|STEARNS VISIBLE No. 2 (Thomas Fuertig collection)
Readers of my site on portables are aware of the fact that quite a number of companies which manufactured typewriters did so as an adjunct to something already being manufactured, which in the content mentioned was frequently sewing machines. That also held true longer ago, but several companies which had manufactured bicycles in fact entered typewriter production. Such was the case with E. C. Stearns & Co. of Syracuse, New York. This company introduced its Stearns Visible in about 1905. One source, Michael Adler, has written that the machine required several years of work to get ready for market; perhaps this was due to the design of the tabulator. (The actuator is the odd button and comb on the front.)
|The tabulator on these machines employed a circular housing around the mainspring, which had, on its entire circumferential surface, notches which were numbered and which matched space for space with actual carriage travel. Stops for the decimal tabulator placed in the notches thus corresponded to carriage position; the design was said to have been quite advanced for its day. The example here is a Stearns Visible No. 2, s/n 1482. According to Beeching, production of all Stearns machines lasted about ten years.|
|Rear view of Stearns No. 2 showing tab stop drum, and detail from US patent #844756, granted to August Schneeloch. Filed May 1902, granted February 1907.|
|VISIGRAPH (Thomas Fuertig collection) s/n 11170
This machine was designed by Charles Spiro, who had previously been responsible for the Columbia and the Bar-Lock. This rather conventional four-bank frontstrike was manufactured beginning in 1910 first by the Columbia Manufacturing Co. (see Bar-Lock), and then by the Visigraph Typewriter Co. of New York (this machine bears exactly that label on its rear.) Michael Adler's book 'Antique Typewriters -- from Creed to QWERTY' indicates that this company later became the C. Spiro Manufacturing Company. In all likelihood this was Columbia's attempt to convert to conventional design before failing in 1914 and selling the Bar-Lock to English concerns; Spiro soldiered on with this design with new investors.
|Above, one of the patent illustrations covering the Visigraph; on the left, a side view of the Visigraph. Note the heavy, double-bent right-hand carriage return lever, just as in the drawing. (Patent filed 1910, granted 1911.)|
|Printed sources indicate that, by 1919, production of this machine had changed hands again, and that it was produced very briefly as the Federal. On the right, a very interesting patent drawing. This is a patent filed by Charles Spiro in March 1920, and which was granted in September 1921. The patent lists Spiro as assignor to the Federal Adding Machine Company of New York (a corporation of New Jersey,) which seems to indicate that if there were a Federal Typewriter Company as some sources indicate, that it was a subsidiary of the company named in the patent. This machine is very different from the Visigraph in many respects. It is not known if any was ever built exactly to THIS design, or something in between.|
|Above, two machines from the collection of Tilman Elster. On the left, Stearns Visible No. 2 with serial number 1888, and on the right, another one with serial number 4066. Below, Lynda Beckler's machine, also a No. 2.|
|VISIGRAPH / FEDERAL|
|PETER WEIL provides this early illustration of the Federal Visible, which was probably produced for advertising by the original makers but can be found reproduced later on in The American Digest of Business Machines, ed. James H. McCarthy, American Exchange Service, 1924.
What is of interest concerning this illustration, another found at the site of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia and the patent drawing seen immediately above is that all three clearly show a slotted type-bar segment and NOT individually-hung type bars as in the Visigraph. One naturallly wonders if anything else changed (note the totally different key lever - type bar mechanism in the two drawings), and one naturally wonders as well whether all VISIGRAPH machines had individually-mounted type bars and if all FEDERAL machines had slotted segments. Unfortunately, both machines are so rare today we might never know -- but the assumption seems solid based on what we have been able to find.