Enter The Type-Writer

Edison’s Electric Pen would appear to have broken open the floodgates for “machine age” communications on paper. But even while Edison was putting the final touches on his writing instrument, others were hard at work creating a machine that would type – a machine that would change how we communicate well into the 21st century.

Needless to say, Crane benefitted greatly from the invention of the typewriter, but it wasn’t a matter of sitting and waiting for the orders to come in. The typewriter – and those who made and used them – would require different weights, finishes, sizing and a host of other characteristics to perform to emerging expectations.

From Crane’s archives, here are some of the pioneers who did business with Crane:

William Austin Burt of Michigan was the first to receive a patent for a “typographer” in 1829, signed by President Andrew Jackson. The patent gave him exclusive rights to his invention for 14 years.

Even though a neat-looking letter could be typed on Burt’s “typographer”, the basic goal to speed up correspondence was not realized, as his machine was very slow. There being no ready market for a very slow contraption, Burt lost interest in it and sold his rights to Cyrus Spalding a blacksmith from Hillsboro, New Hampshire, for $75 in 1830. He evidently didn’t have any luck marketing the machine either. The typographer was so far ahead of its time it found no takers. (Spalding’s son, Cyrus, would invent the Spalding Adding Machine in 1884, the precursor to the computer).

Typewriters must have been in the family blood, because 55 years later, in 1885, we find correspondence from “The Burt & Wood Type-Writing Company” of Detroit – Fred E. Burt, Vice-President.  Written by Lewis N. Wood – Sec’y and Treas. – the company was looking to pay cash for Crane’s Bond #18 or #21 in 30-inch rolls of 100 feet each.

In 1886, Crane received a letter seeking sample books for S.T. Smith, “Manufacturer of Carbon Papers, Type-Writer and Caligraph Ribbons,” New York City. One might think that Mr. Smith would have had something to do with the Smith-Corona typewriter that was to come many years later, but that is not the case. According to “Evolution of the Typewriter” by C.V. Oden, 1917:

 Mr. John T. Underwood, who had been connected for many years with the typewriter supply business, was thoroughly familiar with the requirements of the trade. He recognized fully the value of visible writing, as well as the many other excellent features employed in the machine, and as a result bought Mr. Wagner’s inventions and interests. Mr. Underwood associated with him Mr. D. W. Bergen, present treasurer of the Underwood Type- writer Company, and later Mr. S. T. Smith, General Manager of the company, which position he retained until his death in May, 1915.

In researching these 19th-century writing machines, arguably the most beautiful and the most admired by collectors is The Hammond Type Writer. “For every nation, for every tongue” was the slogan Hammond used to introduce the advantage of his machine over the competition: the use of different typefaces.

In 1886, Charles N. Hammond wrote to Crane: “I have been using your paper in this office for our Type Writer, and I find it far the best I can get.” There is no indication which Crane paper he was using, but from the sample submitted, it was an all-linen sheet of about 16 pounds to the ream.

The brilliance of Hammond’s designs stood the test of time through an adaptation called the Varityper. According to Typewriter Spotlights at Xavier University:

The Varityper (also known as the Vari-Typer or VariTyper) was a highly ingenious “word processor” of the pre-digital age. This machine could use over 300 different type styles and write in 55 languages; it could adjust the space between characters, and even produce right-justified copy. Even though the Varityper enjoyed a successful career of about 60 years, you may never have seen one, for the machine was not generally adopted as a standard typewriter. Instead, it found a niche as a “cold typesetting” or “office composing” machine: it was generally used to produce neat, camera-ready copy for offset printing, at a cost much lower than that of conventional printer’s methods.

The Varityper is based on one of the greatest early typewriters, the Hammond. James B. Hammond died in 1913 and willed his patents to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (an act of self-congratulation which, in my opinion, is justified!). The history of the Hammond after that point is a little obscure, but the Hammond Multiplex was produced until the mid-twenties, when the company was bought by the Frederick Hepburn Co. and renamed Varityper. This company failed in the Depression, and it was sold in 1933 to a partnership headed by Ralph C. Coxhead, a business machine salesman.

Varitypers in use at the Chicago Tribune in 1947.



Through various versions and owners, Varitypers remained in use well into the 1980’s, as anyone working in the composition room of a newspaper will verify.

In 1884, W.M. Belcher Co. of Boston wrote on behalf of the American Writing Machine Co. seeking samples from Crane. At Antiquetyperwriters.com, we learn that:

 The Caligraph was the first typewriter to appear with the double keyboard arrangement with no character shift key. A Scientific American article (March 1886) about the Caligraph, presented the perceived advantage of the double keyboard by stating ‘Up to 1881, when the American Writing Machine Company introduced the Caligraph, double case writing machines were incomplete, being so constructed as to compel the operator to shift the carriage by a gratuitous stroke for capital letters and figures. The Caligraph prints each character in both capitals and small letters at a single finger stroke.’ Many other double keyboard typewriters would follow.

Even in its relative infancy, the typewriter had already given rise to new applications and spinoffs. In 1884 W.G. Chaffee, “Proprietor of Chaffee’s Phonographic Institute. Phonography, Caligraph and Type-Writing thoroughly taught and pupils prepared to fill situations such as Court Reporters, Amanuenses, Private Secretaries, etc.” wrote to Crane:


We are educating young ladies and gentlemen as Stenographers and Machine operators and furnishing businessmen such help. Do you not need a stenographer? Miss Bissell, one of our pupils, would like a position with you. She is bright and quick to learn, can take dictation at 100 words per minute, and transcribe the same on the Caligraph (which he sells for $80) and when not engaged in correspondence will be willing to do other office work. If you cannot employ a lady we can furnish you with a gentleman.

And speaking of stenographers, Crane received a query in July of 1884 from M.L. York, Stenographer, U.S. Commissioner and Examiner in Chancery (with business card attached):

In my line of business as a stenographer, I frequently have occasion to get up handsome pieces of work in type-writing: and being somewhat fastidious about the appearance of it, I have often failed to obtain paper to my fancy. I have lately seen one of your sample books; and it has pleased me so much that I venture to ask you to send me two copies of it. I desire two copies, that I may take one to pieces and test the different varieties of paper in my type-writer, and the other I wish to keep intact and mark upon its pages the result of my experiments.

York notes that he also serves as private secretary for “Mr. Bancroft, the historian.” He would have had to be a busy man. “Mr. Bancroft” was probably George Bancroft, author of the magisterial series:  History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent. For a further look at Bancroft’s contributions to the world, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bancroft

In 1892, a year after Bancroft’s death, York became the official stenographer for the State of New York. The Public Printer for the State of New York at the time was the firm of Charles Van Benthuysen & Sons. More on that later, but this would ensure that Mr. York would type on Crane papers for years to come.

When sorting through hundreds of pieces of correspondence, there’s always something that jumps out at you. In this case, it was the letterhead of the Remington Standard Typewriter. A bright red medallion surrounds a rendition of the Remington Machine, with the slogan: “To Save Time is to Lengthen Life”

Founded in 1816 in Ilion, N.Y., Remington began as a manufacturer of rifle barrels, later complete firearms and ammunition. (More about that later).

In 1867 Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Lewis invented their own typewriter model, which allowed substantially faster typing, eclipsing the speed of handwriting. The patent was sold to the firm of Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (who had recently diversified into the sewing machine business) to manufacture and commercialize the typewriter.

Production began in March of 1873, introducing the QWERTY keyboard. The next model included upper and lower case letters via a shift key.

Correspondence from Remington’s New Haven and Washington offices sought samples and supplies, with W. H Brown, writing from Connecticut in 1885: “Owing to my connection with the Type-Writer, I have many calls for paper, both from customers and others; and I desire to make my writing paper business a specialty, for I think I can build up a good trade in my territory…”

An 1886 letter from D.C. asked: “Will you send to us four reams of paper the size and quality of sample, double sheet, four reams of same size and quality, single sheets, and two reams of cap. size single sheet, same quality. This is to supply an order that we have from one of the departments; we trust therefore, you will give us usual discounts….”.

A note on the bottom of the letter indicates that the folks at Crane would give a 20% discount.

The New York office seemed less interested in growing their business than paying less for paper. “We have your bill of the 17th inst. (July 1886) for 15 reams of onion-skin paper. We were very surprised to note the discount you allowed us, as our competitors tell us they get 25% from you, and we know of no reason why we should be discriminated against. If we are not able to secure as advantageous terms from you as other people in the same line of business, we will of course feel very little interest in the disposal of your goods.”

After some digging in their competitors’ business, the New York Remington folks learned that S.T. Smith – later to join Underwood –  was receiving a 25% discount. No word on how all that worked out.


Remington sold the typewriter business in 1886 to the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company, along with the rights to use the name. Through name changes and mergers the company “Remington Rand” was born – makers of the early “Univac” computers – and electric shavers. That division was purchased in 1979 by none other than Victor “I  was so impressed, I bought the company” Kiam.


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And How Will You Pay?

Items of barter and equivalents in British pounds.shillings.pence at the Liberty Paper Mill

One Barrel of Rum (33 pounds):                 19.16.0

One Barrel of Ginger (100 pounds):         18.15.0

Two dozen Almanacs:                                    1.10.0

25 Pounds of Chocolate:                               9.7.6

25 Pounds of Tobacco:                                   7.10.0

One Bolt of Russian Duck:                            31.0.0

Seven Bottles of Snuff:                                 4.14.6

One Loaf of Sugar:                                           3.15.0

One Bible:                                                           2.5.0

One Beaver Hat:                                               11.5.0

50 Lemons:                                                         0.12.0

14 Dozen Crown Soap:                                   26.5.0

One-half Cask of Raisins:                              3.15.0

12 Cases of Knives and Forks:                     15.0.0

One Pound of Tea:                                          1.7.6

Comb and Razor:                                              0.1.10

Shovel and Tongs:                                           0.13.0

One Stock Lock and Hinges:                         0.3.0

80 Bushels of Oats:                                          72.0.0

10 ½ Bushels of Salt:                                       283.10.0

23 ½ Yards of Linen:                                        29.7.6

450 Hoops:                                                          9.15.0

3,000 Nails:                                                         6.12.0

Two Pails:                                                            0.10.0

46 ½ Pounds of Feathers:                             24.8.9

Bed Cord:                                                            0.15.0

One Pair Truck Wheels:                                 4.2.6

One Ledger Book:                                            13.10.0

Three Pounds of Indigo:                              1.1.0

One Horse Collar:                                             0.13.6

29 Gallons of Molasses:                                 2.19.0

267 Pounds of Flax:                                         6.13.6

Two Ounces of Nutmeg:                                 0.3.0

Three Geese:                                                        0.6.0

One Cask of Madeira:                                    13.10.0

Six Bushels of Rye:                                          36.0.0

One Dozen Books: “Manual Exercise:”   4.10.0

One-quarter Cask Tenerife Wine:             45.0.0

One Gallon of Port Wine:                             0.4.6

Two Bushels of Corn:                                     3.0.0

60 Bottles of Snuff:                                         30.0.0

2,000 Bricks:                                                       480.0.0

Two Barrels of Flour:                                      5.7.0

5 ½ cords of Wood:                                         5.10.0

Silver Watch:                                                      4.10.0

Two Cases of Gin:                                            2.8.0

One Warming Pan:                                          0.13.7

16 Barrels of Apples:                                       4.16.0

Two Ounces of Onion Seed:                        0.0.9

One Cart Whip:                                                 0.0.9

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On July 9, 1771, Jeremiah Snow of Springfield arrived at the Liberty Mill complex with two casks of raisins and left with three pounds of indigo, 25 pounds of tea, a yard and a half of Russian duck, two reams of paper and 12 pounds of chocolate. This marked the first chocolate transaction in the mill ledger; it would be far from the last.

One can only surmise why Snow purchased such relatively random items. After all, he was a goldsmith and silversmith, and would become an important maker of swords for the colonial armies during the Revolutionary War. However, he was known to be a customer of Worcester merchant Stephen Salisbury, so one could imagine Snow being asked to pick up a few things since he was going to Boston anyway.

As we have noted, there wasn’t a lot of cash to be had in these early days of America, so barter of various goods such as chocolate was the norm. That was especially true in and around Boston, which played host to dozens of chocolate-makers and retailers.  Not only did chocolate and cocoa taste good, serving cocoa was seen as a patriotic protest against taxes on tea and other such intolerables instituted by the British. As with other industries at the time, the source of horsepower for chocolate-grinders was mostly limited to the fall of water. But some, literally, were powered by horses, allowing them to operate in the middle of Boston.

Prior to the ascendency of the Baker Chocolate Company of Dorchester (more on that in a moment) chocolate-making  was a sideline – in many instances being carried out in part of an existing slitting, fulling, four or paper mill. All that was required was a special set of grinding stones and a chocolate kettle.

Early chocolate-makers who were also customers of the Liberty Paper Mill included Caleb Davis, General Joseph Palmer and George Leonard (a Loyalist who had to leave town when things got hot for the British….) Davis paid for a supply of writing paper with 25 pounds of chocolate in the summer of 1771. Leonard paid for paper with more than 100 pounds of chocolate in 1771 and 1772; and Palmer paid for paper and other goods with almost 250 pounds of chocolate in 1773.

The history of chocolate-making in Milton in the mid- to late-1700s is a bit cloudy, and centers around a mysterious man named John Hannon.

The story goes – mostly – that Hannon, an out-of-work Irishman, approached James Boies, Edward Wentworth, and Henry Stone who owned a saw mill on the Neponset River in Milton. He was certain that if given space and horsepower, he could commence making chocolate almost immediately. Supposedly, James Baker – a store owner across the river in Dorchester – took an interest in Hannon’s idea and financed the refit of the mill.

From there, historians have differed about who made chocolate for whom, where it was made, who owned the business, who owned the mills.

The ledger from the Liberty Paper Mill adds even more uncertainty.

On Oct. 6, 1772, John Hannon purchased a ream of foolscap writing paper. Between then and September 1774, Hannon would buy more than 50 reams of paper, along with bed cord, indigo, blankets, horse collars and other sundries. Over that same time frame, he paid with more than 350 pounds of cocoa shells and chocolate.

Straightforward enough, but there appear to be some anomalies. In January 8, 1773, Vose, Lewis and Crane lent Hannon a chocolate kettle. On Jan. 30, they sold Hannon 2 two bags of cocoa and (the entry is sketchy) more than 150 pounds of chocolate. The kettle was returned in August, at which time Hannon also ground up 200 pounds of chocolate for the mill.

The last Hannon entry is in early 1774, when he sold the mill 14 pounds of chocolate.

  • So, why was Hannon buying so much paper?
  • Where was he making his chocolate?
  • Why did the Liberty Paper Mill own a chocolate kettle and why did John Hannon need one?
  • Where was Hannon grinding cocoa and making chocolate?
  • Why did the mill sell chocolate to Hannon?
  • Where did the Liberty Mill get the chocolate to sell to Hannon?
  • What happened to Hannon between September of 1774 and 1779 when he set sail for the West Indies and was never heard from again?
  • From late 1774 until 1781, no chocolate is listed in the ledger as being bought or sold at the Liberty Paper Mill. The trade in chocolate resumed then through 1790 and ends once again. What happened during those seven years?

What is most likely at play here is the nature of business ownership in the mid-18th century. From our perch in the 21st century we like to have such matters crisp and clean. But such was not the case back then. Buildings could be owned by one person; the water privilege owned by another; the business operating on the property by another; sales and distribution by another still. We know there were at least nine ledger books, and assorted day books and shop books associated with the mill on the Neponset, so it is easy to imagine that a good deal of the comings and goings during its time have been lost to history.

There are several written accounts that say James Baker rented part of the Liberty Mill in the late 1780s, but corroborating records don’t exist. Remember James Boies, one of the original mill owners sought out by Hannon? He was the brother-in-law of Liberty Mill partner Daniel Vose. He was also son-in-law of Jeremiah Smith, who sold his share of the mill to Vose in 1769.

So much history; so many coincidences; so few records.

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Staring Into the Eye of the Tiger

March 5, 1776, was not a good day for British General Richard Howe.

He awoke, on this anniversary of the Boston Massacre, to stare up at 60 or so of his own cannons -brought from Fort Ticonderoga by Henry Knox, loaded with Crane powder wrapped in Crane paper -pointed directly at him from Dorchester Heights.

It certainly must have been a great day for General George Washington. One can envision him looking down at his defenseless enemy with a wry smile of satisfaction. On the 26th of February, he wrote to the Massachusetts colonial government, apprising them of his intentions:

“I am preparing to take post on Dorchester Heights, to try if the enemy will be so kind as to come out to us.”

“I should think, if anything will induce them to hazard an engagement, it will be our attempting to fortify these heights, as on that event’s taking place, we shall be able to command a great part of the town, and almost the whole harbor, and to make them rather disagreeable than otherwise.”

General Howe is reported as saying: “The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.” Writing to Lord Dartmouth back in England, Howe noted: “It must have been the employment of at least 12,000 men.”

With no alternative, a messenger under white flag delivered a plea from the Boston Selectmen to allow the British to withdraw without harassment, as this would result in the destruction of the town. No formal pact was agreed to, but the British made preparations for its soldiers and resident Loyalists to pack up what they could – which wasn’t much – and on the 17th of March, all set sail for Halifax.Actually it only took about 2,000 and among them were at least eight Crane men, according to Revolutionary War records.

The War for Independence, which had just been formally joined, would now leave Massachusetts for points south.

But Colonial soldiers would carry a little bit of home with them the next seven years – gun powder wrapped in paper from the Liberty Paper Mill. The mill’s ledger book shows purchases of hundreds of reams of cartridge paper  – the last at the end of 1782.
(In another ironic twist of history, the monument which now stands atop Dorchester Heights was completed in 1902. In 1900, the cornerstone was laid by Massachusetts Gov. Winthrop Murray Crane, great-grandson of Stephen Crane.)

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Crane Powder and Crane Paper Help Arm The American Revolution

“My friend, the child Independence is about to be born; be liberal and give him an easy delivery.”

Thomas Crane, Massachusetts colonial powder master, who would go door-to-door soliciting money, clothes and supplies for the families of local soldiers.

As Massachusetts powder master, Thomas Crane of Stoughton (Canton) was in the middle of things. We noted earlier that he had to scramble and conspire to put musket and cannon ammunition in the hands of the militia defending Breed’s Hill. It was after that famous battle that the commanding General George Washington began building a wartime infrastructure, with the full assistance of the Massachusetts colonial government.

One of their early decisions, while in session in Watertown, would create a nexus of powder and paper that would allow the war for independence to proceed with well-armed forces – a decision that would cement the importance of the Liberty Paper Mill to the American revolution.

In late 1775, the Continental Congress, as well as the Massachusetts House of Representatives, began discussions about building powder mills in Andover and Stoughton.

In January, 1776, perhaps spurred by the assurance from Col. Henry Knox that he would arrive shortly in Cambridge with the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga, the Massachusetts House of Representatives resolved:

Whereas, this Court on the 5th day of January current, passed a Resolve empowering Mr. Putnam, Mr. Crane, and Mr. Vose, to purchase the remains of a Powder-Mill at Stoughton, and land and privileges convenient to improve the same….. and they hereby are fully authorized and empowered to purchase or hire, as they shall judge meet, the Land and advantageous Stream at Stoughton, where they have, or shall agree to erect a Powder-Mill for such a term of years, and for such yearly rent as they shall, think proper, and that they, in behalf of this Colony, take a deed or lease of the same, as they shall agree to purchase or hire.

We are not sure who Mr. Putnam is, but we do know that Mr. Crane is Thomas Crane, and Mr. Vose is Daniel Vose, a partner with Stephen Crane in the Liberty Paper Mill.


Our old friend Paul Revere appears in this story as well. The Massachusetts House and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia directed Revere to travel to Pennsylvania to learn the mysteries of gunpowder manufacturing from Oswald Eve, who owned and operated the only significant powder mill in the colonies at the time.

Philada. Novr. 21st 1775 I am requested by some Honorable Members of the Congress to recommend the bearer hereof Mr. Paul Revere to you. He is just arrived from New England where it is discovered they can manufacture a good deal of Salt Petre in Consequence of which they desire to Erect a Powder Mill & Mr. Revere has been pitched upon to gain instruction & Knowledge in this branch. A Powder Mill in New England cannot in the least degree affect your Manufacture nor be of any disadvantage to you. Therefore these Gentn & myself hope You will Chearfully & from Public Spirited Motives give Mr. Revere such information as will inable him to Conduct the bussiness on his return home. I shall be glad of any opportunity to approve myself.

Sir Your very Obed Servt. Robt Morris
Evidently, Mr. Eve was indeed protective of his monopoly. He complied with the request for a tour, but gave Revere no information about how powder is made. But Revere, already an accomplished mechanic, chemist and metallurgist was able to demystify the process sufficiently to assist Crane and Vose in setting up and begin operating the mill.

Construction began in February of 1776, and was in full operation by May. Coincidentally, it was in February of 1776 that Ezekiel Cheever, Commissary of Military Stores in the Continental Army, and Richard Devens, Massachusetts Commissary General, began purchasing large amounts of cartridge paper from the Liberty Paper Mill.

Accounts of the time tell us that there was never enough specially-made cartridge paper so Cheever, Devens and others purchased thousands of pounds of less-expensive “whited brown” writing paper, likely for cannon cartridges.

The powder mill was built on the Neponset River, a ways upstream of the Liberty Paper Mill. It successfully supplied the Continental Army until October 30, 1779, when it was “blown to atoms,” as powder mills were known to do.

In 1801, as Zenas Crane was setting up his paper mill in Dalton, Revere, now 65, returned to the powder mill location and created what would become the famous Revere Copper Works.

His superintendent? Thomas Crane.

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Conserving (and making) Precious Ammunition

On June 17, 1775, as British regulars were marching up Breed’s Hill outside of Boston, a command reached the Massachusetts riflemen from Gen. Israel Putnam and Col. William Prescott: “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” to encourage soldiers to make each shot as effective as possible. This might have seemed an odd command, since most of the militia were fresh off the farm and could pick off a squirrel at 100 yards and have it dressed for supper before it hit the ground.

The problem was ammunition; actually the lack thereof. To date, the armed rebellion had taken no real course toward organized warfare. As a result, supply chains had many weak links, including those for powder and cartridge paper. It wasn’t until after the Battle of Bunker Hill that a formal system of commissaries and ordnance stores were created to support activities of a standing army.

The man in charge of procuring gun powder was Thomas Crane of Stoughton. He had the unenviable task of rounding up powder from several small operations all over New England. The man in charge of making the paper was Stephen Crane at The Liberty Paper Mill. He had made relatively small amounts of what is described as cartridge paper in the mill’s ledger, but that would change soon.

Together, though acting separately, Stephen Crane and Thomas Crane were able to deliver powder and paper to a father and son team who risked their lives making cartridges for the militia.

As early as 1773, William Burbeck was purchasing cartridge paper from the Liberty Paper Mill. Burbeck, like Henry Knox, was a self-taught expert; in this case the science of pyrotechnics. He created the fireworks used to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, and was the former owner of the Green Dragon Tavern, where the Loyal Nine and Sons of Liberty regularly met. In 1769, he was appointed to serve as an artillery expert at Castle Island in Boston Harbor. In a very odd twist, in 1770, when the British took possession of the island, Burbeck stayed on as the ordnance storekeeper.

Sometime before August of 1773, Burbeck had become sufficiently restless and uneasy under the new regime, and slipped out of Castle Island to Boston,  where he continued his original occupation – that of a carver – and began making and selling cartridges for the militia. In 1774 he received an appointment through his friend Dr. Joseph Warren to superintend the “laboratory” to prepare the artillery belonging to the Colony for the expected conflict.

On April 21, two days after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Burbeck managed to escape Boston. He described part of the experience in a deposition a year later:

These may Cartify all whome it may Concarn, that on the 21 Day of Aprl. 1775 two Days after ye Battle of Lexington; I saw Mr. Williams of Noddles Island in Boston & that after some Conoversation with him setting forth my Concern how I should git out of town, Expecting every minute that I should be sent for; to go Down to that Castle – he told me that he would Carry me over to Noddles Island if I would Resque it that he would Do the same for ye good of his Country; And am Sure that if we had been taken Crossing of water must have been confind. to this Day, or otherway more severly punished. that I owe my Escape intirely to Mr. Williams as all other Communication to ye Country was stopd. And that the Very next morning after; A party of men & Boat was sent after me And Serchd. my house & Shop to find me – that after we got to ye Isand Mr. Williams ordered one of his men to Carry me over to Chelsea by which means I am now in Cambridge.

While William was in Cambridge, his son Edward remained in British-occupied Boston undertaking the most dangerous task of making ammunition for the Colonial Militia.


The following is an excerpt from a letter written in 1892 by his 81-year-old grandson, George Henry Cook to Eward Carleton Burbeck:  “. . .he continued the business of carver after his father went to Castle Island as a gunner; that he with his family were living in Boston at the time of the Battle of Bunker Hill; that while Boston was in possession of British forces under Gen. Howe, he made cartridges for his father, who was manufacturing ammunition for Washington’s army. This he did in the night with his blinds closed, so as not to be observed by the British, and secretly managed by the milkmen, and others, to convey them to his father. But the eagle-eyed watch of the British sentries got an inkling of what he was doing, and his friends spirited him away with wife and children over the Charles River in the night, by which he escaped arrest.”

Editor’s Note:

We will see much more of powder and paper, Cranes and Burbecks, as the new Colonial Army begins to mature.

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Witness to The Boston Massacre

In October of 1768, in response to growing unrest in Boston following imposition of the Townshend Acts, a fleet of British men-of-war with two regiments on board were moored in Boston harbor. The troops were landed and marched to the Boston Common, where they were soon reinforced by two regiments from Ireland. This was an obvious attempt by the British government to – in today’s parlance – “shock and awe” the people of Boston and of all New England.

They were not well-received, with conflicts breaking out regularly. It took two years for the kettle to reach temperature, and on a cold winter day in March, it boiled over.

Long afterwards John Adams wrote of the event: “On that night the foundation of American Independence was laid.  Not the battle of Lexington or Bunker Hill, not the surrender of Burgoyne or Cornwallis were more important events in American history than the battle of King street on the 5th of March, 1770. The death of four or five persons, the most obscure and inconsiderable that could have been found upon the continent, has never yet been forgiven by any part of America.”

Daniel  Webster, speaking of the event, remarked : “There were good men trying to prevent a riot, and some assured the soldiers that they would not be hurt. Among others, Henry Knox, subsequently the general, was present, who saw nothing to justify the use of firearms, and with others remonstrated against the use of them; but Captain Preston, as he was talking with Knox, saw his men pressing the people- with their bayonets, when in great agitation he rushed in among them.”

Paul Revere's famous engraving of the Boston Massacre.

Henry Knox at the time was a 19-year-old apprentice at a book store in Boston. He would open his own store a year later, and purchased a good deal of paper from the Liberty Paper Mill through the end of 1774. History tells us that Knox devoured books about military tactics, especially about the use of artillery. In 1769, he joined a local artillery company called The Train.

Much more about Henry Knox later on. For now we have his first-hand account of what became known as The Boston Massacre from “The Trial of the Soldiers,” by Frederic Kidder, 1870.

 I, Henry Knox, of lawful age, testify and say, that between nine and ten o’clock, p.m., the fifth instant, I saw the sentry at the Custom-house charging his musket, and a number of young persons crossing from Royal Exchange to Quaker Lane; seeing him load, stopped and asked him what he meant ? and told others the sentry was going to fire. They then huzzaed and gathered round him at about ten feet distant. I then advancing, went up to him, and the sentry snapped his piece upon them, Knox told him if he fired he died. The sentry answered he did not care, or words to that purpose, damning them and saying, if they touched him, he would fire. The boys told him to fire and be damned.

Immediately on this I returned to the rest of the people and endeavored to keep every boy from going up, but finding it ineffectual, went off through the crowd and saw a detachment of about eight or nine men and a corporal, headed by Capt. Preston. I took Capt. Preston by the coat and told him for God’s sake to take his men back again, for if they fired his life must answer for the consequence; he replied he was sensible of it, or knew what he was about, or words to that purpose; and seemed in great haste and much agitated.

 While I was talking with Capt. Preston, the soldiers of his detachment had attacked the people with their bayonets. There was not the least provocation given to Capt. Preston or his party, the backs of the people being towards them when they were attacked. During the time of the attack I frequently heard the words, “Damn your blood,” and such like expressions.

 When Capt. Preston saw his party engaged he directly left me and went into the crowd, and I departed : the deponent further says that there was not present in King street above seventy or eighty people at the extent, according to his opinion.”

From "Architect of the Capitol," a fresco mural by Constantino Brumidi adorns a room at the U.S. Capitol. Crispus Attucks is shown engaging British soldiers in the center.

Two more Liberty Paper Mill customers were involved in separate incidents with British soldiers just prior to the massacre. These altercations certainly must have contributed to the actions that followed.

“Robert Pierpont, (local merchant) of lawful age, testifies and says, that going to see a sick neighbor between the hours of seven and eight on Monday evening, the fifth current, two soldiers armed, one with a broad sword, the other with a club, passed him near the hay market, going towards the Town-house, seeming in great haste. In a few minutes they returned and hollowed very loud, “Colonel.” Before the deponent reached Mr. West’s house, where he was going, they passed him again, jo’ined by another, with a blue surtout, who had a bayonet, with which he gave the deponent a back-handed stroke, apparently more to affront than hurt him.

On complaint of this treatment, he said, the deponent should hear more of it, and threatened him very hard, and further saith not.” (In addition to being an eyewitness to the massacre, Pierpont was the city’s coroner and conducted the autopsy of Crispus Attucks, one of five killed that day.

Francis Archibald Jr. was another witness, walking along with Liberty Mill customer, printer John Hicks:

“About ten minutes after nine, I saw a soldier, and a mean looking fellow with him with a cutlass in his hand; they came up to me; somebody said, “Put up your cutlass, it is not right to carry it at this time of night.”

He said “Damn you, ye Yankee boogars, what’s your business?” He came up to another that was with me and struck him. We beat him back, when seven or eight soldiers came out of the barracks, with tongs and other weapons; one aimed a blow at a young fellow, John Hicks, who knocked the soldier down. As he attempted to rise, I struck him down again, and broke his wrist, as I heard afterwards.

I went to King Street, and when the guns were all fired, I saw several persons dead.”

Boston's Old State House. The Boston Massacre took place just steps from the building. It is fitting that the Declaration of Independence was first read in Boston from this balcony by Liberty Paper Mill customer Thomas Crafts.

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Crane Through the Eyes of Nat White

During the 1940s, artist Nat White, whose work can be found in dozens of advertising campaigns in the middle of the 20th century, created a series of advertising illustrations for Crane. The set to follow was used to accompany stories about Crane’s early history. He followed with several more series, which I’ll put up soon. Enjoy the art of Nat White.

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Bob Weber–Crane Cartoons

Bob Weber intro

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Revere and Devens 86 Years Later

I wrote earlier about Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, noting that Liberty Paper Mill customer Richard Devens was waiting in Charlestown for Revere to arrive by boat over the Charles River.

In one of those strange twists of fate and history, this scene would repeat itself in an eerily similar fashion more than 85 years later near Leesburg, Virginia, in a battle that became known as Ball’s Bluff.

Instead of the Charles River in Massachusetts, Colonel Charles Devens (great-grandson of Commissary General Richard Devens) was waiting on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. It was October 20, 1861. Brigadier General Charles P. Stone had ordered Devens and his 15th Massachusetts Infantry to attack a Confederate camp at daylight. Two companies of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry would also cross the river to protect Devens’ return. (The 20th Massachusetts was nicknamed The Harvard Regiment; all its members were graduates.)

Late that night, Devens’ five companies, along with Colonel William R. Lee’s two companies of the 20th Massachusetts, began crossing the Potomac from Harrison’s Island to Ball’s Bluff. Five companies of the 15th Massachusetts, and Major Paul Joseph Revere (grandson of Paul Revere), and five companies of the 20th, remained on the Maryland shore as support

Early the next day, Lee sent a note to Revere that Devens has been engaged in a skirmish and that “we are determined to fight.” Revere began crossing his five companies of the 20th with two mountain howitzers from the island to the bluff.

There were just enough boats for Revere to get the 20th Massachusetts and the howitzers to the battle. But when things went badly, there weren’t enough boats nor enough time to get all back to safety. Devens, injured in the battle, was able to swim to safety. Revere and Lee, both wounded, were not so lucky. They were captured and spent several months in a Confederate prison camp.


Devens distinguished himself throughout the war. His troops were the first to occupy Richmond after its fall in April of 1865.

He was named a judge of the Massachusetts superior court, from 1867 to 1873, and was an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1873 to 1877, and again from 1881 to 1891. From 1877 to 1881, he was Attorney General in the Cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Fort Devens in central Massachusetts, which opened in 1917, was named in his honor.


After Revere’s prisoner exchange, he participated in the campaign on the James River, and at Antietam was on General Sumner’s staff. There he was complimented for his gallantry, having received a severe wound. Upon his recovery he was promoted as Colonel of the 20th Regiment.

He was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, defending a pivotal position during Pickett’s Charge.

An unusual monument—a puddingstone boulder—was erected in memory of Revere and the 43 other men of his company who died at the Battle of Gettysburg. The 30-ton colossus, dedicated in 1886, was imported by train from Roxbury, Mass., where many of the soldiers grew up. Now, it can be visited on Hancock Avenue, near the immortalized “copse of trees” and the Confederate High Water Mark.


Dr. Edward Hutchinson Robbins Revere, a brother, enlisted as an assistant surgeon in the 20th. While his brother was proving his gallantry at Antietam, Dr. Revere was killed by an exploding shell while caring for a wounded soldier.

First cousin, Joseph Warren Revere, also served in the Civil War, rising to the rank of Brigadier General. But his conduct at the Battle of Chancellorsville caused him to be court-martialed. President Lincoln overturned the court’s ruling, but accepted his resignation.

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