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Sunday 2 December 2012

On This Day in Typewriter History: Four Strange Typewriters

PART 192
What have we here? Well, believe it or not, they’re all typewriters, of a sort. Two are from Charles Spiro and one each from Thomas Hall and Suyeoto Fujiki, all dating from 1880-1891. Spiro and Hall were, of course, among the true greats of typewriter inventing. But we know nothing of Fujiki, except that he appears to have been away ahead of his time.
First, Hall’s famous index typewriter, one of the earliest typewriters ever marketed. A patent application was made on this day (December 1) in 1880. It was issued three months later.
Interestingly, this same patent was at the centre of a Federal Circuit Court patent infringement case in Massachusetts in July 1893, between the National Typewriter Company, incorporated in Maine, and the Pope Manufacturing Company. It was decided the “defendant [Pope], being a foreign corporation, incorporated under the laws of Connecticut, cannot, under the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, be sued in this district.” So did Pope make a version of the Hall? And why was this case heard in Massachusetts?
Hall machines were originally made by Hall's own company in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, but according to Paul Lippman's American TypewritersNational manufactured the "Boston Hall" in Philadelphia (from, I believe, 1889). According to the Smithsonian Institute, National is "not to be confused with the company in Philadelphia of the same name". But the Smithsonian seems to be utterly confused itself over whether the "New Model Hall" was made by National or the Philadelphia Typewriter Company. I'm afraid I can't sort that one out.
Here is my Salem Hall, still without a plunger (but I’m getting to it …).
Thomas Hall was born in Philadelphia on February 4, 1834, the son of an English-born machinist, Henry Hall, and his wife Alice Baker Hall. Hall died in Brooklyn on November 19, 1911, aged 77.
The Spiro music writing typewriter was patented on this day in 1885. The machine sold for $10 in 1886.
It was described in Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia 1890 as the Columbia typewriter having been adapted, “by a special device, to print in the words of a song by the use of an additional typewheel. It is 4½ inches in length, 2 inches in width, and 2½ inches in height, and weighs ½ a pound. There is a disk, a handle, and a base. The disk contains on its periphery the requisite characters ... The disks are three - one containing the notes, one for inserting accidentals, and one for signatures and barring.”
Columbia 2
On this day in 1891, Spiro was issued with a patent for this six-line typewheel (or more likely a typesleeve) typewriter. I don’t know if anything became of the design.
Spiro was born in Prussia on January 1, 1850. He later claimed (in passport applications and on census forms, no less) that he was born New York.  He died in 1933.
Charles Spiro
Suyeoto Fujiki, of Tokyo, was also issued with a “type writing machine” patent on this day in 1891. Fujiki’s stopwatch-like typewriter looks suspiciously like the famous Italian-made Taurus, described by Paul Robert at the Virtual Typewriter Museum as "definitely one of the smallest, oddest, clumsiest and most desirable typewriters ever produced". See
The Taurus was produced 17 years after Fujiki’s patent, in 1908, by Pietro Torrani of Milan. The major difference between the two miniature typewriters is that with Fujiki’s design, the device was laid on paper, whereas the Taurus had a thin strip of paper inside the “watch”. Fujiki’s typewriter had an ink pad rolling over the character ring, and a depression key on the opposite end to the winder. The dial was essentially the same. Torrani and his associate Giovanni Zanini, who made a “spy” camera, also called a Taurus, in 1904, perhaps adapted Fujiki’s design when Fujiki’s patent expired in about 1905. 


Richard P said...

A very entertaining foursome, thanks.

Anonymous said...

The Spiro looks rather like a kiwi (bird) with a strange head. The fujiki is the grandfather of label makers I suppose.