The Garvin Machine Company, located in New York, was well known for the manufacture of machine tools such as milling machines, lathes, tapping machines, gear cutters, and drill presses. Their lesser known production outputs were typewriters and typewriter parts. There seems to be no record through advertisements or catalogs that tie the Garvin Machine Company to the various brands of typewriters produced over the years; however, their name is listed on the front of some of the machines, the parts of others, and literature such as newspapers and lawsuit transcripts ties them integrally to the manufacture of typewriters. When I set about to research our new (at the time) People’s typewriter, and discovered it was manufactured by Garvin Machine Company, I realized that the typewriter community seems to have very little to say about this outfit. Perhaps this is because they were a general purpose manufacturer of machines made of metal, serving as a means to an end for typewriter inventors of the day, and so took a sideline to more interesting searches; however, given the number of typewriters that came off their assembly lines, including the Hammond, Horton, Garvin, Crary, People’s/ Champion, and the Kleidograph, not to mention typewriter parts for at least the Franklin, I felt it worthy of a place in typewriter history.
An American Industrialist
The Garvin Machine Company, a family-owned business, was founded by Hugh Ross Garvin just after the American Civil War. Hugh Garvin was born in Shapleigh, Maine, on June 21, 1831, and grew up on a farm (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). In 1844 he started learning the machinist trade (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). Twelve years later, he married Martha Seavey, also born in Maine in 1832. The year they married they moved to Connecticut where Hugh worked as a contractor for Colts’ Armory (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). They had three children, all boys: Eugene Everett, born in 1857, George Kinne, born two years later in 1859, and Frank Weed, born two years after that in the fateful year the American Civil War broke out, 1861 (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). The family had moved back to Maine around 1860 where Hugh made his living as a farmer (U.S. Census Bureau, 1860), apparently going back to his roots. Given that he listed himself as a gun smith on the compulsory US draft in 1863 (U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863); it appears that sometime between the 1860 US census and the 1863 draft he started working for a new armory, Starr Fire Arms Company (Starr Fire Arms, 1864). Starr Arms had a manufacturing facility in Yonkers, New York, from 1861-1864 located at 66 Pearl and Yonkers (American Firearms, 2012; Trow, 1863). It is here that the story of the Garvin Machine Company begins.
It is unclear whether Hugh Garvin started his own business while working for Starr Fire Arms, or if he felt that his company was an extension of his work with the armory: both the 1900 Garvin Machine Company catalog (Garvin Machine Co, 1900) and an 1899 announcement of preferred stock (Harriman & Co., 1899) list that “business conducted by the Garvin Machine Company was established in 1862", but newspaper records clearly show that Hugh was working for Starr Fire Arms Company at least through 1864 (Starr Fire Arms, 1864). It seems that Hugh met his business partner, James D. Smith, through Starr. When James resigned, Hugh was one of the members of the committee asked to pick out and present an appropriate gift (Complimentary proceedings, 1864). Starr Fire Arms lost their governmental contracts after the Civil War ended in 1865 (Starr Carbine, 2020), forcing the company to close in 1867. It is possible that Garvin and Smith saw the end coming and decided to go out on their own, perhaps also desiring to diversify their offerings outside of firearms, seeing that business as lucrative only when the country is at war. Note that an early ad stated that Smith & Garvin were “among the largest manufacturers of sewing machinery and tools in the country” (Smith & Garvin, 1873), notably leaving out any mention of firearms work.
So, the company eventually known as The Garvin Machine Company was originally named Smith & Garvin, located at No. 3 Hague St. in New York (krucker, 2011; Smith & Garvin, 1866). The first official listing of the company was in 1866 in the New York City Directory (Trow, 1866). This is also the first we see Hugh Garvin with a listed address in New York (Wilson, 1866). Smith & Garvin remained in this location (Wilson, 1871; Wilson, 1872; Wilson, Colles, & Hallock, 1873), expanding into the neighboring addresses of 5 and 7 Hague in 1873 (Smith & Garvin, 1873). This Manhattan peninsula location must have been convenient since the men were located on either side; James D. Smith located in the east, in Brooklyn, and Hugh R. Garvin located in the west, in Jersey City (Wilson, 1871; Wilson, 1872; Wilson, Colles, & Hallock, 1873). They advertised their business in 1866 issues of Scientific American to both manufacturers and inventors (see ad above) to make proposals for building light machinery, among other things (Important To Manufacturers, 1866). It seems they were also inventors in their own rights, or at least James Smith was. A patent was filed on August 1, 1872, for expanding mandrels, filed by James, but assigned to James Smith and Hugh Garvin (United States Patent Office, 1873; Abbott & Smith, 1905).
In May 1873, Smith & Garvin announced they would move into a new manufacturing facility located in Bricksburg, New Jersey, (Smith & Garvin, 1873); they incorporated in that city the same year (Hood, 1905). Smith & Garvin had purchased the facility from the Bricksburg Manufacturing Company (Bricksburg Manufacturing Company, 1873), likely due to its strategic location at the south end of the city, to the east of the river, and to the west of the New Jersey Southern Railroad (Bricksburg, 1878), which had come to the city about 10 years earlier (Lakewood Township, 2020). The factory was to be powered by a 100 horsepower water-wheel (renewable resources!), was to employ 70 people, and was to manufacture machinists’ tools (People of Bricksburg, 1873). The site also seems to have been an ideal location for a manufacturer of large iron-based machinery since the iron was likely taken from the surrounding lands and transported via railroad up and down the east coast. In fact, the factory was built with an arm of the railroad running through the facilities (Smith & Garvin, 1873). Comparing the maps of Bricksburg below, the first from 1872 and the second from 1876, will provide a view of both the city and the facilities that changed hands from the Bricksburg Manufacturing Company to Smith & Garvin.
In 1875, the business started to become a family business: at only 16 years old, George K. Garvin, Hugh’s son, joined the company at the Bricksburg site (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). It is unclear if Smith & Garvin kept their New York offices while manufacturing in New Jersey; a search through Trow’s New York Directories 1873-1878, less 1875, turned up no listing for James D. Smith, Hugh R. Garvin, Smith & Garvin, or any "Garvin" company name. They had several years of manufacturing in New Jersey, and then in 1879, Garvin appears back in New York (Bailey, 1879; Trow, 1879) with his family living at 210 E 49th Street, New York City (U.S. Census Bureau, 1880). Hugh’s third son, Frank W. Garvin, had joined the company (Garvin & Garvin 1932), which at the time was finally employing the entire family, save for Hugh's wife, Marg. It seems that George must have gone to school during his time at the company since he was listed as a draftsman, while his brothers were listed as mechanists (U.S. Census Bureau, 1880). It was also in 1879 that Hugh took full control of the company (Condit & Colvin, 1925), and dropped the Smith & Garvin name, forming a new machinist company under the name E. E. Garvin & Company, seemingly after his oldest son Eugene E. Garvin. There seems to be no record of what became of his former business partner, James D. Smith. As you can see in the advertisement above, E. E. Garvin & Company continued to manufacture heavy machinery. The company remained at this address through 1889 (Trow, 1880; Trow, 1882; Trow, 1884; Westbrook, 1888; Trow City Directory, 1889).
The First Typewriter Dealings
Perhaps to compete in the machinist market, E. E. Garvin & Company paid their machinists among the lowest wages in New York. According to the American Machinist magazine, in 1879 they were paying between $1.50 and $2.25 per hour, while the other companies were paying around $2.00 per hour for the same job (Bailey, 1879). Perhaps this is one reason why Garvin hired immigrants, who may have been willing to take the lower wages as compared to even lower wage opportunities in their own countries. One such immigrant was Anton B. Roune from Denmark who took advantage of the job opportunities in Smith & Garvin’s New Jersey factory sometime prior to 1877 (Obituary, 1917). Perhaps the low wages were also the reason some machinists got their start in the Garvin's company, but did not necessarily stay. One such former employee was Edward J. Manning, a well-known typewriter champion and figure in the typewriter world (Beat the Record, 1890). Manning started working for Garvin as a machinist in 1884, around the age of 18. During that same year, E. E. Garvin & Company struck up a relationship with the Hammond Typewriter Company. Garvin leased number 54 Grove St., New York, from Hammond, who had been in the building at least since 1882 (Trow, 1882), as part of a contract to manufacture 5000 Hammond Typewriters using Hammond Parts, machined parts from the Garvin factory, and labor from Garvin (New York Supreme Court, 1896). Hammond continued to be listed next door on the fifth floor of number 52 Grove (Trow, 1884).
Earlier that year, Hammond had been affected by a fire. On the morning of June 14, 1884, a watchman, who was opening up the building, started his rounds by lighting fires in gas stoves in the capsule factory located on the fourth floor of the Grove Street building, and then went to open the laundry on the bottom floor. Fire from the gas stoves broke out and spread through the building, causing $2000 worth of damage to the Hammond Company alone (Fire in New York, 1884; Fire in a Factory, 1884). Perhaps this is why Hammond felt the need to cut costs or perhaps speed up the process to replace lost typewriters by outsourcing at least some of their business to Garvin.
As an interesting and unrelated aside, the year after the fire, the daughter of the bottom floor laundry owner was involved in a marital dispute that resulted in the death of her husband (Wife Shot, 1885). Apparently, the daughter regretted her marital decision and decided she wanted a separation. She move back in with her parents, who lived in the same building as the laundry, 52 Grove St. One day the husband asked to speak with her back at the hotel where they had been living, and she obliged. They spoke behind closed doors, and according to her account, her husband suddenly pulled a pistol off the shelf, asked her a question, and after her response, neither of which she wanted to tell to the police, he shot her through the shoulder and into her rib cage. When the police arrived and went to look for the husband, he shot himself in the hip. The wife's gunshot wound was not fatal, but the husband’s was.
Back to E. E. Garvin & Company, in 1886, two years after signing the Hammond contract, one Mr. John Pratt signed a contract for Garvin to begin experimentation on the Hammond typewriter (New York Supreme Court, 1896; Typewriter Topics, 1923). That same year, Edward J. Manning became chief inspector at Garvin, and became directly involved with Hammond Typewriter Company. Doubtless, this work helped to kick off his career in typewriters. Manning went on to become the factory manager for Underwood Typewriter Company, and later vice president and general manager for the Royal Typewriter Company (Manning, 1938).
The connection between the Garvins and the Mannings may have gone even deeper. In 1889, the New York Business Directory (Trow City Directory, 1889) finds one Henry A. Manning as president of the International Portelectric Co., located at 254 Pearl, New York, while one Eugene E. Garvin was listed as a trustee. Coincidence? Perhaps. Further research could identify the nature of the two families’ relationships, and may uncover even further connections between Garvin Machine Company and typewriters. As a strange side note, in 1899, the Canute Times from Kansas refers to Royal Nonesuch People asking "Garvin" to purchase a machine (Garvin's Typewriter Testimonial, 1899). The response is a satirical note showing just how the souped-up version that was sold to Garvin was not of even basic quality as the letters seem to be completely misarranged (see clipping to your right). Is it possible that there is a deeper relationship between the Royal Typewriter Company and Garvin, or is this just a funny coincidence and the relationship between the two companies doesn’t reach farther than Manning? Since the Royal Typewriter Company wasn't founded until 5 years later, in 1904, perhaps it is the latter. Nevertheless, the article is quite funny.
Although the 1884 contract stipulated manufacture of 5000 Hammond typewriters, E. E. Garvin & Company ended up manufacturing a total of 5047 (New York Supreme Court, 1896). E. E. Garvin & Company credited Hammond Type Writer Company twice per year from 1886 through 1890. In this last year, it seems that Garvin complained in the form of an appeal that Hammond Type Writer Company never paid the over $19,000 bill due on January 1, 1890; however, the appeal was refused (Garvin v. Hammond, 1899). It seems that this is the same year that Garvin and Hammond cut ties, and Hammond moved on to their next model of typewriter. According to Ted Munk’s Typewriter Database (Munk, 2021), the Hammond model 1 was manufactured 1884-1890, and the next model did not come out until 1890. Although manufactured without the help of E. E. Garvin & Company, this second Hammond model was likely based on the experimentation performed under E. E. Garvin & Co. at 54 Grove.
It is worth noting here that while his father was striking a relationship with a typewriter company, a different type of relationship was under contract; George K. Garvin married his wife, Ella Bertha Conklin, in 1884 (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). A year later, on December 20, 1885, George and Ella had their first son, Hugh Roy Garvin (Find-a-Grave, n. d.; New York Census, 1905), the namesake of George’s father.
While in contract with the Hammond Typewriter Company, E. E. Garvin & Company struck another deal to manufacture a different typewriter, the Horton model 2 (Breker, 2009). Edward Elijah Horton had patented his typewriter under Canadian patent 22833 and established the Horton Typewriter Company in 1885, the second factory of which was located in Buffalo, N. Y. His second model came out in 1887, and the American patent was sold to William Henry Cox, a patent dealer (Ingenium, 2012). It is unclear whether the deal was struck with Mr. Cox, or with Mr. Horton. More research into the New York office of the Horton Typewriter Company could reveal whether that factory continued to manufacture at the same time as Garvin was manufacturing Hortons, or if a closing may have been the reason for the contract. Thanks to Ingenium, Canada's museums of science and innovation (IngeniumCanada.org), who supplied the photo above, we have proof that E. E. Garvin & Company manufactured the model 2. The photo above reveals the faded decal at the bottom, reading "Manufactured by E. E. Garvin & Co. N.Y."
The Next Generation
1888 was a dark year for the Garvins. On December 21, 1887, only a month after signing his last will and testament, Hugh R. Garvin, the original co-founder of the Garvin company, died at only 56 years old. While he left almost everything to his wife, Martha, to be equally split among his three sons, Eugene, George, and Frank, in the case of her death, he directly left his share of 50% of the business of E. E. Garvin & Company to his sons (Surrogate’s Court, 1888) who all still worked for the company (Trow City Directory, 1889). A couple months later, the first of several fires that directly affected Garvin's factory supposedly took place during the historic New York blizzard of March 12, 1888 (Thrice Visited, 1896). The blizzard shut down businesses and caused much loss of life throughout the city (Minneapolis Evening Journal, 1888). Only a month after the storm, on April 6, 1888, their mother, Martha S. Garvin, passed away (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). In her will, she left her 50% of E. E. Garvin & Company to her three sons (New York County, 1888), now wholly owned by the brothers. Perhaps the only ray of light throughout that dark year was the birth of George and Ella's only daughter, Grace (New York Census, 1905).
But the show, or in this case business, must go on. The employees of E. E. Garvin & Company won a game against Ingersoll Rock Drill Company in July 1888 (Amateurs Exchange Notes, 1888). Such company teams were popular around the end of the 1800's and early 1900's, as they were typically established to improve the morale of the employees and to increase devotion to the company.
1889 brought some happier times back to the family. On July 14, George and Ella had their second son, Burr Kenney Garvin (Find-a-Grave, n. d.; New York Census, 1905), adding a second new life where two had been taken away. In November, the sons decided to change the name of the company one last time from E. E. Garvin & Company to the well known Garvin Machine Company (Harriman & Co., 1899; Garvin Machine Co., 1890; Garvin Machine Co, 1900), and moved the factory from Centre Street to Laight and Canal (Trow City Directory, 1890; Garvin Machine Co., 1890). This new site was a much larger 7 story double building facility, occupying numbers 9 and 11, and was located opposite Cass Lithography Company and an embroidery company (Trow City Directory, 1891; Thrice Visited, 1896; Metal Machinery Destroyed, 1896; Fire Loss, 1896; Costly Fire, 1896). The factory stood at 45,000 square feet and sported a street side show room (Garvin Machine Co., 1890). The brothers re-organized so that each had a top role in the company; George, the draughtsman, became president, Eugene took the role of treasurer, and Frank became secretary. The brothers kept those roles at least through 1900 (Trow City Directory, 1890; Trow City Directory, 1891; Garvin Machine Co., 1900). It seems they spread into other ventures as well: in 1891, Eugene was listed on the advisory board of The Taylor Company, which manufactured caskets and undertaker supplies (New Enterprise, 1891). Perhaps this assisted in building relationships with potential customers.
The brothers seemed to think the typewriter industry continued to be profitable enough to pursue. According to what I can only tell is common knowledge in the typewriter world, Garvin Machine Company manufactured an invention patented by the same inventor who created the typewriter shift, Byron Alden Brooks (White, 1893). The invention the brothers accepted for business was an index typewriter, patented in 1892 (Brooks, 1892), which came to be called the People’s typewriter, the machine that kicked off this research. This typewriter had a semi-circular letter selector that enabled use even by those who never learned typing. It is interesting that this machine’s type mechanism is said to closely resemble that of the Hammond (Mares, 1909) given that Garvin was also the first manufacturer of the Hammond. The earliest ad in newspapers for the People's typewriter seems to have been in December 1889 (Two Great and Useful Inventions, 1889). In 1890, the typewriter was advertised as being from People’s Manufacturing Company in New York, 64 & 66 W 23 St. (Wanted, 1890), but that company does not seem to exist, at least in the New York City directories of surrounding years. As such, it seems that Garvin likely continued manufacturing the People's typewriter, even though the selling company was different.
Around 1894, this same typewriter, with a minor modification to the placement of the ribbon, started to sell under the brand name Champion (New Brooks Typewriter, 1894). The Champion was advertised as being sold by the Champion Typewriter Company (Smithsonian, n. d.); however, it is interesting to note the high number of addresses that this company claimed throughout their ads. Among the various addresses was 9 & 11 Laight Street (Champion Typewriter, March 1896; Champion Typewriter, May 1896), which was wholly owned by the Garvin Manufacturing Company around the time the advertisements were printed. This lends credibility to the likelihood that both the People’s and the Champion were, in fact, manufactured by the Garvin Machine Company even if sold under a company of a different name. Other addresses were all in New York, and included 291 Broadway in 1894 (Page, 1894), and 12 Laight St. (Bacheller, 1896).
At some point, the Garvin Machine Company also manufactured at least one model of a different typewriter named the “Garvin” by Uwe Breker (Breker, 2009). Since "Garvin Machine Company" is listed on the face plate of the machine, it would have been manufactured in or after 1889. Given the lack of typeface, construction style, and the fact that no others are known, it was likely a prototype. I wonder if the machinist working on the People’s decided to experiment with other index typewriter styles and came up with this little known model?
Sometime between 1892 (or earlier) and 1895, Garvin partnered with yet an other inventor, Joseph Mason Crary of Jersey City (Mantelli, 2004). Patented in 1892, the “Crary typewriter” keyboard had a very distinctive circular shape, much like that of a crown, and ran on tracks so the user could type directly onto books, paper, cardboard, or even the wall. According to an 1895 ad (Miner, 1895, May), the machine could produce both typical figures, like numbers and letters, and borders. It is clear from the base of the machine that Garvin Machine Company manufactured the Crary, but it is unclear just how many were produced, or what role Garvin had in the initial design (Mantelli, 2004). According to an article from January 1895 (Miner, 1895, January), the Crary was awaiting capital to be able to manufacture for a public presentation. It seems the Crary Typewriting Company was intending to build a manufacturing plant of their own (Miner, 1895, July), but this proved to be an uphill battle. According to the Phonographic World, an injunction by another book typewriter company, Elliott & Hatch, which later merged to become Elliott-Fisher, “forced the Crary Typewriting Company to shut down” (Miner, 1896). What “shut down” meant is unclear given how long the Crary Typewriter Company remained incorporated in New York. The company went through at least one patent infringement case and an appeal, both of which Elliott & Hatch lost (Writing Mach. Co. v. Elliott & Hatch Book-Typewriter Co., 1900; Writing Mach. Co. v. Elliott & Hatch Book-Typewriter Co., 1901), but it seems the money it took and stress it cause to go through those lawsuits became too much of a burden on the company. In 1901, there seemed to be some hope for the typewriter when Crary sold his invention (Crary, 1901) to "T. B. Garvin & Co. of New York (Crary, 1917). Unfortunately, Mr. Crary died 4 years later. Given the rarity of the Crary Typewriter, it seems that Garvin was unable to get this typewriter to sell and Elliott-Fisher ended up as the ultimate winner of the book writer war.
A final typewriter known to have been manufactured by Garvin Machine Company was the Kleidograph, requested for manufacture in 1894 (Howard, n.d.). Invented by William Bell Wait (Wait, 1894), this was a typewriter for the blind which utilized a standard called the New York point system. That system was popularized before the Braille system took over as the dominant alphabet used by the blind. Unlike other typewriters, this machine enabled the typist to write literature, mathematical expressions, and also music (New York Herald, 1899). In 1904, a deaf, dumb, and blind young woman named Lottie Sullivan was cited as using this machine for personal use (Lottie Sullivan, 1904).
In venturing beyond heavy machinery, it seems that Garvin Machine Company was interested in more than just typewriters. In October 1893 they expressed interest in supporting a bicycle show in New York (Hum Wheel, 1893). Two years later, in January 1895, they held an exhibit during the first national cycle show in Madison Square Gardens (New York's Cycle Show, 1895). One of the popular exhibits at this show was for a bicycle built for two! It's no surprise that they Garvin wanted to exhibit his support for bicycles at these shows; as you can see from the ad on a New York map on the left, Garvin Machine Company actually made machinery for making bicycle parts.
The same year they took the contract for manufacturing the Kleidograph, on March 6, 1894, a fire burned the barn of Eugene Garvin, who had been living in Englewood, NJ at least since 1891 (Trow City Directory, 1891). The carriages in the barn and ten horses were killed in the process (Ten Horses, 1894). Two of those horses seem to have been replaced during auction the following year; Eugene purchased Crown Princess and Dam Lady Messenger on May 3, 1895 (Auction Sale, 1895). As in the past, tragedy was accompanied by hope. George and Ella had another son this eventful year, and this time named him after George's brother, Frank W. Garvin (New York Census, 1905).
It seems that George was an eager creditor. In 1895, Duncannon Iron Works had purchased a machine for which they never paid. Once the company went bankrupt, Garvin Machine Company became one of the creditors due a part of the works. It seems that, instead of waiting for legal proceedings, George Garvin, his lawyer, and some of his employees went to the company in the middle of the night to disassemble the machine for transport to take what he felt he was due. Other creditors seem to have found this unfair and attempted to serve papers that would halt the operation. They succeeded the next morning, only after the machine had been completely disassembled, and a crowd of people had gathered outside to watch the spectacle (Details at Duncannon, 1895; In and Out, 1895). On another occasion, we find out that Garvin collected on even small sums from bankrupt companies who couldn’t pay their bills. In bankruptcy proceedings for Franklin Typewriter Company, we find out that Garvin Machine Company had made parts and/or tools for the company. Garvin Machine Company showed up in the list of uncontested creditors, having placed a $15.25 claim against the bankrupt estate on December 3, 1901 for “merchandise” (Franklin Typewriter Company, 1903). That is about $470 in equivalent money today. In the same document, there is a witness statement that confirmed that the parts clearly read that they were made by Garvin Machine Company.
Perhaps the money from the debtors was needed. Two years after a fire consumed E. E. Garvin’s barn, a second factory fire broke out (Thrice Visited, 1896). The fire started at midnight on January 23, 1896, on the fifth floor of the six story building, and burned for hours before fire trucks arrived (Metal Machinery Destroyed, 1896). It took 3 fire engines to get it under control (Fire in a Six Story Building, 1896). Only two months later, on March 6, 1896, around 1:41 AM (New York Fire Department, 1897), a third fire broke out in the building (Fire Loss, 1896). This time the fire started in Number 7 Laight St., occupied by Garvin’s neighbors, the Bernard Ullman Embroidery Company and the Henry Radam Microbe Killer Company. The fire spread to numbers 9 and 11 Laight Street (Thrice Visited, 1896; Big Fire in New York, 1896), fully occupied by Garvin Machine Company (New York Fire Department, 1897). (The partial map of Manhattan above shows where the factory was located with respect to its surroundings (Bromley & Bromley, 1894).) One newspaper clipping about the losses from the fire mentioned that Garvin Machine Company manufactured bicycles and typewriters (Costly Fire, 1896), revealing one of the few mentions of the company name as associated with typewriters. The Champion, Crary, Kleidograph, and possibly even parts for the Franklin may have all been manufactured around this time. It is possible that even if they weren’t manufacturing these typewriters in full, they may have been manufacturing some of the more difficult-to-machine parts for the respective companies or others. Twenty-six engine companies, eight hook and ladder companies, two water towers and four and a half hours later, and the fire was under control (New York Fire Department, 1897). The fire department reported "cause not ascertained" (New York Fire Department, 1897).
This third fire seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back; Garvin moved again for the final time to 141 Varick St. (Trow, 1897). Here at the corner of Spring and Varick Streets is where the factory would stay until it closed (Harriman & Co., 1899; Maclagan, 1903; Garvin Men Spurn, 1915; Garvin Plant Shuts Down, 1915; Samuel T Freeman & Co, 1925). The picture at the beginning of this article depicts this last factory location. The new site had everything: a factory, general offices, a salesroom, a showroom, and to top it off, the 1900 catalog advertised that Garvin offered an absolutely fireproof building (Garvin Machine Co., 1900). This same year, George and Ella had their last son, George Kinne Garvin, Jr., on July 28, 1897 (Find-a-Grave, n. d.; New York Census, 1905), in keeping with the tradition of using family names and closing the loop with their first son named after George’s father, and their last son named after George himself.
Although the new site itself was fire-proof, fire continued to be a part of their history. The Bradley & Currier building, which provided power to Garvin from their location at Spring and Hudson, caught fire on October 18, 1897 (Big Factory Burned, 1897; Stubborn Blaze, 1897). It seems that several fires took place that same day, as you can see in the articles above. According to the papers, Garvin Machine Company reported that their business would be relatively unaffected since they had backup plans for power at the facility.
About two years after Garvin Machine Company moved locations, Garvin put out feelers to open a new site in Berlin, Germany. In February 1898, George K. Garvin placed an order to Germany for $50,000 worth of bicycle machinery (Manufacturing Notes, 1898). It seems he was successful in finding a site by 1899 (Americans Invade Germany, 1899). Globalization is not a new idea; trade routes across the ocean started at the dawn of civilization when water travel became possible. Such trade inspired people to learn about cultures only known to them through word of mouth and the items brought back for trade. While seeking a new German market, a Garvin sales representative contributed to this ancient curiosity by teaching US citizens what it was like in Germany (See article to your right: View of Germany, 1898). But globalization is not without its drawbacks. Whereas wind and elbow grease powered a small amount of global trade in the past, trade since the industrial revolution has used more intrusive energy sources to power more widely used globalized trade routes. In one example from 1900, a company shipped a machine from Delaware to Germany just so that Garvin's German plant could use the machine to make items they then shipped right back to the US (Machinery Shipment, 1900).
As you read earlier, Hugh Garvin started the Smith & Garvin Company either while working for, or right after working for, an arms company, and the end of the American Civil War may have enabled his entry into the general machinist industry. About 30 years later, his son was also affected by conflict and contracts in arms. In the 1800s, the US had business interests in Cuba, including shipping and sugarcane production. Since Cuba was owned by Spain prior to 1898, this meant the US had a direct relationship with Spain. For years Cubans tried to gain their independence, starting officially in 1868 (Ten Years' War, 2020), which culminated in a conflict in which the Cuban independentists urged the Americans to intervene (Spanish-American War, 2020). There were reports of atrocities that Spain inflicted on the Cubans, which pulled public support among the US general population. Business owners, however, felt the conflict would come at the wrong time. Since the US had just come out of a recession, they felt support would be too costly to the economy and did not want to get involved. Although it is not reported as such, if businesses had interests with Spain, it is also possible that Cuban independence would break some of the long established agreements American business owners had with Spain via Cuba, supporting the business owners' position. President McKinley at first sided with businesses, but in 1898, when a parked military ship off the coast of Cuba mysteriously exploded and killed the majority of the sailors on board, he declared war on Spain, initiating the Spanish-American War.
George Garvin took advantage of the conflict. In March 1898, Garvin Machine Company announced that they would make dynamite guns for the war effort (Making Dynamite Guns, 1898). To sell these guns, Garvin contracted with the Simms-Dudley Defense Company, which was contracted by the government (New York, 1898). Dynamite guns, characterized by compressed air fueled projectiles instead of explosives, were popular for this short period of the late 1800s, and had been used by the Americans and the Cubans against the Spanish during the war (Dynamite Gun, 2019). Although the Cubans ultimately won their freedom from the Spanish due to that war, they were later embargoed by the Americans who had supported them during the war.
Garvin Employees Strike
Once Garvin employees had finished helping Americans and Cubans to win a war against Spain, they started fighting battles on their own front. On May 20, 1901, 500 Garvin Machine Company employees went on strike in response to Garvin’s refusal to lower the work day to 9 hours (Nine-Hour Day, 1901; Fifty Thousand Men Out, 1901; Machinists on Strike, 1901). At a time when companies across the country and across labor industries gave in to employee demands due to similar threats of and ongoing strikes, Garvin was only one of two important machinist companies in New York City that refused, the other being the Hoe Printing Press Company (Washington, D. C., 1901). It is difficult to gain accurate facts surrounding the strikes due to the political nature of the information, especially as filtered through often yellow journalism. Strikes often work because employees feel that others are standing with them. If employees feel singled out, they lose confidence, potentially resulting in going back to work before bargaining is over. As such, it behooves the company to announce that employees are going back to work, while it behooves the labor unions and striking employees to announce that the strikes are ongoing. On June 16, 1901, we see this conflict as newspapers report on one hand that employees were going back to work according to their sources, but on the other hand that the labor unions claimed that employees were still on strike (Inquirer Bureau, 1901; Brooklyn Roofers Win, 1901). The final outcome was unclear; however, 10 years later, it seems they were working a 9 hour work day (Unionites are Losing, 1911), so at some point Garvin must have updated its policy.
In 1911, unions again came to the assistance of laborers and called for a general strike for 8-hour work days. By May 28, Garvin employees had also participated; however, by this date, 150 employees had reportedly already returned to work. Note that they were not sole strikers in New York. In 1911, there was also a general garbage laborer strike, as shown in the picture on the right from the Library of Congress archives. It seems employees and the labor union lost at Garvin (Unionites are Losing, 1911). Even so, thanks to many unionized employees and their courage to stand up to oppressive working situations during the time, we now have an 8 hour work day in the United States as common practice among corporations.
In 1912, George Maclagan, treasurer of Garvin at the time, wrote a letter of support to maintain reduced tariffs, citing in part the ability to compete with more profitable businesses on labor (House of Representatives, 1913). The interesting thing was that with such tariffs, US labor would have become cheaper as compared with labor from foreign markets plus tariffs. It may have meant overall higher costs for companies hiring overseas, but all domestic businesses, large and small, would have then faced the same situation, thereby re-balancing the competition. Without such tariffs, the only companies that could typically take advantage of the cheaper labor markets were typically those that were large enough to afford the initial move overseas until the savings from cheap labor could pay off the overhead expenses from the move. As such, size, and not creativity, led market competition as long as tariffs remained low. This resulted in, instead of attempting to compete via innovation, large companies such as Garvin fighting to be able to offshore labor in markets with weaker economies and/or where workers were even more exploited than at home. The timing of the aforementioned letter corresponded with newspapers that were talking about cheap labor in, not China, Taiwan, or Mexico like today, but Germany (Inquirer Bureau, 1912). George Maclagan's letter may have been successful, or the government's tariffs may have remained low enough that maintaining cheaper labor overseas continued to be profitable; Garvin was already taking advantage of the salary disparity across the world, and continued to employ workers in Germany.
Although the strike of 1911 for an 8-hour workday failed at Garvin Machine Company, the union came back four years later to revisit the proposition, right after the start of World War I overseas (Strike Ultimatum, 1915). By August 3, 1915, 200 - 800 out of 1200 - 1500 Garvin employees were leading the general machinists' strike by being the first machinist company to strike in New York under the direction of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) (Machine Shop Owners, 1915; Machinists' Strike Begun, 1915; Machinists on Strike, 1915; Garvin Plant Shuts Down, 1915; Machine Shop Owners, 1915; Associated Press Night Wire, 1915). The demand was to increase their pay by 15%, and again they requested an 8 hour work day. In the previous week, Mr. Garvin had offered a 10% increase of pay without shorter hours (Gavin Plant Shuts Down, 1915; Garvin Plant, 1915; Machinists Quit Work, 1915), but this was unacceptable to the employees represented by the union.
But prospects for employees of the Garvin Machine Company were not clear; according to the papers, the union seemed to have chosen a somewhat poor time to go on strike. It was reported that thousands of machinists were out of work all over the city, and output in this industry was at 40 to 50% (Garvin Plant Shuts Down, 1915), making conditions ripe for scabs and an easily replaceable workforce. Machinist companies like Garvin were represented by the National Metal Trade Association (Garvin Plant Shuts Down, 1915; Associated Press, 1915), who apparently did a decent job. On August 11, arbitration failed (Garvin Machine Strike, 1915), and on the 13th, reportedly 100 of the strikers returned after Mr. Garvin offered them their jobs, now at previous conditions rather than the higher wages he had conceded to earlier (Associate Press, 1915). But, according to another source, none of those employees who returned to work were machinists; they were only those who were supporting the machinists in the strike. Garvin had been trying to fill war contracts by outsourcing the work to competitors during their evening shifts; the union used this situation as a bargaining chip, asking machinists in those companies to stand in solidarity at least during their night shifts (Garvin Men Spurn, 1915). Without machinists, other employees standing behind the machinists, or night shifts in contracted companies, Garvin would be unable to fill the war contracts and would start to lose business. By August 21, the papers were reporting that employees still had not returned to work, and the union was ready to declare victory. On August 25, 100 men went back to work, but the strike continued to rage on (Old Gray Bonnet, 1915). There seem to be no further records of whether the men finally went back to work on an 8 or a 9-hour work day, but it seems the employees and their union put up quite a fight.
The Final Generation of Garvin Machine Company
A year after the strikes, George Garvin's wife Ella passed away on January 4, 1912 (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). Four years later, on March 19, 1916, his brother Eugene Garvin also died (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). Vice President at the time, he was succeeded by George Rhodes Cullingworth (Cullingworth, 1919). It seems that Mr. Cullingworth and his wife may have been longtime friends of the family since Mrs. Cullingworth was listed as a witness in Martha Garvin’s last will and testament in 1888, and signed that she had already known Martha for 20 years (New York County, 1888). This means they would have known the family since the introduction of Smith & Garvin.
In 1917, five years after his wife’s passing, George Garvin re-married to a woman named Dorothy Mahone (Garvin & Garvin, 1913). In January 1918 they had a daughter, Georgina. Sadly, only two years after their marriage, on February 20, 1919, George K. Garvin died (Find-a-Grave, n. d.). His remaining brother, Frank W. Garvin, took over the business briefly, keeping George R. Cullingworth as vice president, George Maclagan as treasurer, and handing the position of secretary to Hugh R. Garvin (Polk, 1920), George’s oldest son. In December of this same year, George Cullingworth also passed (George Rhodes Cullingworth, 1919).
It seems that George Garvin shared his interest in technical drawings with his eldest son, Hugh: Hugh’s occupation was listed as draughtsman in the 1905 New York Census, where they lived with Grace, Hugh’s sister, and Hugh's three brothers, Burr, Frank, and George. In 1905, after the contracts from the Spanish American War and the first general strike, it seems that the company had been making enough since the household also included a Sweedish cook named Selma Peterson, and a Sweedish housemaid named Anna Starstson (New York Census, 1905). This good fortune seemed to change after the end of World War I, during prohibition and the roaring 20’s (Garvin & Garvin, 1932), as the second generation passed the business down to the third. Two brothers and two cousins took over from Frank W. Garvin senior: Warren and Roger, the sons of Eugene E. Garvin, and Hugh and Burr, the sons of George K. Garvin senior (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). Burr is listed as president in 1922 (Polk, 1922), evidently taking over from Frank, who retired. By 1925, Warren Garvin (Eugene's son) was listed as president with E. A. Bickell as treasurer (Polk, 1924).
It seems the employees carried on after the death of their former employer. In 1920, Typewriter Topics mentioned that Garvin Machine Company was publishing a bi-weekly employee-run newsletter, aka, a “house organ”, called The Garvinite (House Organ, 1920). At the same time, there was evidence that the company began to downsize. Garvin owned the whole of the Varick Street building, but in 1921, the Colonial Steel Company of Pittsburgh leased numbers 149 and 151 Varick St. from the Garvin Machine Company through Pease & Elliman (Commercial Leases, 1921).
Due to the lost governmental contracts after World War I ended, and the depression of business that followed, the Garvin Machine Company, which spanned three generations, was forced to close (Garvin & Garvin, 1932). On April 8, 1925, Garvin announced that they would be liquidating everything during an auction to be held later that month (Samuel T Freeman & Co, 1925). The single drill lines went to NATCO, the National Automatic Tool Company (Factories Acquired, 1925), the line of tapping machines was purchased by Western Machine Tool Company (Western Machine, 1925), and the line of milling machines, cam cutters, profilers, air devices and hand lathes went to the Frew Machine Company (Business Items, 1925). Through these other companies, the Garvin tools were able to live on. To this day the Garvin brand is well known among machinists and antique machinery collectors alike. My hope is that this noteworthy company, it's rich history, and especially it's deep connections to typewriters and their inventors can now also be well known to the typewriter world.
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