The ‘Incased Collapsible Typewriter’
Is it the Rochester? Or it is something else? The 1920 Bates version
Kidder's 1923 Rochester 'pocket typewriter'
In the January 1923 issue of Office Appliances: The News and Technical Journal of Office Equipment, an item appeared under the headline, “To Produce Midget Typewriter”. The intriguing sub-heading read, “Old Typewriter Man Invents Unique Machine and Interests Group of Well-Known Business Men in Its Manufacture”.
The item said reports of this “midget typewriter” had first appeared in New York daily newspapers in late December 1922, with the announcement of the organisation of Rochester Industries.
The “old typewriter man” to whom the item referred was Wellington Parker Kidder, who at the time of the magazine’s publication was a month short of 70 and who had been inventing typewriters for more than 45 years, starting with the Franklin.
Wellington Parker Kidder (1853-1924)
The item went on, however, to say that the inventor of the “midget typewriter”, to be made by Rochester Industries, was not Kidder but one Harry Bates. Bates had “developed it in association with Wellington P.Kidder, consulting engineer of the new company [Rochester Industries]. Both gentleman have invented a number of mechanisms in the typewriter field.” That was a gross understatement in Kidder’s case.
In this series, in late July last year, we looked at the Rochester typewriter, for which Typewriter Topics in 1923 had given Kidder all the credit. Kidder had described it as a “pocket typewriter”, one which could fit in “an ordinary overcoat pocket”. This appears to be "tilting typewriter" - it tilts up at the front.
There can be no doubt that Kidder’s “pocket typewriter”, the Rochester, and Bates’s “midget typewriter” are practically one and the same machine - except for the tilt. The "midget typewriter" appears to fold down into the case when the lid is closed. This, too, was a Kidder concept.
The Rochester I featured in this series was heavily advertised in Typewriter Topics in 1923 – with illustrations of a machine which was allegedly launched on the market in June that year - and based on a patent Kidder had applied for on July 25, 1919, and which he assigned to Rochester Industries (of Rochester, incorporated in New York). He renewed the application on Christmas Eve 1923 and it was issued on July 29, 1924. Kidder died nine weeks later, on October 2, 1924.
Kidder's 1918 'midget typewriter'
It turns out, however, that there is an earlier design. This one, for which Kidder applied for a patent on this day (November 30) in 1918, and which was issued on July 5, 1921, was assigned one third to Bates and two-thirds to the International Lettergraph Corporation of 76 East 56th Street, New York (incorporated as a “foreign business corporation” in Delaware on February 17, 1920).
The plot now thickens. On September 20, 1920, Bates applied for a patent for the same machine, assigned to Rochester Industries (image top of post). This was issued on December 30, 1924, almost three months after Kidder had died.
The most obvious link between the Kidder “midget typewriter” design of 1918 and the Bates design of 1920 is that typewriter structure is connected to the lid of the typewriter’s case.
Kidder called his machine an “Incased Collapsible Typewriter” (or of “an otherwise compactible nature”). Being designed in 1918, it is a clear response by Kidder (and Bates, who worked for Underwood) to the Corona 3 (and also perhaps the Fox foldable).
Bates's 1920 practical interpretation of the 1918 Kidder concept
Kidder described the arrangement thus: “The object … is to produce a case which with its machine will upon its closing simultaneously effect the collapse, fold or other movement of the machine by which it is rendered more compact.
“The difficulties of effecting compact incasement by which a portable typewriter of minimum size may be secured is obviously great and the necessity of preserving practical standards of typewriter characteristics is obvious.
“Two general relationships desired may be initially considered. First, the positive and simultaneous actuation of case movement and machine collapse, and second, a like relationship in relative movement of machine and case.
“While these features are fundamentally distinct and each highly important they are capable of combination.”
So what to make of all this? It seems clear that Kidder began working on his “midget typewriter” on behalf of Bates and the International Lettergraph Corp. Then Bates took it over as his own project, after Rochester Industries had been set up. But Kidder later renewed his application and had another dab at it. Was Kidder enticed back into the venture because Bates couldn’t complete it on his own? Or did Kidder simply return on his own accord, having decided to abandon the “midget” in favour of the “pocket” typewriter?
Interestingly, nowhere in Typewriter Topics’ lengthy blurb about the Rochester is Bates mentioned. Apart from Kidder, the only other person referred to is Rochester Industries president Morton Howard Anderson (born to Norwegian parents in Wisconsin, November 14, 1873; died Los Angeles, March 3, 1955).
Harry Bates is perhaps best known as the inventor of the coin-operated, time-controlled machine which he designed in 1908 and later re-assigned to the Underwood Automatic Typewriter Pay Station Company.
In the September 1912 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine, a lead feature article on Bates said “typewriter pay stations” had been “introduced throughout the country”.
Bates worked for the Underwood Typewriter Company from 1912 until 1920, but his first typewriter design was a truly weird machine he assigned to George H. Russell of Rensselaer in 1904. He also worked on teaching and educational machines for Underwood.
Born in New York City in October 1868, Bates first worked as a newspaper journalist before becoming manager of a typewriter store. Before embarking on the Rochester project, he was advertising manager for Underwood.
Bates' toy version of 1934
Whether or not the Rochester pocket typewriter did appear in June 1923, the Kidder-Bates “midget typewriter” idea disappeared for 10 years. Then it suddenly re-emerged with a large number of patents assigned to the Bates Laboratory of New York.
Bates' 1934 version of the 'midget typewriter'
These new designs came from Bates and, in some cases, Bates and a Joseph Lee Sweeney. They included noiseless (developed by Raphael Atti from Kidder’s original concepts), compact and toy versions. These patents were issued right up until 1941.
The final 1938 Bates-Sweeney design incorporated Bates'
educational and teaching typewriter ideas.
I love all these inventions. Especially the Bates "memory machine" -- I could use one of those!
I agree whole heartedly with Richard. I was thinking of my android galaxy III "smart" phone as I read that and my phone does have that memory function. The digital world again lags behind the analog! I wonder though, if any of these machines were ever produced. The first underwood portable, a three bank machine, would seem to have done everything the bates machine did but without the need to fold up.
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