The typewriter itself utilizes downstrike typebars to print musical notes on staff paper that lays flat. As with all typewriters, its primary goal was to expedite the writing process. A Keaton could also generate multiple copies at one time. Keatons were heavily marketed in the mid 1950's to music teachers, publishers and other folks affiliated with the music industry. Unfortunately, the machines failed to reach a significant audience so they were never produced in large quantities. Its drawbacks were, first, its $255 price tag, which was particularly high. Second, in my opinion, the typewriter itself was too clumsy to use and altogether too poorly constructed, especially for the price. It was also to bulky to tote around in its case.
Sales offices for the Keaton Company were registered to a commercial property at least into 1971 at 461 Market Street in San Francisco. In 1973, according to The Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industry, the new offices were registered at 87 Carmel Street, a residential home, in the same town. Robert Homer Keaton died a couple years later in 1975 so I assume the company dissolved about the same time.
1953 - 1975
Keaton Music Typewriter Co.
San Francisco, California, US
Inventor Robert Homer Keaton (1883 - 1975) first made his mark with the invention of a non-skid tire, patented in 1910 and sold through the Keaton Tire & Rubber Company. This early success undoubtedly funded Robert's future ventures within the typewriter industry. He initially patented the Keaton Music Typewriter in 1936 when he was awarded patent no.2,047,690. The patent was for a 14-key predecessor to the eventual production model which had a 33-key upgrade, like the example on this page. The latter model was patented in 1953 under patent no.2,631,712).
The Keaton Music Typewriter didn't have a traditional or even an original typewriter form (Crary, anyone?), nor was it a measurable success. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, its still transcendent and inspired. It is collected today not because it worked well, but rather because it is such delicious eye candy and because it provokes such intrigue.
Need an Instruction Manual for your Keaton? Get it here...
Check out a Keaton Trade Catalog here...
Read some Keaton-related letters here...