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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Mr. Fox's Typewriter

Mr. Fox's Typewriter

GRHC - July 20th, 2011

William R. Fox began the Fox Machine Company in 1885. It's principle products were machines for the wood working industry. Fox later collaborated with Glenn Barrett to create a typewriter. Every part of the machine was made in Grand Rapids. There were three types of typewriter: blind, visible, and portable size. Foreign sales were an important part of his income. The Russian government had at one time place an order for 500 machines. Fox was forced to close his doors in 1920 after being sued by the makers of the Corona for supposed patent infringement. 



William R. Fox started the Fox Machine Company on Canal St. near Hastings in 1885. Two years later larger quarters were acquired on Erie St., and in 1888 a final move was made to Front Ave. Principal products were machines used in the wood working industry. A man with great mechanical ability, Fox collaborated with Glenn Barrett in perfecting a typewriter, and in 1898 production was begun on a machine that was destined to sell worldwide.

Employing upwards of 300 people, the firm had offices and selling agencies in all the large cities in the US and foreign countries. Every part for the machine was made and assembled in the Grand Rapids plant, including the frame, which was cast in a foundry adjacent to the main building.

The first typewriters off the assembly line were called “blind” Foxes because the typist was unable to see the printed page unless the carriage was tilted back. Redesigned and improved, the second model was a “visible” Fox.

Along with its standard machine, Fox began manufacturing a portable, with type fonts available in Russian, German, Spanish, and French for its foreign markets. Business was booming. The Russian government placed an order for 500 standard size machine and contracts were won in South America and Australia.

Foreign business, a large part of sales, suffered during World War I, and calamity struck when a rival, the manufacturer of the Corona portable, sued over patent infringement, forcing Fox to close its doors in 1920. 

Full Details

TitleMr. Fox's Typewriter
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, William R. Fox, typewriter, WYCE, Glenn Barrett, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringJuly 20th, 2011

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