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Monday 9 September 2013

Crackers Crandall: The Wayward Wizard of Typewriters

Looking at the lives of some of the more interesting people involved in the early development of the typewriter, few are as fascinating and as significant, yet as elusive, as that of
Lucien Stephen Crandall
Born Portlerane, Broome, New York, May 4, 1844
Died Kennett Square, Chester, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1919*, aged 74.

*All previous estimates of the date of Crandall's death have been incorrect.
Wikipedia still lists him as dying in 1889. He lived 30 years beyond that.

MET WIFE NO. 4 JULY 14, 1910

I meet her on a Thursday and my heart did glow
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
Somebody told me that her name was Flo
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
Yeah, my brain did slow
Yes, her name was Flo
And when I walked her home
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
I knew what she was doing when she caught my eye
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
She looked so quiet but my oh my
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
Yeah, she caught my eye
Yes, oh my, oh my
And when I walked her home
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
I picked her up at seven and she looked so fine
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
The very next day I made her mine
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron
Yeah, she looked so fine,
Yes, I made her mine
And when I walked her home
Da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron

- With apologies to The Crystals,  Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector
Lucien Crandall has never ceased to intrigue me, maybe because I am a bit of a nutter who loves beautiful typewriters and women myself. Crandall invented the most beautiful typewriter ever made (the New Model Crandall, above) and held one of the most crucial patents in the history of the typewriter, one that was zealously protected and the subject of an enormous amount of speculation and litigation. He also claimed to have employed the first female typist, in 1874. I may have suddenly gone amaurotic, but I can find absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Crandall ever invented a typewriter for the blind. I suspect a misconception may have occurred, when Crandall was said to have invented a "blind writer" (the International, below). Nothing in the specifications for Crandall's earlier typewriters suggests that they were designed specifically for use by the blind.
That this last claim has been made so often about Crandall just goes to show just how little we really know about him. Almost everything that has been published about Crandall is either inaccurate or incomplete. So, in an effort to set the record straight, here are the true details:
Crandall was born the son of a Methodist minister of Puritan Stock (though descended from the first Seventh Day Adventist in America), but Lucien later gave land to and became a trustee for the Presbyterian Church at its foundation in Parish, Oswego, New York. His father was William Pierce Crandall (1808-71) and his mother Emily (née Bennett) (1812-98), both from Homer, New York. He was the second of four sons and the fourth of six children. 
Through his mother, Crandall was a descendant of Joseph Warren (above, 1741-75), who played a leading role in American Patriot organisations in Boston in early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Warren enlisted Paul Revere and William Dawes on April 18, 1775, to leave Boston and spread the alarm that the British garrison in Boston was setting out to raid the town of Concord and to arrest rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Warren took part in the next day's Battles of Lexington and Concord, which are commonly considered to be the opening engagements of the American Revolutionary War. Warren had been commissioned a Major General in the colony's militia shortly before the June 17, 1775, Battle of Bunker Hill. Rather than exercising his rank, Warren served in the battle as a private soldier, and was killed in combat when British troops stormed the redoubt atop Breed's Hill. His death, immortalised in John Trumbull's painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, galvanised the rebel forces, and he has been memorialised in many place names in the United States.
. In April 1900, Crandall helped found the Crandall Genealogical Association at Astor House, New York. The association said the first of the family to arrive in America was John Crandall, who sailed into Boston Harbour in 1634.  He was the first Seventh Day Adventist on the continent. Another illustrious Crandall, Joseph, founded Utica in 1701. Benjamin P. Crandall, first of the family in New York City, invented the baby carriage.
Crandall first married a girl called Clara Minturn, from Lock, New York. Clara was also known as "Carrie".  She was born on January 8, 1851. They wed in Tully, New York, on June 8, 1866, when Carrie was 15 and Crandall 22. Carrie died in Cortland, New York, on July 7, 1867, aged 16. There were no children of the marriage.
. In June 1869 Crandall married singer Mary Edna Root, born in New York in July 1842. They apparently separated in the 1880s, but never divorced. There were TWO daughters by this marriage, but only one survived childhood: Abbie Mae Crandall (born Syracuse, Onondaga, New York, December 23, 1872), who married William H. Bachman (1883-1968). The first daughter, Mary Crandall, died in childhood. Mary Root died in Syracuse on February 4, 1909, leaving Abbie her sole beneficiary, but declaring Lucien "her only other heir" (which reflects the fact that they were still legally married). Abbie died in Niagara Falls on March 16, 1957. She and Bachman had a daughter, Harriet Cornelia Bachman Jambro (1911-2001). At the time of her death, Mrs Jambro was living in Hamburg, New York, with a son, Thomas A. Jambro, probably one Lucien S. Crandall's last direct descendants.
. Upon Crandall's fourth marriage, his eldest surviving daughter, Mrs Bachman, confirmed that Crandall had not legally married his third wife (see below) until after her mother had died in February 1909.
. Crandall's third wife was Catherina Ann Shirreff, who was born in Great Boughton, Chester, England, in January 1867 and who immigrated to the United States in 1887. She was also known as "Ellis Crandall" and as "Kate". The couple were allegedly married in 1888 and there were TWO daughters by this "marriage", Carena Ann Crandall (also known as "Carrie", born Pulaski, New York, February 1, 1890-) and Hazel M. Crandall (born Philadelphia, April 9, 1894-). Catherina Crandall died on July, 1910, while she and Lucien and their daughters, then aged 20 and 16, were living in Washington, Warren, New Jersey. The couple did not legally marry until after Mary Root had died in February 1909.
. It seems Crandall's situation, with him (illegally, as a bigamist) having started a new family, created problems or embarrassments for some of the parties involved, and after the birth of Hazel, Crandall - with or without his second family - went to live in England, in Spark Hill, Birmingham, for three or four years in the mid to late 1890s. 
. In 1900, Crandall was back in the United States and was living a double life, no doubt because of the lack of a divorce. On the same day in the US census of 1900, June 9, Crandall was listed as living with his second wife, Mary Edna Root, and her Haines Brothers upright piano in Syracuse, and also with his third "wife", Catherina Ann Shirreff, and their two daughters, in New York City.
. Crandall's fourth wife was Florence Mabel Tallman, born in Iowa in June 1883. See the "Mound of clay had not yet settled firmly" story below from the Syracuse Post-Standard of July 19, 1910. The couple moved to Chester, Pennsylvania, where Florence's sister and niece, Frances and Ruth Dunlop, lived, in London Grove.
. Crandall enlisted with the 109th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment at its organisation at Binghamton, Broome, New York, on August 27, 1862. He was still 18.  He served as a private for the last two years and nine months of the American Civil War, surviving 12 major battles (all in the last 11 months of the conflict) without injury. The regiment was mustered into active service by the US Department of War a day after formation, with Benjamin Franklin Tracy (above, 1830-1915), later Secretary of the Navy, as commanding colonel. (Crandall would later assign adding machine and typebar patents to Tracy.).
The regiment's 10 companies were raised primarily from men of the 24th NY Senatorial District,  which comprised Broome, Tompkins and Tioga counties. The 109th was attached to the 8th Army Corps, Middle District, and took up railroad guard duties protecting the rail lines  from Baltimore to Washington.  In April 1864, the 109th was ordered to join the 9th Army Corps then assembling at Annapolis in preparation for action against General Robert E. Lee at Petersburg and became part of Hartranft's battle-tried 1st Brigade, Wilcox's 3rd Division, 9th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.  On May 5, 1864, the 109th took part in the Battle of The Wilderness. The 109th mustered out on June 4, 1865, at Delaney House, Washington. During the 11 months from May 1864 to April 1865, the 109th was in the field engaged in almost daily battles or on picket duty, and sustained 614 casualties, half the regiment's organisational number.
Crandall began working at the age of 12 (1856) "at the printer's case". After the Civil War, he returned to his first calling, setting up a book publishing and job printing company in Cortland in 1867. Then he elected on a career in journalism and was editor of the Cortland Democrat and later the Southern Onondaga in Tully. As well, in March 1872 he set up a temperance magazine, The Anti-Dram Shop, "Devoted to the interests of the Anti-Dram-Shop Party". When, in 1886, Crandall started legal action against James Densmore, he described himself as a "temperance lecturer".
In 1874, Crandall went to work as a reporter for the New York Tribune. It was while at the Tribune that Crandall conceived of the idea of a type-setting and distributing machine.
While working on a model of this machine, Crandall came in contact with George Washington Newton Yost. (The notion that he worked for Yost and Densmore as a Sholes & Glidden salesman in 1873 is incorrect; Yost and Densmore employed no-one in 1873, and had nothing to sell anyway. Instead, in 1874, Crandall prepared advertising copy for Yost and Densmore, at that time telling Yost about his typesetting machine scheme.) It was through his plans for typesetting machine that Crandall's involvement with the typewriter began. (At about this same time, Crandall, based on his experiences in newspapers and in guarding railway lines during the Civil War, was working on an automatic telegraph key and register, for which he applied for a patent in November 1875.) Crandall never assigned any typewriter patents, even in portions, to Yost or Densmore, or to Remington. Crandall's famous "oscillating key" patent of 1875 was used by Remington, but documents show it was never relinquished by him to Remington.
This was apparently typewritten by Crandall
Crandall claimed that the advertising copy he wrote about the Sholes & Glidden for Yost and Densmore in 1874 - in the form of a description and catalogue - was "the first piece of typewritten literature ever given to the public".
Crandall did not work on the original Sholes & Glidden typewriter, nor did he work for Remington, nor was he ever in the employ of Yost and Densmore - though he did do some copywriting work for them in 1874 while he was working for the New York Tribune. Through Yost's introduction, Crandall became an independent consultant to Remington - and Yost and Densmore still retained, at that stage, some say in improvements to and the construction of the typewriter.
This is one of the most significant and contentious patents
in the early history of the typewriter.
Crandall's first important involvement with the typewriter came in August 1875, when he applied for a patent for "improvement in type-writing machines". It was specifically designed to be fitted to the Sholes & Glidden, as it then was, and as being manufactured by Remington.
This was an initial but aborted attempt by Crandall to overcome the problem of the capital letters-only Sholes & Glidden. It involved typebars with six character slugs on each, a swinging platen (three positions) and oscillating keys. The three positions of the platen brought into play two slugs on each typebar and the oscillating keys determined which of the two slugs left an impression. The typebar itself did not oscillate. Crandall had set out to "simplify" the Sholes & Glidden "and render it less complicated and expensive by reducing the number of parts".
Typewriter Topics, 1911
Crandall's patent, issued in  November 1875, provided another consultant, Bryon Alden Brooks, with the "germ of a most valuable improvement which did much to popularise the typewriter".  Crandall's idea was "perfectly practical in an experimental way", but it was "too slow, as it involved too much care in the manipulation of the machine to be deemed successful". Thus Brooks, like Crandall working independently but on behalf of Remington (their patents were not assigned to Remington) adapted Crandall's design, reducing the number of typeslugs on each typebar to two and introducing a sliding platen (the shift device). This involved changing the curve on the platen. The improvements resulted in the Remington No 2 of 1878.
Although Remington proceeded with Brooks's far more practical design, and had to pay him royalties on his patent, it also had to pay Crandall royalties for coming up with the original idea. However, Crandall decided to continue developing his multi-typeslug scheme, and was determined to invent a typewriter of "simple and cheaper construction and with a greater range of type, combining upper and lower case letters, figures, and punctuation marks, and working them all with one set of keys merely.” The design incorporated a “typesleeve” and a laterally-oscillating key-lever.
The typesleeve overcame Crandall's difficulties in accessing John Jonathan Pratt's existing patent on a "mechanical typographer" which employed a flat "typeplate". 
Pratt had exhibited his "Pterotype" in London in 1867, but it was not patented in the US until August 11, 1868, after he had returned to America. The patent was thus theoretically still valid in the US until August 1882, unless renewed by Pratt. But the Pterotype did not go into full production, and Pratt had all but abandoned his project.
Pratt's original, 1867 typewheel
In the meantime, in February 1879, James Bartlett Hammond began to develop his typewriter. Hammond intended to use a similar, curved plate, or typeshuttle, but because of Pratt's existing patent, couldn't include it in his own patents. The US Patent Office thus notified Pratt that his patent was "in interference" with Hammond's plans. (Incidentally, Densmore received similar warnings from the Patent Office, as others, like Crandall and Hammond, moved to produce their own versions of the typewriter and found existing Sholes patents to be in interference with them. These Sholes patents had been applied for but not issued, because Densmore and Yost lacked the necessary funds.) 
Pratt "finally yielded preference [to Hammond] under a compromise which gave [Pratt] a royalty on [the Hammond] machine, and thus ended his efforts in the direction of typewriter invention". As well as the royalty, to persuade Pratt to yield Hammond gave Pratt an immediate cash payment plus a life annuity of $2500, which he had to pay each year until Pratt died in 1905.
The typeshuttle designed for Hammond by Pratt in 1882
To compound the arrangement, Pratt actually assigned to Hammond his [Pratt's] typeshuttle design of 1879, the patent being issued in late 1882. This was the design Hammond used.
In coming to an agreement to "yield preference" to Hammond, Pratt had temporarily stymied Crandall's work on his own typewriter, causing considerable bitterness  for an already embattled Crandall.
This 4-inch high, 10-inch wide, 9-inch long prototype model of the Crandall, presented to the US Patent Office on December 20, 1881, is now held by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. It seems this small typewriter never went into production, but was expanded into what Crandall described as the "greatly improved" version, the New Model Crandall, in 1884. The laterally-oscillating key-lever  is the gold switch on the upper left of the model. It moved the typesleeve. You would move the switch one way to activate the numerals and punctuation, and the other way to activate the capital letters. Below is a close-up of the typesleeve:
It turned into this, the New Model Crandall, from the Martin Howard Collection:
Stymied but not thwarted by the Pratt-Hammond arrangement, Crandall pressed on with his own plans, adapting his existing multi-typeslug patent (for the Remington No. 2) from 1875 to create his distinctive typesleeve. For the Crandall typewriter, he first patented an early version in Britain in August 1879, six months after Hammond had made his initial move. Perhaps Crandall had had thoughts of overcoming his obstacles in the US by having his machine manufactured in Britain. Nonetheless, he applied for a US patent a week before Christmas 1879. The Pratt-Hammond imbroglio meant it was not granted for two years, eventually being issued in late December 1881.
The first Crandall typewriters were manufactured in Blodgett Mills, New York, but a fire burnt down the factory soon after production started and manufacturing was moved to Syracuse.
Now, I cannot say with any degree of certainty which of the two typewriters, the Hammond or the Crandall, went into production first. Almost every reference work offers a different year. But the consensus seems to be that full "quality" production was achieved for both in 1885. Claims of earlier years are made for both, but on the evidence before us, these seem to be highly unlikely. Edward James Manning started working on Hammonds at the Garvin Machine Company factory in 1886.
A jury awarded Crandall $10,000 and costs in a defamation case settlement against James Densmore in the Cortland County Court in February 1887. Densmore appealed and the verdict was set aside and a new trial ordered. Crandall went to the Court of Appeals, which finally heard the case in Saratoga in May 1891.
This was but the tip of the iceberg upon which that Titanic typewriter inventor, Lucien Crandall, would ultimately, almost five years later, flounder. In March 1887 Crandall sued Densmore for $100,000 in the New York Supreme Court, and the case was heard by Judge Horace Boardman Smith (above, 1826-1888). This time Crandall was awarded $30,000.
These suits concerned Densmore's violent written reaction to a bid by Crandall to have Remington manufacture Crandall's American Standard (later the Jewett) typewriter.
The idea that this case was connected to an unfounded theory about Crandall assigning half of his oscillating keys patent to Densmore and Yost is nonsense. This patent was issued, unassigned, exactly three weeks AFTER Yost and Densmore's Type-Writer Company had signed over to Remington all rights to make and sell the Sholes & Glidden. Remington, by then in total control of the development of the typewriter, did not make use of Crandall's patent until 1878, when it produced the Remington No 2.
In 1892, the Remington Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company LOST a New York circuit court case when it sought an injunction over patent infringement against Frank W.Bailey, ON THE GROUNDS that Remington did not hold the patent (soon then to expire) but that Crandall DID. That should kill off any speculation about Crandall having disposed of any portion of his patent at any time to Remington or Yost and Densmore.
In 1899 the Union Writing Machine Company unsuccessfully challenged the Domestic Sewing Machine Company, makers of the Williams typewriter, in the New Jersey Circuit Court over an alleged infringement of Bryon Brooks's shift patent. Again, Crandall's 1875 patent was declared to be "a document of prime importance". Its ownership by Crandall was not questioned. 
But I digress ...
In 1886, Crandall had retired from the management of the Crandall Typewriter Company in Syracuse and assigned his patents for the Crandall over to that company - which six years later would go under the umbrella of the Union trust
The town of Groton had raised the capital through stock to build a new Crandall factory. Luther Adelbert Barber (1844-1929) was the new company president (of what was now known as the Crandall Machine Company), succeeding Crandall himself, and Dexter Hubbard Marsh (1840-95) took over as secretary and treasurer. The other major backers were Frank Conger  (above, 1849-1902; elder brother of Benn Conger, Corona founder) and Everett Smiley (1828-97).
This company produced the Crandall Universal No 3 in 1893 and the Crandall Visible 4 in 1895. It ceased operation in 1899. 
Right to the end, its factory superintendent was Edwin Earle Barney (1867-), later to take charge at Remington. In 1894, Barney re-designed the Crandall (the so-called "Improved Crandall"). Although, for eight years, Crandall had had nothing to do with this company, historians have credited him with this machine, instead of Barney.
Barney's 1894 re-design of the Crandall
Lucien Crandall was embarking on new ventures, to make typewriters under his new designs. These were the American Standard and its "counterpart", the Victoria typewriter. The latter was destined for British sales, and Crandall had plans to have it made it on those shores. Crandall applied for a patent for the improved alignment of the American Standard in January 1886.
In the meantime, he established a manufacturing company and factory in Parish, New York. This building was erected in 1886 as the Knaus and Arwine Chair Factory and included a tannery. For three years, a Crandall-designed typewriter, the International, was manufactured there. 
Before all this, however, Crandall had approached Remington with a proposal to sell his patents to the Ilion company. Hearing of this, and seeing it as a challenge to his own dwindling income from the Type-Writer Company and what he might be able to leave behind for his family, a dying James Densmore wrote to Remington calling Crandall a "liar, scoundrel, a dishonest and immoral man." The letter ruined Crandall's chances of a deal with Remington.
Crandall sued Densmore "for defamation of character, laying his damages at $100,000, claiming that sum to be the loss sustained by him in his failure to negotiate with the Remingtons, as the sale of the Remington type-writer has reached an enormous number, and a small royalty, such as Crandall claims he could have got, would approach very closely to these figures at the present time." Densmore's defence was, as he saw it, simply the truth.  
Densmore (September 16, 1889) and Judge Boardman Smith (Boxing Day 1888) had died but the Crandall-Densmore case dragged on until 1891. Motivated to increase his already substantial inheritance, and as per the instructions in his step-father's will, Densmore's stepson and executor, Ernest Ryan Barron (1844-) continued to pursue an overturning of the original finding in Crandall's favour. Before Densmore's death, Crandall had had him indicted by the Grand Jury of Herkimer County on a charge of criminal libel. In turn, Crandall was indicted and tried in Cortland County on a charge of perjury, but found not guilty. In late 1886 Crandall had Densmore's wife Adella and her niece Ella Womersley arrested in Brooklyn for perjury (they were released on $5000 bail), and then faced $25,000 damages charges from each of these two women for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In October 1887 Crandall's case against Mrs Densmore and Womersley was dismissed by a Grand Jury. By the end of 1887, a warrant for the arrest of Crandall was issued by the Supreme Court of Brooklyn, as a counter-suing Womersley sought to recover $10,000 for malicious prosecution.
Finally, on October 8, 1891, five years after all this nastiness had started, a "judgement absolute" was rendered against Crandall, with costs going to Barron on behalf of the Densmore estate.
To rub salt into Crandall's wounds, Remington Standard was successful in bringing a trade mark infringement injunction against Crandall's American Standard, which instead became the Jewett and emerged from Des Moines in 1892. Little wonder Crandall wanted to get out of the country for a while.
Apart from the New Model Crandall, American Standard (Jewett) and the Victoria, Crandall claimed other typewriters were made under licence to him, such as the Densmore, the National and the Fitch. In other words, there were elements in these machines for which the manufacturers had to pay Crandall royalty fees.
Made by George W. Harwood of Syracuse. See Sweet's obituary below.
His last typewriter, the International, was definitely all his own creation. Crandall considered it his "most original and best work". Crandall was issued with the first of a series of seven patents in 1893, all assigned to William Avery Sweet (1830-1904) of Syracuse (the last of them, in 1895, during Crandall's absence in England). This time Crandall was not going it alone. 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 Sweet later became president of his own steel company, and seemingly made typewriters there.
Crandall's last full typewriter patent, issued in October 1895, was for some sort of weird combination of Crandall-Hammond-thrust action typewriter, one which would revert to his original interest in multi-slug typebars. He wrote, "My object is to produce a type-writing machine in which the printing is made upon the top of the impression-platen by means of horizontally-reciprocating typebars, an inking roller and an impression-hammer, each typebar being provided with six (or more or less) characters, signs or symbols, part upper case and part lower case, said typebars being arranged upon lines radial to the printing-point and converging thereat, each one being projected by the operation of a key-lever variable distances for the three small letters adjacent to its outer end, and then by operating a shift-key is adapted to be projected farther for the printing of the three capitals thereon, respectively, means being provided to properly stop each typebar at the printing-point, comprising a system of stops actuated by the key-levers, in which an interval exists between the moment when the typebar reaches the desired point of projection and when the hammer strikes the impression blow thereon ..." It has been claimed that the similar-looking British Gardner typewriter was an adaptation of Crandall's design, but that machine apparently emerged in 1890. It was called the Victoria in Germany.
So, like Crandall's very first typewriter, it seems his last was never made, despite it being one-fourth assigned to Jacob Wolf Riglander (1841-1929), an extremely wealthy New York merchant with many import-export business contacts in Europe.


Scott K said...

Crackpot indeed. Certainly an interesting fellow though. Seemed to get around a heck of a lot!

Peter said...

This is immensely informative and fun! Robert, thank you!

Bill M said...

You out did yourself on this one Robert. Very informative. I really enjoy all your research. Thanks for the link to the book. I now have it on my Kindle to read later today.

Richard P said...

A fantastic piece of research. That handsome old devil Lucien is one of my favorite inventors, and his namesake machines are among my favorite typewriters.

I absolutely love that 1881 prototype.

Correction: he was called an immoral man, not an immortal man. :)

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you so much Scott, Peter, Bill and Richard for your comments. Richard, thanks for picking up that mistake in the Densmore claim, I would never have spotted it! Like you, I think Crandall is immortal (among typewriter inventors at least)! Obviously, however, Densmore knew all about Crandall's double life, as many others must have too.