Benjamin Livermore, Inventor

Hartland News, Vermont Journal, Windsor, Vermont June 3, 1905

“The following was taken from the Woodstock Standard:”

Benjamin Livermore

A little pamphlet of sixteen pages; issued by Benjamin Livermore of Hartland and printed at the Vermont Chronicle office, Windsor in 1857, in possession of Henry Harding shows Mr. Livermore to have been a pioneer in the invention of the typewriter.

It’s object was to introduce “Livermore’s Permutation Typograph” or “Pocket Printing Machine” which had just been invented. “It contains a cut of the little machine, which in size is about four inches long,
two and a quarter inches wide and one inch thick. It has six keys placed in one end. Within are the moveable parts, operated by the keys, and the type, ink and paper.

A strip of paper twenty feet long may be put in and printed over without further attention. The twenty six letters of the alphabet, punctuation marks and the numerals are all formed by the operation of the six keys. The pamphlet contains many testimonials from distinguished people. President Lord of Dartmouth College, Alonzo Jackson, M.A. Norwich University; Honorable Edmund Burke, late commissioner of patents; William Lloyd Garrison and many others.

Among many press notices is the following from the Spirit of the Age, Woodstock: “We have examined the little printing apparatus invented by Mr. Livermore of Hartland, and certainly it is one of the new things under the sun, that Solomon never dreamed of. It is a very ingenious article, and no doubt would under a thousand circumstances be useful as well as convenient…

Mrs. A. A. Sturtevant of this village remembers distinctly seeing Mr. Livermore exhibit this writing machine at the Woodstock Fair, and it was so small that he worked it with the fingers of the hand with which he held it. The letters were script.

From Howland Atwood: “Ernest and Analdo English told me that their uncle, Benjamin Livermore once lived on the Max Crosby place (Mrs. Lyle Horton’s) (farm on right when traveling west on Rt. 12, just before entering Hartland Four Corners. Where the Morgan horses are . C.Y.M.) in the original Judge Elihu Luce house.

Byron P. Ruggles built the present house in the 1880’s. Afterwards he took down the old Luce house which had stood in back of his new house. Benjamin Livermore died April 4, 1871 AE 52 yrs. Almira E., wife of B.L. Livermore, died Aug 22, 1846 AE 24. They are buried in the cemetery on the Plain. They had no children.

From Livermore family papers by Eunice Lyman, “The machine was worked by six keys placed at one end of the box and pressed down after the manner of piano keys. He would print with it in the dark. He usually carried it in his pocket and could print it there, placing his hand in such a position that his fingers rested on the keys. After taking down the conversation of those he met, he placed it under his pillow at night to catch any stray thoughts, as he termed it. He took out letters of patent in England and America in 1863. It never was in public use as he died before it was introduced to the public.”

The Livermore’s were very early settlers in Hartland. William who was born in 1752 in Leicester, Mass. died in 1806 in Hartland. All except his first child were born in Hartland, starting with Phebe in 1775. Benjamin’s father, Joseph was born in 1789. He settled on a farm on what is now Rt 5 No. of Hartland village. There Benjamin was born in 1818.

The typograph (which, by the way , can be seen in a case not far from the door by which one enters the main hall of the Patent Office in Washington) was not his only invention. He was part of a family of very busy inventors. His sister, Emily married into the English family.
They all lived very close to each other and in some cases shared inventions.

Benjamin was also responsible for inventing the machine by which cement pipes could be formed. Not surprising, cement water pipes didn’t do as well in Vermont as they did in Rome. I would have expected him to figure that out ahead of time. We have some sections of these cement pipes here at the Historical Society.

Other inventions that Benjamin can take credit for are a boot crimp in 1849 and an instrument for lasting boots in 1852. He had many outstanding ancestors. Maybe that’s why there are seven towns in the U.S. named Livermore.

Reprinted from the Hartland Historical Society Newsletter

The Vermont Historical Society has a collection called the
English-Livermore collection consisting of the miscellaneous papers of Eli English (1789-1852), of Norwich, Vermont, Eli’s son, Nathan Frederick English (1822-1902), and Eli’s son-in-law, Benjamin Livermore (1829-1871), both of Hartland, Vermont. (BHH)

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