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Monday 11 July 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (LI)

The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
of Typewriter Inventors
A typewriter designing genius
But the man who locked up James Densmore’s wife!
And made stenographers swear!

Lucien Stephen Crandall designed what many regard as the most beautiful typewriter ever made, the 1885 New Model Crandall.
It may look magnificent with its inlaid mother of pearl, painted roses and the filigreed golden pinstriped scrollwork. But the Crandall, and Lucien’s other notable design, the International, led, according to the Phonographic World, “to the invention by stenographers of more swear words than all the other typewriters combined!”
Crandall was a pioneering typewriter inventor whose place among the upper echelon of early typewriter designers – alongside the like of Franz Xaver Wagner, James Bartlett Hammond and George Canfield Blickensderfer – will be forever secure.
Nonetheless, there was a dark side to this wayward genius. Maybe he was the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of typewriter inventors (though Robert Louis Stevenson used a machine from the stable of Crandall’s arch rival, a Hammond!).
Crandall wanted, at one time, to hide away James Densmore’s wife, Adelia, and Densmore’s niece, Miss Ella Womersley. But more of that scandalous affair later. For the time being, suffice to say there was a very long-running series of quite vicious and costly disputes between the cantankerous Crandall and the litigious James Densmore (above) and his family – all over typewriter patent rights.
For all his brilliant ideas and gorgeous designs, Crandall was a man who really knew how to push the envelope as far as patent infringements were concerned.

In his The Writing Machine, Michael Adler suggests that Crandall, having lost out in a long-running battle with Hammond to secure the rights to John Jonathan Pratt’s typewheel, “took the typewheel and stretched it out (above) to make it into a sleeve which he himself was able to patent on his own, thereby by-passing Pratt’s control”.
In turn, says Adler, Crandall might have got the idea from Robert Thomas’s 1854 Typograph (above). “Perhaps Thomas’s invention provided [Crandall] with the idea,” wrote Adler, “for by then [Thomas’s] rolling pin typesleeve was public property, the patent having expired”. Adler went further in reference to Thomas: “Give [Thomas’s Typograph] credit for one thing, however: the typesleeve … is a direct ancestor of that used on the famous Crandall 25 years later”.
Of course, as things turned out, Crandall was forced to come up with an alternative type element when Pratt decided to sell the rights to his typewheel design to Hammond.
The court battles between Crandall and Hammond were probably at the top of a large pile of writs,  suits, threatened or real legal action that rapidly accumulated in the first 25 years of the typewriter’s history, as typewriter companies and inventors, eyeing off the vast amounts of money to be made in this new market, disputed the rights to one another’s patents, and the rightful ownership of ideas and designs.
On this subject, Mike Brown, in his book on John Newton Williams (The Untold Story) quotes from an article written by a predecessor of Mike's as editor of Typex, Tom FitzGerald, in 1988. FitzGerald said, "... there were few saints in business back then ... especially in the typewriter business."
Mike also mentions Williams facing a patent infringement suit from, of all people, Byron Alden Brooks, in 1894-96. "Few saints" indeed!
One of the more notable cases among the court actions was that between the Remington company and George Washington Newton Yost (below) - who, like Crandall and James Densmore, had been part of the team which promoted the early Sholes and Glidden machines.
The man who made his name in New York legal circles in that Remington-Yost case was Irish-born journalist, newspaper owner and corporate lawyer C. Godfrey Patterson. What is fascinating here is that James Densmore’s stepson, Walter Barron, assigned an 1890 typewriter design to Patterson and to Amos Densmore, the brother with whom James had a major falling-out. And guess what? In 1895 Lucien Crandall also assigned a patent to the same said Patterson, for a gas heating and lighting apparatus.
The prolonged Crandall-Densmore court joust, which extended beyond Densmore’s lifetime (he died in 1889) was perhaps the worst example of this type of conduct – certainly, in Crandall’s case, the  arrest of a whole family, and accusations of false imprisonment by two female members of that family, would appear to be going way too far beyond acceptable, rational behaviour.
As The New York Times put it in 1890, Crandall and James Densmore, in their many court claims and counter-claims, employed “a strong array of counsel of the higher rank in their profession”. Assigning patents might well have been one way of paying the huge fees for such services.
Michael Adler does nonetheless salute Crandall, though he appears to have gone wide of the mark when he associated Crandall with the American Standard (suggesting yet another legal stoush with Remington). This became the Jewett (probably an A.S.Dennis design, as mentioned in an earlier post). Adler did the same in linking Crandall with the British-made typewheel Gardner, sold in Germany as the Victoria and in France as the Victorieuse. This was apparently designed by one John Gardner.
(Could the "B.G.Granville" above possibly be
 the same Bernard Granville of Rapid and Granville Automatic fame?)
Adler nonetheless said Crandall was a pioneer who “influenced the typewriter independently” and “played as least as important a role” as others before him. “Crandall … made several contributions, the main one being the commercial application of the typesleeve. He also incorporated differential spacing on some of his machines.”
Another Crandall development was the one we are looking at today (above). Crandall was issued with a patent for it on this day in 1894. The invention was to raise or lower the platen in a vertical line, so that the printing point would always be in the same horizontal plane “for the type to strike squarely thereon …”
This patent may have intended for the machine Adler says Crandall patented in 1895, and which was called the Improved Crandall. This, says Adler, employed “12 horizontal typebars pointing radically towards the platen”.
However, given the extensive research carried out by Flavio Mantelli, and the detail contained in his article in the latest edition of ETCetera (No 94, June 2011, above) on Crandall’s International, in this post I shall leave the area of Crandall’s various models alone.
For anyone interested in looking further into the range and timeframe of Crandall’s designs, I recommend reading Flavio’s article. There is also an excellent article by Berthold Kerschbaumer, translated by Richard Polt, on Richard’s The Classic Typewriter Page website at

I certainly believe Crandall, more so than most typewriter designers (another notable exception was Thomas Oliver, as outlined in the previous post), “traded” in patent rights to meet part if not all of the the cost of getting his typewriters produced.
For example, at least four of Crandall’s 12 typewriters patents that I have unearthed were assigned to William A. Sweet of Syracuse. Crandall had returned production of his machines to Syracuse in the 1890s, after having his own company make them in Groton, New York, in the 1880s.
Sweet was general manager for many years of the Sanderson Brothers Steel Company plant, which was associated with the Syracuse roller mill, the Barnes bicycle works and the Sterling Iron Company. Sweet’s father Horace Sweet had been a pioneer in introducing farm machinery.
William A. Sweet later became president of his own steel company, and seemingly made typewriters there.
As well as to Patterson and to Sweet, Crandall assigned many of his other patents elsewhere, including an 1895 typewriter design to Jacob W. Ringlander, vice-president of a Madison Avenue hospital. Crandall’s adding machine and a typebar were assigned to Benjamin Franklin Tracy, who served as Secretary of the US Navy from 1889-1893, during the Administration of President Benjamin Harrison. Tracy (below) had been US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and had sat on the New York Court of Appeals.
Another unusual aspect of Crandall’s patents is that in at least two cases, one involving his first typewriter, he patented them, or applied for a patent, in England before he did do in the US.
The first Crandall typewriter (above, from the Smithsonian Institute) was patented in England on August 12, 1879, and Crandall applied for a US patent four months later – it was issued two years later, on December 20, 1881.
It is not known whether Crandall was living in England temporarily in the late 1870s, but he certainly was domiciled in Birmingham, England, in late May 1897 when he applied for a patent for the driving gear on one of his bicycle designs (above). Crandall was living at 62 Moor Street, Birmingham, at that time.
As can be seen from the chart above, Crandall's inventions covered a wide and varied range of things, down to a match safe and cigar cutter (interestingly, Mike Brown points out another typewriter inventor, John Newton Williams, patented a design for the very same item a year later, in 1886):
Lucien Stephen Crandall (below) was born at Portlerane, Broome County, New York, on May 4, 1844, the fourth of six children born to the Reverend William Pierce Crandall (1808-1871) and his wife Emily Bennett Crandall (1812-1898).
It is uncertain when Lucien Crandall died. Flavio Mantelli in his ETCetera article says 1910. Wikipedia says 1889, a year added by a contributor called “Guguwich” on June 29 this year. Given Wikipedia’s own entry on Crandall says he was still designing typewriters in 1895, this is ridiculous.
When Mary Root, the second of Crandall’s four wives, died in 1909, it was stated she “left all to her daughter, Abbie May Bachmann; only other heir Lucien S. Crandall, husband”. Crandall wrote the introduction to Edward Nathaniel Harleston’s The Toiler's Life: Poems in 1907.
Wikipedia claims that while Crandall was working on the Sholes and Glidden project he “soon worked out an oscillating typebar which he obtained a patent for; this prints capital and lowercase characters by shifting the platen, and was later used in Remington typewriters.
“Crandall assigned half of his patent to Densmore and Yost. After leaving the company and inventing his own typewriter, he started negotiations with E. Remington and Sons for the sale of the other half of his patent. Densmore learned of this, and wrote a letter to Remington denouncing Crandall as a ‘liar, scoundrel, a dishonest and immoral man’. Crandall then brought an action against Densmore for defamation of character, claiming $100,000 in damages, saying that the letter had caused his negotiations with Remington to fail. Densmore's defence was that the charges made in his letter were all true.”
Here (above) is The New York Times report of July 13, 1890, which covers much of the sordid affair:
In it, reference is made to Crandall’s alleged “false imprisonment” of James Densmore’s wife Adelia and Densmore’s niece Ella Womersley. Wikipedia relies on this report for detail in its entry on Crandall. However, it also refers to The Typewriter and the Men who Made It by a “Richard Nelson”. The author is, in fact, Richard N.Current, and this is what Current had to say in his book:


Richard P said...

Very interesting stuff. I believe Christopher Sholes was one of the few typewriter inventors who was truly generous and morally upright!

I wonder how many of Crandall's patents actually bore fruit in mass-manufactured items, and whether it would be possible to assemble a collection of all his produced inventions today.

Robert Messenger said...

Those bikes do look familiar. But I suppose all bikes do (cyclists no doubt say the same about typewriters!). I can picture you using a bungee cord to strap a typewriter to the handbar of the one with the gear device.

Robert Messenger said...

I'm sure you'd agree that the way Densmore "traded" in Sholes patents is quite fascinating, but almost nauseating. Current is very interesting on this subject. He seems to side with Densmore, yet still be sympathetic toward Sholes. There's a lot more to come out of later Sholes patents yet. It seems Sholes eventually "signed off" on all of them.

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