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Saturday 24 June 2023

Jefferson Moody Clough, The Unsung "Typewriter Maker of Ilion"

World Typewriter Day was marked yesterday and merely acted as a reminder that Latham Sholes’s earliest patents were barely practical and needed a lot of work before a fully functioning typewriter could emerge. One man responsible for much of that work was Jefferson Moody Clough (1829-1908). The 1916 Encyclopedia of Massachusetts states Clough was also “paid handsomely” to perfect the Hammond and Yōst typewriters.

Above is the only known photograph of Clough, the man who deserves as much credit as anyone for the successful launch of the typewriter on July 1, 1874. It was under Clough’s supervision that E. Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York, was able to mass produce a marketable machine from the crudely-made early versions of the Sholes & Glidden. Outside of Latham Sholes and Carlos Glidden themselves, Clough was one of only two people who were paid royalties in the typewriter’s earliest years – in Clough’s case 50 cents for every machine sold. Sholes and Glidden got a dollar each. A third dollar went to Charles Ames Washburn for his carriage movement patent - the royalties came from each $125 typewriter sale, but the $3.50 was to be paid from just $12 a machine which flowed through to James Densmore and George Yōst's Type-Writer Company from Remington. 
At the time of his retirement from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 1, 1892, Clough was nationally known as “The Gunmaker of Ilion”. His work on the Sholes & Glidden, Remington 1 and 2 and Hammond and Yōst typewriters had all but been forgotten. Newspapers reported he had been “intimately associated all his life with the development of the two best American rifles, the Remington and Winchester”. In 1904 he perfected a Clough Mauser Gun, the rights to which were bought to stop it going into production and competing in the marketplace with the like of Remington and Winchester.
Clough left Remington at the most important period in China’s so-called “Self-Strengthening Movement” (1861-1895) - its development of military industries and the construction of arsenals sponsored by the central government. Qing dynasty statesman and general Li Hongzhang wanted the Jiangnan Arsenal to produce breech loading rifles of the Remington type but the few local products made were more costly and far inferior to the imported rifles. During the Ili crisis, when Qing China threatened to go to war against Russia over the Russian occupation of Ili, China bought 260,260 modern rifles from Europe and offered Jefferson Clough a vast amount of money to oversee its arsenals.
Clough declined the Chinese offer and instead accepted $7500 a year ($250,000 in today’s money) to work for Winchester in New Haven. Ill health forced his retirement in 1892 and Clough retired to the 500-acre Phelps farm at Belchertown, Massachusetts. He began to recover his health in 1894 but died of bowel cancer at Belchertown on January 16, 1908, aged 78.


Ted said...

Excellent research! (also, nice article in the Riot Act (:

Richard P said...

Good to see a post from you!

James B. Hammond's gratitude to Clough is evident in the Hammond no. 1 Universal that Hammond gave to Clough for Christmas 1890 (ETCetera no. 119, p. 23).

Bill M said...

Great post Robert!

Glenn G said...

I love seeing your posts Robert. Clough was at the nexus of typewriter and firearms innovations. I laugh that in the papers his recovery was attributed to "Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People"! Glenn G.