to market a low-price (eight guineas), low-maintenance, 13- or 14-key single type element machine expressly designed for correspondence.
Lancastrian John Gardner was born in Middleton, Manchester, on August 22, 1863, and was an early owner of a Caligraph. Through many years of typing experience, he came to style himself as a “typewriter specialist, inventor and dealer”. Gardner eventually settled on the idea for a strange 7¾lb, 10½in by 10in by 5⅛in non-manifolding device with a 24 square inch keyboard and lozenge-shaped red and black keytops. This was at the very time when New York inventor Charles Spiro - inventor of the Bar-Lock - was convincing British typewriter importer William Richardson that buyers weren't interested anymore in small, cheap typewriters, for just correspondence or any other purpose. The thinking in Britain may well have been different, or perhaps not.
The Gardner had a nickel-plated frame on a japanned iron base with gilt scrolling. Although it was patented in Britain on May 27, 1889, it wasn’t until November 17, 1893, that a prospectus for the Gardner British Typewriter Company was issued. At this time the Birmingham Daily Post said it needed capital of £50,000 in £1 shares and that the company had been formed to take over the British patent rights, together with the plants and tools on Carr Street, Blackfriars, and 19 Cross Street, both in Manchester. Shareholders forking out £10 or more would get a free machine. The Daily Post said that, to that point, testing and perfecting had been going on for several months, as well as manufacturing (10 a week) and selling to a limited extent. The directors included Walter Jameson Waterlow (1854-1908, of Waterlow Brothers and Layton Ltd) and Bury mayor John Parks, with Gardner himself as managing director.
The first year of the Model 1 is uncertain – it was listed as a new invention in 1891 but not advertised for sale. But the 1893 changes definitely mark the introduction of the Gardner Model 2, with an increase by one to 14 keys, which could write 84 characters with the assistance of a shift lever, and an enlarged type cylinder. The first model had 13 keys in two rows and wrote 78 characters. Mares said the touch “was something fearful to contemplate”.
Heavy advertising for the Model 2 began at the end of January 1895, but by the middle of July that year winding up notices were issued for both the original Gardner Writing Machine Company and the later Gardner British Typewriter Co Ltd, and the end came just a week later, on July 24. Mares said the Gardner had predictably “found its way into the harbour of the liquidator”. Nonetheless, the Gardner had also been made in 1893 as the Victorieuse by Charles Terrot at his bicycle factory in Dijon, France, and remerged in 1899 as the Victoria, made by Carl Lipp at Fuldaer-Schreibmaschinenfabrik in Fulda, Germany.
John Gardner died on May 2, 1928, at Bolton Le Sands, Lancashire. One of his machines came up for auction at Christie's in South Kensington, London, on March 3, 1994, and comfortably exceeded the estimated price range by selling for £3520. 
Tomorrow:  Magic, Maligners and Malfunctions. Part IV – the Maskelyne, Rapid, Salter, Waverley and Many More.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

North’s Typewriter Went South in a West Australian Golden Hole. Part II – the Truth About the North’s


On Wednesday, November 7, 1894, two boxes of quartz containing 10 hundredweight of gold valued at £25,000 - $US4.1 million in today’s money - were exhibited at the depot of North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Company Limited at No 53 Queen Victoria Street, across the road from London’s Mansion House. “Errand boy and nobleman jostled one another to catch a glimpse of the golden stones,” said the Westminster Budget. “There has been something of a gold fever in London … The City has been profoundly stirred, and no little excitement has been manifested. Crowds have gazed through the windows at the specimens of quartz which Lord Fingall brought to this country from the Londonderry mine. The specimens are guarded by a couple of stalwart policemen.” The Budget didn’t consider it necessary to explain to its readers where the Londonderry mine was; there’d been so much news printed about the great West Australian gold discovery in the preceding two months that the Budget doubtless believed all of London already knew.
The exhibition at North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd headquarters was publicised in a full-page prospectus printed in leading British journals on November 17, seeking capital of £700,000 in 467,000 shares in The Londonderry Gold Mine Limited. The leading directors were the Rome-born Arthur James Francis Plunkett (1859-1929), the 11th Earl of Fingall, of Killeen Castle, Dunsany, Ireland, and 'Colonel' John Thomas North of the Avery Hill estate, Eltham, Greenwich, London. “Colonel” North, whose rank was honorary, not military, was of course owner of North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd. Other directors in the Londonderry mine enterprise were London-based Australian gold miner Thomas Hewitt Myring (1860-1916), Lord Fingall’s cousin Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett (1854-1932), a Unionist MP for South Dublin (who considered ‘Colonel’ North “a bounder, but honest and rough”), Colonel Sir Gerald Richard Dease (1831-1903), a Governor of the Bank of Ireland, another Irishman in Sir George Irwin (1832-1899), and George Frederick Samuel Robinson, the Earl de Grey and Ripon (1827-1909), a former Viceroy of India, British Cabinet member and son of a former Prime Minister. It was, in short, a very high-powered and exceedingly rich group that Fingall and North had drawn together. Whatever their politics and their social standing, making money was their highest goal.

John Thomas North, an honorary colonel but never a lord.

The Londonderry mine was 10½ miles outside Coolgardie in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia. On Monday, May 7, 1894, six prospectors who had travelled across the vast continent - John Huxley, William Gardner, John Mills, Thomas Elliott, Peter Carter and Henry Dawson - were returning disconsolate and empty-handed from Widgiemooltha to Coolgardie when Mills, the youngest in the group, literally stumbled across the Londonderry gold reef. Mills named it after his home town in Northern Ireland. Before going West in search of his fortune, Mills had been a boundary rider in Jerilderie in the southern Riverina of New South Wales, a town most famous for being held up by Ned Kelly’s bushranger gang in 1879.
The six gold finders, with Lord Fingall and Coolgardie mayor James Shaw sitting front right.

John Mills was part of a disparate lot. Dawson was from Summer Hill, Sydney, Carter also from Sydney, Gardner from Balmain, Sydney, and Elliott and Huxley from Victoria. Within a few weeks of Mills’ find, and keeping their discovery a tight secret, the six had dollied out 8000 ounces of gold, valued at £33,000. But after the group applied for a 24-acre mining lease from Coolgardie mining agent Walter Henry Lindsay (1869-), word of their rich lode began to seep out. On Saturday, June 23, the group took their treasure into town, hidden under a load of firewood, and lodged 4280 ounces of gold with the Union Bank in Coolgardie. Three days later Elliott, an elderly quartz miner, described by his friends as “rather infirm”, went into the town, got wildly drunk, and revealed to all and sundry from whence the gold had come. By early July the story was being told in newspapers across Australia, along with the location of Mills’ find.
In May 1894 Lord Fingall left England to attend to mining business in Tasmania. On hearing of the Londonderry find in July, he travelled on to Melbourne and Adelaide and reached Albany in Western Australia by steamer and Perth by train. There the colony premier Sir John Forrest introduced him to the Coolgardie mining warden John Michael Finnerty (1853-1913), who gave Fingall a full run-down of the Londonderry find.
John Michael Finnerty
Fingall and Finnerty, along with West Australian Postmaster-General Captain Richard Adolphus Sholl (1847-1919), inspected the well-secured Londonderry site. On Thursday, September 13, Fingall persuaded the remaining members of Mills’ group to accept £296,000 for the mine (they had already banked the £33,000 from their findings). Dawson, one of the older members of the group, and the only experienced miner among them, had already sold his share to Huxley and Mills for £3000, and on August 4, 1894, a friend of Finnerty’s, Belfast-born James Shaw (1846-1910), the first Mayor of Coolgardie, had joined the syndicate, first getting a 1/24th share for £3000, then buying 40 shares to increase his investment to £7600. Shaw, who had served in the Maori Wars in New Zealand, had previously been the Mayor of Adelaide and had built the South Australian Houses of Parliament and Marble Hill, the South Australian Governor’s summer residence.
James Shaw
On his return to England, on November 6, Fingall entered into an agreement with North for a shared interest in the mine, which the two planned to sell to investors for £650,000, £417,000 in cash and £233,000 in fully-paid shares. The remaining £50,000 of the float would go toward working capital. Fingall and North – among many others - firmly believed Londonderry’s “Golden Hole” would yield well in excess of £1 million, almost £131 million ($US 162 million) today.

The best laid plans of bounders and noblemen sometimes go awry, and in the case of the Londonderry mine the collapse of the Fingall-North scheme was utterly spectacular. When Fingall set out from London to return to Coolgardie and oversee mine development in February 1895, Londonderry was still being regarded as potentially the richest gold mine in the world. Fingall’s initial reports back to England were so encouraging as to excite North into doubling his investment.


But by April 1895 the full, horrible truth had started to become apparent. In August North turned in fury on Fingall and his cousin Plunkett. Plunkett promptly resigned, but Fingall, North and Myring promised to settle with investors – which Fingall certainly did, at a cost of £30,000 in November 1895, though North and Myring were less forthcoming. North had, in fact, suffered an enormous financial loss. With his business empire starting to crumble, he died less than six months later, in May 1896, aged just 54.

As one historian would later out it, “The Londonderry was a freak rich patch in an otherwise barren reef. But that was no consolation to investors who had done their money cold in what was later labelled the Plunderderry mine.” Wide World Magazine would sum up the situation thus: “It was found, to the utter amazement and dismay of all concerned, that the kernel had been taken and only the worthless shell left. People looked at each other in blank astonishment when the news was made public. It was darkly hinted by those in authority at home [that is, Britain] that the ‘Golden Hole’ had been tapped and its treasures spirited away. Surely, they said, it could not be possible that the wonderfully rich mine, which had turned out so many thousand ounces of gold from a small hole­ which had caused the mining world to ring with its fame and to look forward with eager hope to the payment of enormous dividends, could have ‘petered out!’ Alas! It was only too true. The ‘Golden Wonder of the World’ was a wonder no longer; its matchless riches had been exhausted, and one of the biggest mining com­panies had been floated on what was little better than a burst bubble. When the exact posi­tion of affairs became known, and the full truth realised, such a storm of indignation, vilifica­tion and abuse was let loose upon the heads of the vendors, promoters, min­ing experts and everyone connected with the flotation as has rarely been equalled.”
The young 'Colonel' North

Collapse of the Londonderry “Golden Hole” enterprise didn’t immediately bring an end to North’s high-flying, big-spending life, nor did it cause the sudden closure of his typewriter venture. But North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd was one of his last three major outlays, and the pain of gold mine debacle most certainly hastened his death and the typewriter company's slow demise thereafter.
Leeds-born North had started his illustrious business career in 1865 in Chile and later Peru, where he was a waterworks operator, importer and ship owner. The War of the Pacific (1879–1883) provided him with an opportunity to purchase large numbers of bonds in the Peruvian nitrate (saltpetre) industry, which in turn gave him a monopoly share of the lucrative Chilean nitrate industry. He also owned several iron and coal fields along the Biobío River and a gasworks at Iquique. North returned to Britain 1883 and set up North's Navigation Collieries in Glamorgan in Wales, and had investments in the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company, which from 1892 operated a concession in the Congo Free State.

North died suddenly at 3.50pm on Tuesday, May 5, 1896, while eating oysters, drinking stout and presiding over a meeting of the Buena Syndicate in his offices at 3 Gracechurch Street, London. Almost without exception, typewriter historians have declared his death as marking the end of North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd. It was not, far from it. As G. Tilghman Richards pointed out in 1964, a new, improved model had emerged in 1897. Indeed, North’s typewriters continued to be made for another 5½ years after North died, until North’s executors decided to sell the stock, machinery, patents and goodwill on September 2, 1901. For want of a buyer, the company was finally voluntarily wound up on July 18, 1903, and North’s typewriters continued to be sold until then, more than seven years after North's death.
Lord North, a completely different man from 'Colonel' North.

Even the man who gave the typewriter its name has been seriously misidentified by historians. Only three typewriter history books have him correctly as ‘Colonel’ North: Friedrich Müller (1900), George Carl Mares (1909) and Paul Robert and Peter Weil (2016). Astonishingly, ‘Colonel’ North’s own biographer, the generally meticulous and thorough William Edmundson, trenchantly declared in 2011 that while “The Nitrate King”, may have had shares in the typewriter company, it was named for Brighton-born William Henry John Lord, the 11th Lord North, who died, aged 95, in 1932, 36 years after the ‘Colonel’. This mistake was first made by Typewriter Topics in 1923, although Topics managed to get “a wealthy member of England’s nobility” mixed up with someone who had “enormous South American holdings” (that is, ‘Colonel’ North). Ernst Martin (1949), G. Tilghman Richards of London’s Science Museum (who should have known a lot better) (1964), Darryl Rehr (1997), Michael Adler (1973 and 1997) and Thomas Russo (2002) all made the same error of naming the North’s typewriter owner “Lord North”, both Adler and Russo saying Lord North died in 1896, when in fact he was still very much alive and kicking.
Although ‘Colonel’ North bought the English Typewriter Limited’s plant at 57 Hatton Garden, Holborn, when that company folded in April 1892, and the North’s Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd was established later that same year, the North’s typewriter did not rise from the English’s warm ashes. Morgan Donne, who supervised production of the English, was also plant manager for North’s, and there any connection between the two machines ended. George Beverley Cooper (1857-1918), who assisted Donne in developing the North’s, was not involved in the English enterprise. The patents for the North’s were in Donne’s name alone, and were first obtained in England in 1891-92, just as the English was at its short-lived height.
Watchmaker and motor-racing driver Morgan Donne
Morgan Donne was born in Paris on September 9, 1860, when his father Lewis (1838-1918) was involved in the watchmaking business there. (Donne died at Streatham, London, on November 25, 1935, aged 75.)


The English Typewriter Limited had its offices at 6 Birchin Lane, Cornhill, London, which was primarily the headquarters of the watch and jewellery manufacturing business Donne & Son, then run by Morgan Donne and his father, Lewis Donne. Donne & Son had actually been established by Morgan Donne’s great-great-grandfather Robert Donne in 1764, so it had been around for 126 years by the time the English typewriter started its 23-month life. Indeed, in 1893, a year after the English disappeared, Donne & Son had a eight-day clock made by Robert in 1764 which was still working!
The North’s company began to rail material from steel city Sheffield and industrial centre Birmingham to London in 1893, and the North’s typewriter first reached the market in April 1894. At that time the company was at pains to point out it was not made in the US, and that its sale in the US was prevented by a 45 per cent duty tax. In October the North’s won a diploma and medal of honour at the Exposition Internationale d'Anvers, the Antwerp World’s Fair.
This is the original version of the illustration of the North's typewriter being demonstrated at the Antwerp World's Fair, the Exposition Internationale d'Anvers, between May 5-November 5, 1894. It appeared in the Illustrated London News on September 1,1894. In it, a display showing the growth of the nitrate industry to 1890 can clearly be seen in the background, linking the typewriter to the "Nitrate King", 'Colonel' North. The subject of this display is no so obvious in pale reproductions of the later colourised version of this work (see below). 
The combination of Donne and Cooper brought together two men whose design and engineering backgrounds were ideally suited to typewriter production. Donne and his father Lewis patented watch winding mechanism in 1889-90, a devise which, like typewriters, employed a mainspring and star wheels (English typewriter inventor Michael Hearn was a witness.).

Cooper had been in involved in cycle racing and bicycle and motor cycle design and manufacture since 1880. Both Donne and Cooper later became deeply involved in the motor industry, with Donne importing French cars such as the Rochet-Schneider and Piccard Pictet and racing them in the early part of the 20th Century. After North’s executors sold the stock of North’s typewriters in 1901, Cooper took the remaining assembled machines to his home city of Coventry, and continued to sell them there until 1903.

Next Part III: Magic, Maligners and Malfunctions – the Waverley, Fitch, Maskelyne and Salter, and Many More.

Friday, 26 June 2020

The Great Typewriter Graveyard: Britain, 1890-1900. Part I – The English and The Wrong Mr Right


On the evening of Friday, January 19, 1900, Michael Hearn, a 53-year-old Indian-born typewriter inventor, dressed for the theatre at his apartment at 19 Harleyford Road, Vauxhall, London. He was intending, Hearn had told friends, to attend the 9 o’clock performance of George Howells Broadhurst’s The Wrong Mr Wright at the Strand. Hearn pulled on his dress coat, adjusted his white marcella cotton bowtie in the mirror, took a snifter of potassium cyanide and keeled over dead. The Lambeth coroner, Athelstan Braxton Hicks, inquired into Hearn’s death before a jury the following Monday afternoon, and the verdict was “suicide during temporary insanity”.
What brought on this madness, the court was told, was Hearn’s frustration that his “great idea”, a typewriter which would sell for five shillings, had failed to secure financing to “carry it through”. “The machine he was engaged on was not perfected,” The Liverpool Mercury reported, “the difficulty being to get money …” Hearn had written to Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, looking for a job, but the prince’s comptroller, Arthur Annesley, 11th Viscount Valentia, had replied regretting that he had no post to offer. Hearn had also written to Joseph Chamberlain, at that time the Colonial Secretary and de facto British Prime Minister, seeking help. When none was forthcoming, Hearn decided to end it all.
That Hearn had been a widower for 10 years and left behind a son and three young daughters didn’t seem to concern Coroner Hicks. It was his inability to raise the finance to manufacture his cheap typewriter that caused him to lose his mind. Hearn had already experienced one great failure in the business: his English typewriter enterprise had collapsed less than two years after being launched in May 1890. The English was, according to George Carl Mares in his The History of the Typewriter (1909), the first typebar machine of British invention to be placed on the market, with a well-founded claim to be the simplest bar and key machine devised to that time. The 87 characters employed 58 parts (keytop and keylever was a single part) with a mere 87 friction points.
Hearn was born in the old fort town of Alibag outside Mumbai in India in 1846. He was sent to England at the age of 15 to be educated at the Protestant Dissenters’ Grammar School at Mill Hill. He became an architect before branching into the typewriter business in 1889. Mares said Hearn was “the original patentee and inventor” of the English while his partner, Morgan Donne, was the “manufacturing manager and experimentalist-in-chief”. As such, Donne had his name attached to the 1890-91 patents, with Hearn described as secretary and Donne as manager of the English Typewriter Limited, a public company.
Morgan Doone
The 29-key English went on sale in mid-May 1890 and at the Edinburgh International Exhibition in October won a silver medal, behind a gold won by the Bar-Lock, with which Mares saw “a certain resemblance” with the English. The English was very heavily advertised throughout 1891, but in April 1892, 23 months after the English was first offered, surplus stock of 70 typewriters was auctioned off. A debenture holder’s petition had closed down operations. In December the already defunct company was called before London Lord Mayor Sir Stuart Knill in the Mansion House justice room over £4 for services owed to a Mrs Johanna Leitchen. Sir Stuart was told the company had been wound up and had no assets. The plant had been taken over by North’s Typewriter Company.  (For more on Hearn’s partner Morgan Donne and on the North’s typewriter, see part two of this series of articles.)
The English was not built for speed typing. The keyboard was too wide at 12 inches, and the shift keys were in the centre, above the character keys. The downstroke typebars were not connected to rods or springs but relied on a counterweight below their pivots, and on gravity. This caused sluggishness, double printings, bar collisions and damaged type slugs. G. Tilghman Richards, in The History and Development of Typewriters (1964), described spacing “obtained by use of a spiral spring contained in a drum round which a chain winds”. For all that, Mares believed the English deserved greater success, and Typewriter Topics agreed, saying the English had “more than passing merit”. It was certainly ahead of the Daugherty, Oliver and the Wagner-Underwood in producing “quite visible writing” (TT). (Similar claims were made about an earlier typewriter, the Canadian-made Horton, which was apparently even more short-lived than the English.) However, as Michael Adler pointed out in 1973 (The Writing Machine), visibility was negated on the English by the paper rolling into a drum behind the platen.
Hearn’s tragic death symbolically marked the end of a series of failed efforts to establish a British typewriter industry in the decade between 1890 and 1900. Hearn had provided the brain power behind the English, and it had been the first in a long line of British flops. Models such as the Royal Bar-Lock and the Empire were marketed in such a way as to make them appear to be of British origin, but they were of American design (from Charles Spiro and Wellington Parker Kidder respectively) and were made outside Britain (the Bar-Lock in the US and the Empire in Canada). Even Blickensderfers bore shields implying they were British-made.
Britain’s lack of properly trained typewriter factory workers was a major drawback; in 1901 a US newspaper headlined a story, “Can’t make typewriters: Manufacturers say British workmen are no good.” But finding the capital to set up typewriter factories was the greatest impediment. In The History of the Typewriter, Mares pointed out capital invested in US typewriter manufacturing had risen from $US1.3 million in 1890 to $US8.4 million in 1900. Nothing like that sort of money was available in Britain, where expectations of profit margins were far, far lower.
Milton Bartholomew, managing director of the Union Trust-controlled Yōst Typewriter Company on the Holborn Viaduct in London, told the London Daily Mail in April 1901 that typewriters wholly produced in Britain cost 20 per cent more than those shipped in from the US, even after accounting for freight and tariffs. Typewriter Topics was to remark on Britain’s “years of hard struggle and vicissitude owing to the lack of experienced technical typewriter men and of trained typewriter labor in England”.
When the tide finally began to slowly turn, in the first decade of the 20th Century, it wasn’t through British endeavour but American expertise. The sea change – washing over the flotsam of at least six British typewriter company wreckages - came across the Atlantic in the person of Hidalgo Moya, who left his position as manager of the Hammond Typewriter Company in Kansas City, Missouri, in June 1899. Moya sailed from New York to Liverpool on the Umbria to take up a post as Remington’s representative in England. Unbeknown to Remington, however, Moya had, since 1897, been working on plans to make a typewriter in his own name. The first model Moya appeared in Leicester on November 18, 1902, and at five guineas, was exactly one quarter of the price of imported American-made machines. Admittedly, the Moya didn’t hold a candle to the like of the Underwood, but it worked and it was affordable.
Where Moya held a distinct advantage over others who had sought to establish typewriter manufacturing in Britain was in his considerable experience in the trade in the US - starting in 1893 - coupled with his mechanical skills and knowledge of what was required to make a typewriter not just work but keep working. Importantly, he was not overly ambitious, unlike some British counterparts, who in efforts to capture the market for home-made machines had tried to take the typewriter beyond the point to which it had been developed in the US. Moya was not interested in proportional spacing, for example, but in making a typewriter with seven-eights of the parts used in high-priced machines, and marketing it at a much more reasonable price. (Mares noted the peculiar propensity of the British toward proportional spacing typewriters during the 1890s, including such vain attempts as the Maskelyne and the Waverley. Mares called it “the fetish of English-made typewriters …”)
The Yōst company’s English manager Milton Bartholomew was biting in his criticism of British typewriter manufacturing when the London Daily Mail interviewed him in 1901. The Mail had set out to find “Why there are so few British typewriters on the market” (there were just two, it said, the Salter and the North’s). Bartholomew pointed out that in 1891 Caligraph had set up a factory in Coventry, but even with using American tools and material “it was impossible to produce a good machine”.    
Indeed, it wasn’t until June 22, 1908, the day the Imperial Typewriter Company was incorporated in Leicester, that Britain finally managed to start producing an internationally competitive typewriter - Moya’s ingenious Imperial Model A (“unique and unconventional [but] backed by real science” and “a triumph of technic” said Typewriter Topics). Even when, in 1911, Moya took a few steps back from his typewriter work to build violins, Imperial went overseas to get a replacement general manager - Eric Julius Pilblad. Typewriter Topics recalled that this was “a marked step forward” for Imperial, as Pilblad had “exceptional training, not only as a practical engineer, but as a successful organiser in the mass production of component parts of typewriters … He was discovered making rifle sights for Canadian Government and his experience has been of the greatest value to the Imperial company in perfecting the production of typewriters in Leicester.”
The Imperial Model A was the first British-made typewriter deemed worthy of selling on the demanding US market, a remarkable turnaround after two decades littered with fiascos. In 1909 Typewriter Topics’ European director Gustave Hermes said the Imperial was “bound to find its way to the other side of the Atlantic in due time”. At the 1910 Brussels World’s Fair, the Imperial won a gold medal in competition with such leading American brands as Underwood, Remington, Smith Premier, Monarch and Yōst, as well as the German Continental. By 1914 Imperial had a New York City-based distributor, Walter Edmund Hill, recruiting territorial agents across the eastern seaboard. At long, long last, "British-made" had come to mean enduring quality for typewriter buyers worldwide.
TomorrowPart II: North’s Typewriter Went South in a West Australian Golden Hole.