The SCM Story



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The Typewriter Industry Begins

Alexander Brown, a talented young Syracuse inventor, became excited about a strange looking writing machine he saw at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was called a “Typewriter” and printed capital letters through a cloth that was periodically immersed in ink. The writing appeared beneath the platen so the operator could not see what had been written until he finished typing. It looked like a sewing machine with a stand and foot treadle for returning the carriage. Developed in 1873, it turned out to be the first practical typewriter and the forerunner of today’s indispensable machines.

Alexander Brown believed in the tremendous potential of this new writing machine. He returned to Syracuse convinced the he could build a better writing machine that the one he had seen exhibited in Philadelphia.

In 1885, Lyman and Wilber Smith called on him to redesign a shotgun they were then manufacturing in a small gun factory in Syracuse. Alex Brown redesigned their shotgun and, even more important, sparked Wilbert’s interest in financing the building of a new and improved typewriter.

A working model of Brown’s machine, a double keyboard typewriter that printed both upper and lower case characters without shifting, was completed in 1886.

The following year a limited quantity of the new typewriter was marketed. It was so well received by the public that Lyman and Wilbert discontinued making shotguns and persuaded their younger brothers, Monroe and Hurlbut, to join them to form the Smith-Premier Typewriter Company. By 1890, the typewriter was no longer regarded as a novelty but had become established as a practical business tool.In 1893, Smith-Premier merged with four other leading typewriter manufacturers, Remington, Caligraph, Densmore and Yost, to form the Union Typewriter Company of America. The Smiths became executives in this organization and continued to manufacture the Smith-Premier typewriter at their Syracuse gun works. During the next ten years the Smith-Premier became the most popular of all the “blind” typewriters manufactured anywhere in the world.

About the turn of the century, a storm hit the typewriter industry, eliminating many manufacture from the scene, and sent others, like the Smiths, on to leadership in the industry. The controversy started over a revolutionary new typewriter which used a “visible” writing principle whereby the operator could see the material as it was being typed.

The Smith brothers were quick to realize the tremendous advantages of this new “visible’ writing method and tried in every way possible to convince their associates in the Union Typewriter Company of its importance to the growth of the industry. When their efforts met with little success, they resigned from the Union Typewriter Company and established their own business for the manufacture of “visible” typewriters.

The Smith brothers formed the L.C. Smith & Bros. Typewriter Company in Syracuse in 1903. Carl Gabrielson, formerly top engineer of the Union Typewriter Company, took over the designing of the new typewriter in a new plant. Through the combined efforts of the Smiths and Mr. Gabrielson, the first two “visible” single keyboard models were completed in late 1904. L.C. Smith typewriters featured the worlds first: segment shift, built in tabulator, stencil cutout, interchangeable platen, and two-color ribbon. These revolutionary features became standards for the industry and were eventually adopted by every typewriter manufacturer.