The Classic Typewriter Page


This article was written by Berthold Kerschbaumer
and translated by Richard Polt

Crandall New Model, Ser. Nr. 3784

Collectors often call the Crandall, or more precisely the New Model Crandall, the most beautiful of all typewriters. This reputation is fully justified by the somewhat overdone yet elegant effect of the painted flowers with inlaid mother-of-pearl above the keyboard, the filigreed golden pinstripes, and the flower motifs that are found even on the back of the frame.

However, Lucien Stephen Crandall gave his name to several typewriters, and he was previously also involved in the development of other machines, Crandall - Smithsonian Institution such as the project to produce the Hammond design at the Remington factory, or later the International typewriter. The first device that bears Crandall's name was manufactured in 1881 in Syracuse; Ernst Martin calls it "the first American visible and practically useful typewriter." This three-bank machine with straight keyboard and a type cylinder located directly in front of the platen, with six rows of letters, is supposed to have been produced in fairly large quantities. But I am aware only of the specimen pictured at left, which is in the Smithsonian Institution. However, this machine already incorporates essential characteristics, such as the type cylinder and ribbon inking, that were also employed in subsequent designs.

The reworked design, called the New Model, came on the market in 1885, was produced in Groton, New York beginning in 1887, and was sold in Europe starting in 1886 by a subsidiary in Amsterdam. The most striking changes from the previous model can be recognized at first glance: the lightly curved, two-bank keyboard with 28 keys, and the type cylinder that stands straight up, with 6 rows of 14 characters each. The first specimens of this model were not yet decorated so elaborately with mother-of-pearl, and the key legends were enclosed in nickel frames.

The process of typing is described as follows by Friedrich Müller: "Each of the 28 key levers, with a fulcrum in the middle, has at its back end a penlike tip, which when the key is depressed engages one of the curved grooves in segment H. This causes the segment to turn, along with the axis of the arm A, which ends in the toothed arc F. In the course of this turning motion, the 14 teeth of arc F engage the lower portion of the type cylinder and turn the cylinder. The keys in the middle of the machine cause the cylinder to turn only a small distance, because the curve is then very small. The keys on the sides of the machine cause a significant turn in the cylinder, half of the arc F, and this corresponds to the distance that the tip of the type lever must travel in the curve of the segment." As contemporary critics already noticed, many parts of this mechanism are subjected to special abuse, such as the toothed segment H, which is not made of metal, and whose outer teeth are subjected to particular strain; the consequence of this is that the characters on the sides of the keyboard can be brought to the paper only with increased force, if at all. This may be the reason why in its time, the Crandall supposedly received more curses from its users than any other typewriter.

The type cylinder, which featured small holes in which pins were inserted for alignment upon typing, and which could easily be exchanged, was only a small consolation. The typist shifted to capitals with the "CAPS" key, Universal Crandall Nr. 3 -- Anthony Casillo collection which raised the type cylinder by two rows; the "F&P" key raised the cylinder by four rows, and was used for typing figures and punctuation. The lever between these two keys serves as a shift lock; by pushing it backwards, one can type in capitals only. One special feature is that the period and comma each have their own key, and can always be typed regardless of the shift. The ribbon mechanism always advances the ribbon from the loosened to the screwed-down spool.

A further development is the Universall Crandall No. 3 (see photo to the right, from the collection of Anthony Casillo). This model came on the market in 1893, and was still built on the same principles as the New Model. It was now equipped with a straight, three-bank QWERTY keyboard, and in Model No. 4 it offered as a further innovation the possibility of a two-color ribbon. The elaborate decoration has yielded to a relatively sober design -- for the layman, the Universal Crandall looks rather less spectacular than the New Model, although the Universal is found much less often than its predecessor. The New Model was regularly advertised for years, even in Europe; for the Universal Crandall, I was able to find only one advertisement from 1899, which is at least an indication that it was sold in Europe as well as in the United States. German advertisement for the Universal Crandall -- April 1899

A further machine invented by L. S. Crandall and known by his name is the Improved Crandall of 1895. This design is completely different from the machines described above, and it is questionable whether it ever went into production.

I had to wait several years before "collector's luck" brought me a Crandall, but my joy over this exceptionally beautiful machine is just as great today as it was years ago. This is a typewriter that is well worth hunting down. Crandalls keep appearing in the collecting community and at various actions. Two tendencies can be noticed in the general coloration of the flower motifs: one that tends more towards red, and another that tends towards blue. The machine pictured at the top of this page belongs to the second type.

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