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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Addendum: The Mowers and the Oliver Typewriter

Charles Hudson Mower (1866-1930),
George Augustus Mower's younger brother,
who was a director of the Oliver Typewriter Company
from 1905 and manager of the French branch of the OTC.
A typewriter historian's work is never done. After I posted yesterday on the "True History of the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company" (something which had hitherto proved entirely elusive), this morning I checked back through early editions of Typewriter Topics to ensure I hadn't missed anything.
Lo and behold, in the May 1907 Topics was a small item which revealed that the connection between the Mower family of Minnesota and Massachusetts and the British arm of the Oliver Typewriter Company went back far longer than I had previously realised.
Yesterday's post outlined how George Augustus Mower, best known for establishing the Sturtevant Engineering Company in England in 1885, had gone to Woodstock, Illinois, in June 1927 and bought for £45,000 the collapsed Oliver Typewriter Company, lock, stock and U-shaped typebar, for shipping back to England. Once all the tools, dies and special machinery had arrived in Britain, Mower founded the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company in Croydon, London, in May 1928.
What I didn't know when writing this was that George Mower's ties with the Oliver typewriter dated back to 1897, when Chicagoan Charles Chase Whitacre set up the first British branch of the Oliver Typewriter Company at 75 Queen Victoria Street, London’s “Typewriter Row”. Whitacre's British Oliver agency was in fact operated as part of Mower's Sturtevant Engineering Company and was housed cheek by jowl with it in the same building. In each case the registered headquarters were further down Queen Victoria Street, at No 147.
While chief engineer of Sturtevant in London, George Mower's younger brother, Charles Hudson Mower, was a director of the (still US-based) Oliver Typewriter Company and went on to be the manager of Oliver's outlets in Continental Europe. And it was the Mowers who in the first quarter of the 20th Century controlled the European agencies for not just the Oliver, but also the Hammond, National and Royal typewriters.
For me, the first clue to these deeper ties between the Mowers and Oliver came in a snippet in Gustave Hemes' European column in Typewriter Topics, mentioning that as an Oliver director Charles Mower had responded to a toast to the company's directors at an Oliver dinner in London in September 1905.  
Charles Mower, like his brother George a highly qualified engineer, was born in Boston on February 16, 1866, and died in Vevey, Switzerland, aged 66, on October 26, 1930. For health reasons he had retired to Vevey, a town in the canton Vaud, on the north shore of Lake Geneva, near Lausanne. Charles left George a substantial £27,789 and 18 shillings in his will, and some of that may have gone to pay for George's massive investment in the BOTMC.
Like George, Charles had received his technical training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and followed his brother to England to work for Sturtevant, arriving in 1886. He became a director and chief engineer of the company. He spent several years in Germany and Russia, introducing and installing modern heating, ventilating and labour-saving workshop equipment on the firm's behalf.  Charles Mower indeed travelled extensively around the world, and in 1896 was back in the US, based at Montecito in Santa Barbara County, California.
Sturtevant were primarily electrical engineers and contractors, of which George Mower was manager and another BOTMC board member, Greville Thursfield, was one of three principle directors. Sturtevant made fans, blowers and exhausters for all purposes, water spray air filters, dry air filters, dust separators, portable and stationary forges, vacuum cleaners, steam engines and turbines, propeller fans, cupola blowers, exhaust steam pipe heads, coal samplers, rock-ore breakers and crushers, grinding and screening machinery, air separators and complete fertiliser equipment. They were specialists in heating, ventilating, drying, timber seasoning, dust collecting, vacuuming, forced and induced draught, cold air douche, smoke, steam and fume removal, mining and fertilising plants.
Given his vast experience in working with such a wide range of machinery, it is little wonder George Mower was able to be so selective, so quickly, when he sorted through the Oliver typewriter plant in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1927, picking out what he wanted shipped to England and leaving the rest behind to be auctioned off in late July. What's more, when George Mower honed in on Oliver in Woodstock, it was far from a purely speculative move. He was obviously far more familiar with this typewriter than most capitalists and investors, and had been for more than 30 years!

1 comment:

Bill M said...

I always marvel at your fine investigations and attention to detail.