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The Granville Automatic Typewriter

Bernard was awarded patent no.446,676 in 1891 for the Granville Automatic. On the application he wrote that, "The invention relates to improvements upon the machine shown in United States Letters Patent No.382,036," which was a patent for the Rapid. Both typewriters were designed with a thrust-action typebar arrangement which declares them the first two in history with the innovation.

The Granvelle Automaic Typewriter Patent

The Granville


​1891 - 1900

Granville Mfg. Co.

Mossberg & Granville Mfg. Co.

Providence, Rhode Island. U.S.

The Granville Automatic was the second and final of British-born inventor Bernard Granville's (186? - 19??) ventures in typewriter production. The first being the ill-fated Rapid produced by the Western Rapid Typewriter Company of Findlay, Ohio. Though both the Rapid and this Granville were mechanically innovative, they were also both mismanaged which resulted in failed enterprises. We'll concentrate on the Granville here.

The Rapid Typewriter

The justification for the Granville's "Automatic" designation, according to advertisements, was because most of its functions were controlled from the keyboard. For example, by depressing the two 1" medallion-like keys located to the left and right of the top-plate, the operator could return the carriage. Another key operated line spacing. These functions weren't actually automated, just relocated from where they would traditionally be at the carriage. Lastly, as the illustration above suggests, the carriage return mechanism may have first been integrated into the latter Rapid model, not the Granville.

The Granville was designed with an 40-key, single-shift keyboard capable of producing 84 characters with inking by ribbon. The typewriter was offered with either a black-enameled or nickel-plated top plate. They were first sold in early 1896 by the Granville Manufacturing Co. of Providence, RI though it is doubtful any were made by this outfit. Then in August of the same year, Granville merged with the Mossberg Mfg., Co., a company that was started by Frank Mossberg in 1899. The new outfit was named the Mossberg & Granville Manufacturing Company, incorporated under the State of New York.

The Granville Automatic Typewriter

Almost immediately upon incorporating, Mossberg and Granville relocated their company to 100 Williams Street in Providence. Other than typewriters, the company also produced tools, bearings, presses and various machinery. These were Frank's contributions. In May of 1899, Frank left the company, and the typewriter business, to start anew. Though the company was still named Mossberg & Granville, only Bernard was left at the helm. Frank had denounced any claim. He must have known that the business was about to go under.

The Granvelle Automaic Typewriter

According to a blurb published on September 6, 1896 in The Sun, a New York City newspaper, the Mossberg & Granville company had at the time "no debts or liabilities," but by May of 1903 the company had $1.269M in liabilities and only $200K in assets. The company's attorney made the following statement: "The manufacture of typewriters, which was formerly part of the company's product, is responsible for the condition of the company. Although this part of the business was abandoned in the Summer of the year 1900, the loss was so great that recovery was impossible." It was also written that all of the company's other products were profitable. The losses incurred by the Granville were just too great to withstand.

The Granvelle Automaic Typewriter Ad
The Granville Automatic Typewriter

Bernard Granville did try one last time to save his failing typewriter venture. He traveled to England, his place of birth, where he registered the Granville Automatic Typewriter Syndicate, Ltd on April 11, 1899 and began offering stocks to potential investors. Offices were at 54 & 55 Cornhill, London. In the month of September, Bernard exhibited the Granville at London's Holborn Restaurant while Pittman's Journal of Commercial Education, a British periodical, reviewed the typewriter and its merits. All was for naught, though. Bernard could not garner enough interest.

When Bernard returned to Rhode Island his union employees drove the proverbial final nail into his company's coffin. In April of 1900 they went on strike over the company's inability to pay overtime. Bernard fired 35 employees in response and, on April 28th, he locked out the rest. Bernard stated that he would operate a non-union shop from then on.

The Granvelle Automaic Typewriter Ad

In the end, the Granville's front-strike typebar arrangement was a success, just not for Bernard. Inventor Wellington P. Kidder patented a similar design for his Wellington typewriter in 1892 which went on to be one of the most influential typebar arrangements in typewriter history.

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