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Keystone Typewriter

Quentell first applied for a patent for this yet-to-be-named typewriter in January of 1890 while he was still living in Kansas City, MO. Patent no.433,820 was awarded to him a few months later in August. Obviously the patent looks nothing like the finished product but the genesis of the Keystone's print element, its swinging type sector, is present. The patent also makes it painfully obvious as to why the Keystone was often referred to as a "poor man's Hammond." After having been awarded several more patents, and Quentell having relocated to the East Coast, the Keystone had not only found its moniker, but also its investor, that being James McCormick Cameron (1865 - 1949). Cameron would be President of the Keystone Typewriter Company and Quentell, Vice-President. Cameron was also the son of Senator James Donald Cameron (1833 - 1918) who just happened to be the President the Elliott-Hatch Book Typewriter Company.

Keystone Factory


​1898 - 1903

Keystone Typewriter Co.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.

This typewriter was named for the state where it was manufactured, Pennsylvania, also known as The Keystone State. It was invented by William Prehn Quentell (1861 - 1932) and it was produced by the Keystone Typewriter Company. The factory and main offices were located in the area of 1612 South Cameron Street in Harrisburg, also of Pennsylvania, while its sales office was located on Broadway in New York.

Keystone Typewriter Patent 02.jpg

Keystone production was slated to begin in May of 1898 according to a blurb dated to March 29 of the same year in The Gazette, a York, PA newspaper. This was in line with the company's May 2, 1898 date of incorporation. By June of the following year, according to the Harrisburg Telegraph, "the company has been unable to fill the orders which are piling up at the works." The story also alluded that the problems may have been the result of inexperienced labor. Not off to a good start.

It's unclear how long Quentell stayed with Keystone but by 1902 he was already working on his next project, the Postal typewriter. And, in 1903, when the Elliott-Fisher Typewriter Company was incorporated and at which point it absorbed the Keystone company, Quentell's name was no longer associated.

The Achilles Heal of all the early Keystone examples was its carriage rails which were made of pig iron, a very brittle material that gets even more brittle with age. It also had a tendency to warp which would render any carriage useless. The reasons for its use on the Keystone was simply because of lateral integration. The factory that was retrofitted to produce the Keystone was previously the Lochiel iron mill, a pig iron producer, owned by the Cameron family. The Camerons were simply integrating their various ventures by utilizing pig iron. By the way, the Cameron family was so integral to Harrisburg that even the street that the factory was on was named after them. After the 1903 incorporation of Elliott-Fisher, the Keystone factory bore the Elliott-Fisher name. Bennetts, Elliott-Fisher bookwriters and maybe more were produced there.

Keystone Typewriter
Keystone Typewriter
Keystone Typewriter
Keystone Typewriter Logo

The most dramatically different Keystone model was the No.3 (seem here on its wood base). The cylindrical paper holder found at the rear of the carriage on Nos.1 & 2 was done away with and paper fingers around the platen were utilized in lieu of it on the No.3. Also note that the hammer was squared making it impossible to fit a paper holder. Furthermore, the frame under the carriage was made sturdier and the top plate that was once phased in was phased back out.

Ultimately there were three very similar Keystone models produced. Each had a three-row, double shift keyboard with a swinging type sector print element. The hammer at the rear of the typewriter had to strike the paper between it and the type sector to print. Inking was by ribbon. 

The difference between model Nos.1 & 2 is in the construction of the frame. Notice the additional post and screw that were added and remained from then on. All other attributes were all slowing phased in-or-out of production. These include the addition of a top plate, location of the mainspring, location of the bell, etc... At some point, even the pig iron carriage rails were replaced with steel.

Keystone Typewriter

With an initial price of just $40 according to an early trade catalog, Keystone typewriters were competitively priced. Thereafter the price was lowered even further to $35. The Keystone was rebranded for German markets as the Schreibmaschine Grundstein.

Comments? Have a Keystone Typewriter for sale? Please email me at or call +1 860-729-2252

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