Antique Typewriters “The Crandall”

Tales From a Typewriter Collector “The Crandall”

Guest Column by Martin Howard


CRANDALL ~ New Model Made By The Crandall Machine Company, Croton, N.Y. 1886

Lucien S. Crandall was born in Broome County New York in 1844. He would become one of the great early typewriter pioneers during the 1860s and 1870s. He patented perhaps ten typewriters with about six being manufactured. All of his designs are very intriguing and brilliantly imagined machines. The Crandall New Model was his third typewriter to be manufactured, but the first to have a fair success in sales.

A Luxury Typewriter at an Affordable Cost

Inlaid Mother of Pearl Detail Of The Crandall Typewriter

The Crandall New Model is one of the most beautiful typewriters ever made. It has a wonderful curved and ornate Victorian design and is lavishly decorated with hand painted roses, accented with inlaid mother-of-pearl!

It seems remarkable that the Crandall, with all this fine additional craftsmanship, had such a low selling price of $50.00 As most other full size typewriters were selling for $100.00

The Crandall Typewriter Had A Unique Type Cylinder

The Crandall was one of the very first typewriters to print from a ‘Single-Element’ or ‘Type-Cylinder’, well before IBM’s ‘Golf Ball’. This Type Cylinder about the size of your finger, rotates to the selected character and will rise up one or two positions for capitals and punctuations – before striking the roller; achieving 84 characters with only 28 keys.

It is made of hard rubber with a metal shield and type. The holes below the type are for alignment, so when the type-sleeve moves towards the roller to print, it pushes against a little metal rod that slides into the hole, insuring perfect alignment.

The Crandall catalog describes another key feature of this machine. The “Type-Cylinder may be removed, and another with an entire change of type inserted in the machine by simply lifting one cylinder from its position and replacing it by another; by this method any language or style of type may be used, including special styles of type for manifold work.”

The Crandall Type Cylinder Was Changeable!

Scripted fonts were available in order to make the type face look like the finest of handwriting.

One might well wonder why the Type-Cylinder did not become the standard in typewriter design and why typewriters with type-bars did, until it made its reappearance in the IBM ‘Golf Ball’ in 1961.

The reason was speed. Even though type-bars are in essence many separate hammers striking away, each hammer has a very simple and quick action, whereas the type-cylinder is moved through a more complicated mechanical dance, which reduces its speed to respond to the keys being struck. The IBM ‘Golf Ball’, with its single-type element, was able to move very fast because it was designed to be driven by an electric motor, type-bars had finally become antiquated.

The Crandall has a gracefully curved keyboard with just two rows of keys.

(While the modern typewriter has 4 rows of keys.)

This was achieved by having a double shift function with an ‘F. & P.’ key for figures and punctuation and a ‘CAP’s’ key for capitals. So for example, to type the number ‘2’ you would push the F. & P. key and while depressed you would push the ‘P 2’ key. Then release both. The double shift function was not unique to the Crandall.

1898 Photo showing a Crandall New Model in use

(Courtesy of The Peter and Cornelia Weil Typewriter Archives).

Article by Martin Howard

Editing by Martin Codina

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