Keystone

1898 - 1903

Keystone Typewriter Company

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 a sales office was located on Broadway in New York.

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 is 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 found both its moniker as well as its investor, that being James McCormick Cameron (1865 - 1949). Cameron would be President of the Keystone Typewriter Company and Quentell, Vice-President. J.M. 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.

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. Things were not off to a good start.

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

The Achilles Heal of all the early Keystone examples is its carriage rails made of pig iron. Pig iron is very brittle and it gets even more brittle with age. It also has 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 producer of pig iron, 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 Elliott-Fisher was incorporated in 1903, the Keystone factory bore the Elliott-Fisher name. Bennetts, Elliott-Fisher bookwriters and maybe a few other brands were all produced there.

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 done 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's most dramaticly different model was the No.3 (seem above on its wood base). The cylindrical paper holder at the rear of the typewriter was done away with (note that the hammer has been squared making it impossible to fit a paper holder) and paper fingers around the platen were utilized in lieu of. The frame under the carriage was also made sturdier. The top plate that was once phased in was now phased back out.

Competitively priced, the original price for a Keystone typewriter, according to an early trade catalog, was $40. Shortly thereafter the price was lowered even further to just $35. The Keystone was also sold abroad though, for the German markets, it may have been rebranded as the Grundstein.

Questions? Comments? Have a Keystone typewriter or related Keystone artifacts that you would like to sell? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com