1884 - 1892
Hammond Typewriter Co.
Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York, US
It was in 1884 that James Bartlett Hammond (1839 -1913) was finally able to place his typewriter on the market after about a decade of development. The story begins with James Hammond working as a war correspondent for the New York Tribune and being frustrated with telegraph operators incorrectly transmitting his handwritten notes which led him to develop his typewriter. Hammond began by purchasing the patents to John Pratt's Pterotype, a historically significant writing machine, from which he drew inspiration and began the laborious process of creating his own. He 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 back three years to 1884. Among the many innovations within the Hammond No.1 were its Ideal (curved) keyboard, its unique mechanism for even printing and its type-sector print element.
Innovation number one, the Ideal keyboard, was an attempt to improve upon the universal QWERTY layout of the Sholes & Glidden. The Ideal layout was, however, not ideal for many. Hammond was forced to offer future models with the option of the original Ideal layout or the straight, Universal layout. Truthfully, the Ideal layout was probably more of a unique design rather than innovation.
Innovation number two was the anvil and hammer mechanism that delivered even printing no matter how hard the keys were struck.. As a result of this mechanism, sheets of paper were prevented from being rear-fed and around the platen. Instead, each new sheet first had to be fed completely into the paper cylinder below the platen and then the sheet was expelled one line at a time while typing. This function also gave Hammond carriages their distinctive form.
The third innovation, the type sector (later upgraded to 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 sectors were originally a split, two-piece design but they were eventually redesigned to a single, crescent-shaped type shuttle. Part of the attraction of this type of print element was that users could type in nearly any language, typeface, or font size by simply swapping one shuttle for another. This was much more cost effective than purchasing an entirely separate machine.
Mechanical innovations aside, the Hammond is a stunner. Its bentwood shell, that's complimented by its curved ebony keyboard, is immediately recognizable by even the most novice collector. Hammond No.1 models were one of a very few that were produced with a wood shell.
Inventor James Hammond was thought to have been quite eccentric. For his eccentricities, while presiding over his company in 1907, he was committed at the request of his brother and a company manager. When he was found sane and able to return to his post his employees rejoiced. And in 1908, when Hammond thought he was dying, he gave away company shares to selected employees. But when he realized that death wasn't so imminent he sued to prevent further liquidation of his company. Finally, eccentric to the end, James 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. The actual address no longer exists and the factory, along with several other building, was demolished. A teaching hospital has since been erected there.
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