1884 - 1892
Hammond Typewriter Co.
Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York, US
In 1884 James Bartlett Hammond (1839 -1913) was finally able to place is typewriter on the market after about a decade of development. It all began when he bought the patents to John Pratt's writing machine, a noteworthy invention in the saga of the typewriter, and began the laborious process of creating his own machine. J.B. Hammond filed his first patent in 1875 (patent no.232,402) and another in 1880 (patent no.494,742) for what would be the Hammond No.1. Originally the typewriter was slated for sale in 1881 but setbacks pushed the date out by three more years until 1884. Among the many innovations within the Hammond No.1 were (1) the Ideal (curved) keyboard, (2) a mechanism for even printing and, (3) the type shuttle.
Innovation number one, Hammond's Ideal keyboard, was an attempt to improve upon the universal QWERTY layout of the Sholes & Glidden typewriter. The Ideal layout was, however, not ideal for many. An option to purchase future Hammond models equipped with a keyboard with a straight, universal layout was made available.
Innovation number two was a mechanism that delivered even printing no matter how hard the keys were struck. This mechanism also prevented a sheet of paper from being fed while typing in a traditional fashion. Instead, each new sheet first had to be fed completely into the paper basket below the platen. Then the sheet was expelled one line at a time while typing. This function gave Hammonds their distinctive form.
The third innovation, the type shuttle, was the most ingenious of all. Its basic design was strong enough to have transcended nearly 100 years of continuous use, most recently on the Varitypers. Type shuttles were originally a split two-piece design but they were eventually redesigned as a single semi-circular element. Part of the attraction of the type shuttle was that user could type in nearly any language, typeface, or font size by simply swapping one shuttle for another. This was much more cost effective effective than purchasing an entirely seperate typewriter.
Mechanical innovations aside, the Hammond is a stunner. Its wood shell, that's complimented by a curved ebony keyboard, is immediately recognizable. True No.1s should also have a celluloid cover below the type shuttle and a patent plate above the keyboard.
It is believed that, while J.B. Hammond worked as a war correspondent for the New York Tribune, his frustration with telegraph operators incorrectly transmitting his handwritten notes was part of the reason he began developing his typewriter.
J.B. Hammond was also quite eccentric. For his eccentricities, while presiding over his company in 1907, he was committed at the request of a company manager and his brother. His employees rejoiced when he was found sane and able to return to his post. In 1908, when Hammond thought he was dying, he gave away company shares to selected employees. And when he realized that death wasn't so imminent he sued to prevent the liquidation of his company. Finally, eccentric to the end, J.B. Hammond shocked everyone one last time by leaving nearly his entire estate, company included, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Hammond Typewriter Company was located at 639 E.69th St., on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Island, New York. It stood right on the banks of the East River. That actual address no longer exists ever since the factory and several other building were demolished. A teaching hospital has since been erected in its place.
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