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Jackson, ser. no. 723, Clark Collection. Photographs courtesy of Darryl Rehr, from
Antique Typewriters and Office Collectibles

The rare and remarkable Jackson is a machine of mystery. All sources agree that its mechanism is unique -- but how is it unique?

Some say the Jackson was invented by Joseph Hassel Jackson of Hamilton, Ontario; these sources describe a mechanism in which the typebars hang down directly behind the keyboard, are raised to the printing point, and are then struck by a separate bar that provides the typing force. But other sources claim that this typewriter was invented by Andrew W. Steiger of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and they describe its action as a "grasshopper" mechanism similar to that of the Williams. Which is it?

The specimens we know are certainly of the Steiger variety. However, the description "grasshopper" is not very informative. As in the Williams, the Jackson's type rests in an ink pad. As in the Williams, the Jackson typebars jump up in order to reach the platen. But in the Jackson, the printing ends of the typebars actually flip over. Darryl Rehr describes it this way: "the type-bars made each letter's printing surface do a somersault on its way to the platen. Each type-bar resembled an elongated pantograph, with the scissors action accomplishing the mechanical gymnastics."

As complex as this looks, the company claimed that its machines had far fewer parts than most. Other features of the Jackson include an easily removable carriage and easy cleaning of type (one motion raised all the type from the ink pad at once). The machine is handsomely decorated and well built.

The Jackson was introduced in 1898 and built by the Jackson Typewriter Company in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Some sources claim the factory then moved to New Haven, Connecticut. Others mention Bridgeport, Connecticut. Ernst Martin claims that the machine was reintroduced in 1906. In any case, it is painfully obvious that it was a failure.

Peter Weil has kindly supplied me with a copy of a promotional pamphlet for the Jackson, dated 1899 and beautifully designed by illustrator Will Bradley (in an advertisement from that year, the company called their catalogue "the most artistic ever published"). The text, reproduced in full below, gives us an idea of the high hopes the company had for this carefully engineered machine.


The Jackson, from start to finish, is built on lines entirely new, and mechanically is as nearly perfect as the most clever experts, workmen of the highest skill, aided by the most modern tools and machinery can possibly make it. It has all the essential advantages that are embodied in the best machines of the day, together with devices that are original with us.


A glance at the machine is a revelation to users of typewriters. Al who see its possibilities marvel that a machine so simple and compact possesses such effectiveness.


The Jackson has fewer parts than any other standard machine. A few standard machines have only twice as many, most of them have four times as many, parts as the Jackson. As every one knows, the greater the complexity of a machine the greater the liability to derangement, and the greater the outlay for repairs. On this machine "tin soldiers" are conspicuous by their absence.


Mechanical simplicity is naturally followed by mechanical durability. Every part of this machine is made by experts of long experience in building typewriters, with the aid of specially devised and perfected tools, and only the very highest grade of carefully tested material is used. These features, with the small number of parts, and the freedom from strain on the various parts, enable us to claim with confidence greater durability than any standard machine on the market.


The Jackson is the only machine as yet that keeps ahead of the fastest operator. To the speed of the machine there is absolutely no limit other than the nimbleness of the writer's fingers.


By means of an entirely novel construction, absolutely VISIBLE WRITING is an established fact; every letter and every word is as distinctly shown on top of platen as when writing with pen. The value and importance of this feature will immediately commend itself to operator, mechanic, or business man with whom economy of time bears weight. By a simple, though effective device, the paper can be rolled to any desired point, and corrections made or omissions inserted almost instantly. Tabulating, filling blanks, cataloguing and making invoices can be more quickly done than on any other machine. The beginner is saved many days of weary practice by the use of the Jackson.


Our type-bar is absolutely unique. Our tripping device, which takes all strain from the bar and its connections, and thereby adds fifty per cent to the life of the machine, and thirty per cent to its speed, is as effective as it is simple and original. We demonstrate originality, too, in our method of inserting paper and envelopes, removing platen, line-spacing, and visible writing. In all the essentials which mark the practical, up-to-date business machine, the Jackson is far ahead of all competitors.


In the construction of the Jackson the interests of the vast army of operators has been a constant study with the inventors. No one can so fully appreciate the points of superiority of the machine as those who use it. In every possible way we have striven to incorporate those features which would simplify and expedite their labors. The novel and original method by which all the type can be cleaned at one operation, as quickly as can a single type by the old way, and without soiling the fingers in the least, will appeal strongly to every user of the machine. By a simple mechanism the types are all thrown up together (bunched) and cleaned by a single stroke of the brush.


The fact that most type-writing machines do print through ribbons has misled many into thinking that the use of such a medium is a matter of choice. The truth is that faulty construction compels the use of some such make-shift device. Ribbons make the production of fine, clear-cut work an impossibility; they lessen the possible number of manifold copies; they are uncleanly and expensive. The Jackson prints directly from pad to paper--like a printing-press--the ideal way. The pad may be removed easily and quickly by simply loosening a thumb-screw (either R. or L.) and when necessary a new pad can be substituted.


In view of the fact that the Jackson bar is the shortest of all type-bars, and that it is in a guide all the time, the thinking person must admit that the likelihood of maintaining perfect alignment is far better than any other machine. It follows logically that the same amount of wear at the attached end of any longer bar must of necessity give a greater range of variability at the free end.


Owing to the special design of the quick-acting type-bar and its hammer blow, the Jackson excels any machine on the market in manifolding power. By means of its novel construction, perfect alignment is as sure and permanent in carbon work where a dozen or more sheets are used as when writing on a single sheet. In this respect it is far ahead of all competitors.

As for Joseph Jackson's design (remember it?), it is clear that it was quite different from the Jackson typewriters we know. But it is also clear that there was such an invention. Martin reproduces a diagram which shows more or less how it worked. There is still a good deal of mystery here. Was the Joseph Jackson machine a predecessor to the Jackson typewriter we know? Or were they completely unrelated? And if they were unrelated, is it possible that some Joseph Jackson typewriters were manufactured? A revelation may await some lucky collector in the future.


  PS: An excellent article on the Jackson has appeared in issue 4 of The Virtual Typewriter Journal.


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