1899 - 1904
Williams Typewriter Company
Derby, Connecticut, US
The Williams No.4 pictured to the left is quite special. Not only has it never been used but it belonged to Frederick J. Cocker (1879 - 1962) who was the master tool and die maker at The Williams Typewriter Factory. More on F.J. Cocker's story at the bottom of this page.
The primary advancement of the No.4 model was within its keyboard. Previous models employed a three row, double-shift keyboard while these had a more modern four row keyboard with a single-shift mechanism (more on other Williams models here). Fortunately for collectors, John Newton Williams (1840 - 1929), the inventor of these stunning typewriters, hadn't changed the layout of the grasshopper-action typebars thus retaining their unique form. Unfortunately for him, it is this layout that would also prove to be too restrictive and eventually render his typewriters obsolete.
These No.4 models were made in Derby, Connecticut roughly between the years of 1899 - 1904. Most of the original factory on Roosevelt Drive is still standing. It will later serve as the factory for the Secor typewriters.
By 1899, when the No.4 was introduced, the Underwood Typewriter Company was already producing the machine that would set the bar for all typewriters to come, the Underwood Standard. Within five years-or-so L.C. Smith and Royal would begin producing clones of the Underwood and eventually Remington would, too. The Underwood's success was in no small part due to the fact that they were fully visible typewriters, unlike the Williams which was only partially visible. Rather than embracing the Underwood archetype, Williams went on to manufacture a No.6 model in 1904 which was nearly identical to the No.4. Because these weren't fully visible typewriters, The Williams Typewriter Company wouldn't survive through the 1910s.
I was fortunate enough to procure the typewriter on this page from a collector here in Connecticut. It comes with a fantastic provenance that traces back to the typewriter's original owner, F.J. Cocker. Plus, not only did Cocker never actually use this machine, but he was also the Master Tool & Die Maker for The Williams Typewriter Factory.
Though I was not able to find a direct link between Cocker and The Williams Typewriter Company, according to the 1910 U.S. federal census, when he was 30 years old, Cocker lived at 171 Hawthorne Avenue in Derby. This was just a quick, six-minute walk to the Williams factory that was on Roosevelt Drive. He was also listed as a "Foreman" at a "Type-Shop." Yes, by 1910 the Williams Typewriter Company was no longer operating but The Secor Typewriter Company did occupy the same building. It is safe to assume that Cocker must have stayed on when Jerome B. Secor (1839 - 1923) took ownership from Williams. It is also safe to assume that the two men knew each from J.B. Secor's employment as superintendent for Williams.
F.J. Cocker was born in Connecticut to parents John and Sarah, who emigrated from England in 1877 aboard the SS Egypt with their first son, Joseph. Sometime after F.J. was born the family sailed back to England only to return once again to the U.S., in 1886, aboard the SS Britannic. By then the family had grown by one more, brother Arthur.
F.J. Cocker was not a big man. He stood just 5'6" tall, weighed about 125 pounds, had brown hair atop his head and a blue eyed gaze. His WWI Draft Registration Card notes that half of one of his fingers was missing. He was also a Freemason. In 1900, at the age of 21, he married Connecticut native Annie Birge (1878 - 1948). They would be loyal to each other, always.
By 1917 F.J. Cocker was no longer employed within the typewriter industry. He had found a job as a toolmaker for the R.N. Basset Company, a textile manufacturer in Shelton, Connecticut. In 1918 Cocker invented a buckle (patent no.1,328,617) which was assigned to that employer.
Fred & Annie would move to 34 Park Street in Ansonia, Connecticut by 1925, which was across the Housatonic River and just barely two miles southeast from their old home. The new home was definitely an upgrade. It would be their final move.
By 1935 Fred had taken a position as a toolmaker with the S.O. & C. Company, a division of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation in Shelton, Connecticut. The company would keep him on the payroll well into his retirement years for his expertise.
Annie B. Cocker died at the age of 70 in 1948. Frederick J. Cocker lived alone in their home until he died in 1962. They never had any children.
The next owner of the Cocker's Park Street home also inherited this Williams No.4 typewriter and had enough foresight not to throw it away nor use it. It stayed with him until it found its way to the collector who owned it before me, David Kintzler (1939 - 2016).
Want a copy of an original Sales Brochure for your Williams No.4 typewriter? Get it here...
Please feel free to email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com