By 1899, when the No.4 was introduced, the Underwood Typewriter Co. was already producing the machine that would set the bar for all typewriters to come, the Underwood Standard. Within five years, 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 were only partially. 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 Co. 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. He was also the Master Tool & Die Maker for The Williams Typewriter factory. Most astonishingly, he never actually used the typewriter nor has anyone since. It is mint!
1899 - 1904
Williams Typewriter Co.
Derby, CT, US
The Williams No.4 pictured here is quite special. Not was it never been used but it belonged to Frederick J. Cocker (1879 - 1962), 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 improvement of the No.4 over its predecessors was in its keyboard. Previous models employed a three-row, double-shift keyboard while the No.4 had a more modern four-row keyboard with a single-shift mechanism. Fortunately for collectors, the grasshopper-action typebars, a distinguishing feature of Williams typewriters, were retained.
Though I was not able to find a direct link between Cocker and the Williams Typewriter Co., I was able to find circumstantial evidence. According to the 1910 U.S. federal census, when he was 30 years old, Cocker lived at 171 Hawthorne Ave. in Derby. This was just a six-minute walk to the Williams factory on Roosevelt Dr. He was listed as a "Foreman" at a "Type-Shop." By 1910 the Williams Typewriter Co. was no longer operating but the Secor Typewriter Co. did later occupy the same building. It is safe to assume that Cocker 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 when J.B. Secor was employed as superintendent for Williams.
Cocker was born in CT to parents John and Sarah whom emigrated from England in 1877 aboard the SS Egypt with their first son, Joseph. Sometime after Cocker 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 CT native Annie Birge (1878 - 1948). They would be loyal to each other, always.
By 1917, Cocker was no longer employed within the typewriter industry. He had found a job as a toolmaker for the R.N. Basset Co., a textile manufacturer in Shelton, CT. In 1918 Cocker invented a buckle (patent no.1,328,617) which was assigned to his employer.
Fred & Annie would move to 34 Park St in Ansonia, Ct by 1925. It 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 forever home.
By 1935 Fred had taken a position as a toolmaker with the S.O. & C. Co., a division of the United Shoe Machinery Corp. in Shelton. The company would keep him on the payroll well into his retirement years for his expertise.
Annie died at the age of 70 in 1948. Frederick lived alone in their home until he died in 1962. They never had any children.
The next owner of the Cockers' Park St. home inherited this Williams No.4 typewriter which was left behind with the sale of the house. He had enough foresight not to throw it away or use it. It stayed with him until it found its way to the collector who owned it before me, David Kintzler (1939 - 2016).