LEE BURRIDGE (1861-1915)
INVENTOR, THE SUN TYPEWRITER CO., NEW YORK
The On Public Service cover has the red 1d Tasmania pictorial of Mount Wellington stamp cancelled by a HOBART/ S/ AU 20/ 1902/ TASMANIA cancel. It is addressed to The Manager, New Sun Typewriter Co., 239 Broadway, New York (Figure 1).
The first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, and was marketed by the Remington Arms Company in 1873. Lee Burridge was an inventive genius and manufacturer, but still maybe the least known of typewriter inventors. He was born in Paris, France on September 22, 1861, the son of Levi Spear, a noted dentist, and Emma Frances (Ogden) Burridge. After completing his education at Tunbridge Wells, England, Lee came to New York City in 1878. He quickly directed his attention to making mechanical toys and in 1890 established the Sun Manufacturing Co. to exploit these tin novelties. He patented his Sun Index typewriter seen in the third of his models ca. 1888 (Figure 2).
Among his toys were a walking man and a crawling doll - true marvels of his ingenuity. In 1883 the American Institute granted him award of merit. Lee personally pioneered many of the features that he incorporated into his various models. He obtained over 60 patents and it is reported that he constructed nearly 700 different models.
Burridge directed much of his efforts at simplifying the parts and movements of the typewriter, a technological novelty in those days. Some of his innovations over the years were: a new inking system combining a small self-supplying ink roll with a type-bar; a counter-balance type bar, permitting a very slight and delicate touch to the keys; a visible machine; a special type-bar machine operating 78 characters with only 10 keys. This odd contraption, was never produced.
Lee and his brother Frank incorporated the company in 1901. Also a close associate/mechanical engineer named Charles W. Howell was brought on board. Mr. Howell was a technical advisor who assisted in perfecting Burridge's inventions. At around this same time the Sun keyboard machine was born. Its major claim to fame was the ink reservoir, which was activated each time a key would contact it on its way to the paper. Like its predecessor, this machine would be made in several different models, notably the Model 2, 3 and 4. An advertisement for The Sun Typewriter No. 2 in Scribners Magazine 1903 No. 11, Charles Scribner editor, and a photo of the actual machine are seen in Figures 3 & 4.
Sun keyboard machines were fairly successful and quite a few were made. One source says they were made up until the early 20's. Burridge never married, but did manage to leave behind at least three small Suns, the index model and the two keyboard models. Lee Burridge died at age 54 in New York City on May 4, 1915. At the time of his passing his estate was appraised at $91,000. A photo of Lee Burridge is seen in Figure 5.
This article includes original research done by Ray Thomas for the Typex newsletter - August 1998.