Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An unusual nib: Foster's patent of 1889

This nib appears to be a typical Aikin Lambert product, but when turned over a surprise awaits.

Instead of the usual roughening at the front, it has been impressed with a waffle-like pattern -- and a patent date of September 3, 1889, which allows us to identify it with US patent 410272, issued to John T. Foster of Arlington, New Jersey. The most relevant passages in the patent description follow:
The sixth step of my process consists in striking the nib portion of the blank by a punch, a single blow being ordinarily sufficient, the punch being formed with a roughened or engraved face to impart a rough or indented or matted surface to the pen . . .

The surface of the nib is roughened, not merely by superficial scratches, as in the stoning process, which in course of time are worn off by rubbing of the pen against a sponge or pen-wiper to clean it, but by indentations deeply and forcibly pressed into the metal, whereby a better capillary surface is afforded for holding the ink.

Foster's other patents have nothing to do with writing instruments, and it appears his interest in nib manufacture came out of an involvement with general metalworking. I have not seen any other nibs made to Foster's design, so it would seem that despite the patent's claim, this stippling offered no measurable benefits -- and one wonders if it might even have interfered with capillary action along the slit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Waterman's model renumbering: pinning down the date

In 1917, Waterman made a number of changes in its model numbering system. Several different models had previously shared the same number, differentiated by letter suffixes. Afterwards, the tens place was used to denote model type, with suffixes used much less extensively.

A year or two back I tried to narrow down exactly when this change took place. I looked at all the ads I could find, and concluded that it must have been between late February and late August. Now that we've found more online sources for the stationery trade, I revisited the question. The range can now be trimmed to between late April and late August, though with some caveats.

A prime source was The American Stationer. The Waterman ads that appear on the covers of the February 24, March 10, and April 21 editions all present a range of pens under the older numbering system. The cover ad on August 27 uses the new system. The ads in between don't provide model numbers at all -- which may not be accidental. The same pattern holds for other trade journals in which Waterman advertised regularly. The first ads I could find that used the new system appeared in Geyer's Stationer on August 16, 1917, p. 3, and in the Jewelers' Circular on August 22, 1917, p. 108.

Unexpectedly, however, there is another ad in Geyer's on September 6, p. 69, where the old numbering system pops up one more time. This, and the four months of ads without model numbers, got me thinking. If one were to make a numbering change of this sort, how would it be done? Advertising the new numbers right away would cause confusion, since there would be many pens with the old numbers still in the system. Continuing to advertise the old numbers after production of the new numbers had started would pose similar problems. Extrapolating from this, I suspect that Waterman deliberately planned on three or four months' transition, figuring that this would be enough time for dealers to turn over most of their stock, but without worrying too much if some older stock remained. Notices about the change were surely sent out to dealers, with equivalents of old and new clearly laid out, though I do not recall ever seeing an example (this must also have been discussed in the Pen Prophet, if anyone has copies from 1917). If this is correct, the actual date when the Waterman factory began imprinting pens with the new numbers was probably late April or early May of 1917.


Yes, that's a 62 on the end of that barrel. One of my last purchases at the Los Angeles pen show this past weekend: a crisp and glossy, price-banded and new-in-the-box Waterman 62. What's a 62? It's the post-1917 number for what was the 12SF lever-filler. That is to say, a slip-cap lever filler. This one has its cap, but I've left it off to show off the barrel in all its oddness.

Waterman slip-cap lever-fillers are rarely seen, with those numbered 6X so elusive that I could not remember having seen one before this. How could I turn it down? The price band, interestingly enough, is for a 12. You'd think that if they would make the pen, they would also print up the correct price bands. But dealers were also issued gummed bands, so it may be that the pen was banded or re-banded by a retailer, perhaps after a nib change (the nib is unusual, a nice stub). The seller -- an old friend -- told me the pen came from a Chicago show auction. This must have been some time ago, however, surely at least 20 years back.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Frank D. Waterman's recollections of Waterman's early years

In my recent efforts to fill in the many missing pieces of Lewis Edson Waterman's biography, I've had to take a much closer look at Waterman's family than anyone has done to date. There's still a lot I have to publish, but right now I wanted to share a rather significant source that has been sitting in plain sight since 1942.

That source is Donald Lines Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman's The Waterman Family: Descendants of Robert Waterman of Marshfield, Massachusetts, from the Seventh Generation to Date, published in three volumes in 1939, 1942, and 1954. I managed to find a copy online through FamilySearch; the second volume, the most useful for our purposes, can be directly downloaded here. If you've done any poking around through online genealogy sites, all the information you'll find on L. E. Waterman and his branch of the Waterman family comes from Jacobus and Waterman, whether directly or indirectly. These volumes were carefully researched and compiled, with a significant contribution from Frank Dan Waterman, L. E. Waterman's nephew and designated successor. Nephew and uncle alike put great store by their ancestry, as is apparent from the subject-dictated biographies published during L. E. Waterman's lifetime, and by Frank D. Waterman's own family genealogical chart, published by him in 1928. According to Jacobus and Waterman, most of Frank D. Waterman's research data didn't make its way into the chart, but was left to them after his death in 1938 -- along with other material contributed during his lifetime (vol. 1, p. 5).

Jacobus and Waterman does fill in a few gaps prior to 1883. Notably, it confirms that L. E. Waterman did divorce his first wife, and specifies that, rather than selling books directly, he was "soliciting subscriptions for books and papers published by Fowler & Wells, New York City" (vol. 2, p. 46). It also lists L. E. Waterman's younger brother Daniel B. Waterman, who was mustered into service as a wagoner in the infantry on August 22, 1862 and was killed in Mississippi the following June -- but who is never mentioned in biographies of his non-serving brother. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the autobiographical material contributed by Frank D. Waterman, and especially these passages (pp. 49-50):
Frank had received a letter from his uncle, L. E. Waterman, apprising the young man that many years previously this brother of his father had borrowed, and had not yet repaid, two hundred dollars from the latter, for which sum no note had been given nor record made. In consideration of this fact his uncle induced Frank to come east and enter the fountain pen business. Frank knew something about the pens, for he had already sold some now and then to his acquaintances. He found the business in a very primitive stage of development. It was connected in the rear of a cigar store. There was no factory. The gold pens were purchased at one place, the holders ordered from another. Frank and his uncle sold the assembled pens to individual customers by office to office canvass . . .
The critical point in this company's infancy came when Bulwinkle, owner of a stationery store near City Hall, Brooklyn, ordered a fountain pen for a customer. A family conference decided the future policy of the company as to wholesale orders. The obtain the concession of a wholesale price the dealer had to buy a minimum quantity of six pens. Bulwinkle, their first wholesale customer, continued to buy Waterman pens until his building was torn down, several years ago.
John M. Bulwinkle was a well-known stationer, whose shop was at 413 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Back from the Los Angeles show, so now time for some discussion and commentary. As noted by those who have gone back to check the full passage, Frank D. Waterman's account simply doesn't add up. He gives an extended account of all his employment triumphs prior to joining his uncle in the pen business, noting a bit prior to the midpoint that he was then sixteen. But Frank D. Waterman was sixteen in 1885, so he most certainly could not have arrived in New York while the pen business was still at the cigar store, nor indeed before it got its first wholesale orders. I will try to check other records to get a closer idea of when Frank D. Waterman really did arrive in New York; his motives for placing himself at the origins of the business are fairly obvious, leaving open the question of how accurate other elements of the account might be.

ADDENDUM: According to Frank D. Waterman's memorial biography, he was invited to join his uncle in the pen business in 1888, and was thereafter given the "entire West" as his sales territory, for which he was based in Chicago.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Julius Schnell and the Master Pen

Julius Schnell is best known for his Penselpen combo of the late 1920s, but a couple of the Penselpen's patented features -- the slide-action filler and the feed -- are also found in a pen from the 'teens: the Master, by the Bankers Pen Company of New York City. The company catalog shown above is a recent acquisition, datable to 1916 by its listing of a Webster's dictionary of that date as the latest and fresh off the press.

It has long been known that Schnell manufactured parts for Bankers (see my 2001 article here), yet it was not clear if the Schnell-patented features of the Master were indicative of some closer relationship. The catalog page above leaves no doubt that Schnell sold the rights to his slide-filler outright, for a hefty $20,000. Indeed, Schnell does not appear as an officer or partner in the Bankers Pen Company in any of the sources I have consulted to date (Trow's Copartnership Directory, 1914, 1915, 1919; Directory of Directors, 1915; etc).

The patent date of June 29, 1915 appears in the imprint of the Master Special shown here; I have not seen a Master with a "PATENT PENDING" imprint, suggesting that Bankers only bought the patent (US 1144436) after it had been issued.

Another interesting statement on the same page is the claim that not a dollar had been spent on advertising by the company, "other than our circular matter" -- which helps explain why previous researchers found so little to work with. And on the facing page, where the Banker coin-filler is featured (a blog entry on an example with Schnell's 1904 patent feed is here), we find the claim that the coin-filler was "Invented by the founder of our Company and copied since, in style and appearance (but not in quality) by nearly every pen manufacturer in America", with credit given to it as being the source of the company's "remarkable growth and success." Unfortunately, the identity of the company's founder is not given, and has not been easy to track down. By all appearances, the coin-filler was never patented; according to Schnell's testimony in 1914-15, he was providing the hard rubber parts for coin-fillers to both Bankers and Salz from around 1911, and had made a prototype coin-filler for Crocker as early as 1905.

Bankers Pen may not have done any periodical advertising for its first several years, but I was able to find a few ads postdating this catalog. A Christmas ad ran in The American Contractor (vol. 37, Nov 4, 1916, p. 9, and again on Dec 2), and a few years later a big ad by the McClure Book Co. appeared in McClure's Magazine (vol. 52, May 1920, p. 74) which featured just the Master and Master Special, with the headline, "WE INVESTED $100,000 IN THE BANKERS' PEN CO.'S BUSINESS, IN ORDER TO SECURE THE MAIL ORDER RIGHTS OF THIS TRULY REMARKABLE PEN."

This would appear to be corroborated by a notice in The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer (vol. 47, Dec 15, 1917, p. 870): "The Bankers Pen Company has changed its name to the Bankers Pen & Office Supply Company and the capital has been increased from $25,000 to $100,000", but confusingly there are also subsequent records of a capital reduction in January 1919, going back once again to $25,000 (Geyer's Stationer, Jan 9, 1919, p. 16; Annual Report of the Comptroller (NY), p. 469). Even more confusingly, there is a 1918 report of incorporation in Delaware: "The Bankers' Pen and Office Supply Company, of Dover, Del., have been incorporated with a capital of $250,000. They will manufacture pens and all kinds of office supplies" (American Stationer, vol. 84, Sep 14, 1918, p. 13). And then there is the notice from 1920 of a merger of "The McClure Book Co., and Bankers' Pen Co., Manhattan, with Paine's Mail Order House" (New York Times, Jan 9, 1920, p. 28, col. 2).

If the later history of Bankers Pen is muddled, its origins are equally unclear. Schnell may have been a bit off when he testified that he was supplying parts to Bankers from around 1911, as the company does not appear in the 1912 Trow's Copartnership and Corporation Directory (published each March), though it is listed in the 1914 edition. In the March 13, 1915 American Stationer (p. 11), Bankers is mentioned as "a recent incorporation", but this tells us little about how much earlier it may have been in business as an unincorporated partnership or sole proprietorship. If any readers have any further information to share, it would be welcome.

Lewis Edson Waterman's long strange trip

While most references have Lewis Edson Waterman selling insurance right up to the time he entered the fountain pen business, it has long been understood that Waterman's work history was neither simple nor straightforward. Much of the rather patchy evidence available has been nicely laid out in George Rimakis and Daniel Kirchheimer's article, "Blotting Out the Truth", but there is still more to be added.

Digging into the life stories of 19th-century American penmakers, it is striking how many pursued an astonishingly varied assortment of careers, sometimes moving great distances from job to job. In some cases I initially assumed that it could not possibly be all one person, rather than three or four individuals who happened to share the same name. Waterman followed a similarly complex odyssey, including multiple periods where his various vocations overlapped.

There are few records of Waterman prior to the Civil War. He appears as a twelve-year old in the 1850 census*, living in his stepfather's household in Westford, New York. He cannot be found in the 1860 census, however, nor can I find any documentary record of his early work teaching stenography -- though the birth of his daughter Lou Ella in Virginia on Sept 4, 1860 (per D. Jacobus and E. F. Waterman, The Waterman Family, vol. 2, 1942, p. 46) is consistent with biographical accounts from Waterman's lifetime (e.g. here and here) that state that he had taught Pitman shorthand at the University of Virginia. His absence from the census may be due to a move during its five-month run. A number of early biographical sketches recount that Waterman was selling books, but mentions of what sort are few and have not been fully noted. The books were those of Fowler & Wells, promoting phrenology, health faddism, and the like. By all indications, Waterman was a sincere believer, and remained so to the end of his life.

It is an open question how the young Waterman (23 at the outbreak of hostilities) managed to avoid military service during the Civil War. Instead, he began to sell life insurance. The early biographies date the beginning of this new career to 1862, a date consistent with the records I have been able to find. These include tax records from Battle Creek, Michigan*, where in September 1862 Waterman paid $1 in tax on a horse, buggy, and harness worth $120, and from Ann Arbor*, where in May 1863, listed as "Insurance Agent", he paid $10 for a business license. Another such payment is recorded in April 1864*, with Waterman now living in Grand Rapids. Waterman's income tax liability for 1863 is recorded here* and here*, on income of $165. The birth of Waterman's daughter Fay Elma in Michigan on March 9, 1862 (per Jacobus and Waterman) is another data point for his residence in that state. What brought him to Michigan in the first place is unknown.

It seems Waterman was still also teaching shorthand during this period, for he is surely the Waterman described in this rather typo-filled entry in The Standard-Phonographic Visitor, May 1864, p.66 (with a related entry on p. 62):
S. E. WATERMAN, Grand Rapids, Michigan, having compared the Standard Phonographic series with the Pitman books, which he first studied, has like all other Pitman phonographers dispasionate enough to look well to their own interests, declared in favor of Standard Phonography, and ordered a good supply of Standard Phonographic books for the class which he is now teaching. He will be an execellent phonographic writer as soon as he learns Standard Phonography in its fullness [sic].
Before 1864 was out, however, Waterman had left for Boston. In the 1865 Boston Almanac (no. 30, p. 23) he is listed at 27 State as general agent of the Aetna Life Insurance Company. The same information appears in following years: the 1865 Report of the Insurance Commissioners of Massachusetts; the 1867 Boston Almanac*; and the 1868 Boston Directory. In the last, however, there is also a new address listed -- 93 Washington -- and Waterman is now in partnership with a D. Chester as Aetna's general agents for the state. The entry in the 1869 edition* is much the same, with the added note that Waterman's house was in Newton (assessor's lists corroborate that he was living in Newton between 1867* and 1869*). The 1870 edition* puts him back in Boston, living at 616 Tremont, but thereafter Waterman disappears from the Boston-area directories for a few years. [UPDATE: unclaimed letter notices in the Cambridge Chronicle on March 3, 10, and 17, 1866 suggest that the Watermans had moved to Newton by then]

This dovetails with the biographies' statement that Waterman's health gave out in 1870 under the stress of having worked so hard to build up Aetna's insurance business, and that he thereafter spent some years as a traveling agent with a "roving commission" -- though there is reason to believe that some of the stress was domestic, rather than professional. The actual breaking point may have been in the autumn of 1869, as the partnership of Waterman & Chester is listed every month in The Insurance Times' Agents' Directory up through August, then disappears from September onward (vol. 2, 1869, pp. 4, 80, 164, 248, 324, 396, 468, 536; pp. 608, 680, 752, 824). Rimakis and Kirchheimer note that Waterman was back at the Boston Aetna office by the mid-1870s (he reappears in the Boston Almanac and Business Directory for 1875, copyrighted 1874, p. 294; again in the issues for 1876* and 1877; and then not again), but Waterman's life definitely took some interesting turns around 1870.

Studiously unmentioned in any of his biographies, Waterman left his wife and children. He moved to New York City, and attended lectures at the American Institute of Phrenology. The Institute's publications repeatedly list him as a graduate of the class of 1870 (The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, vol. 80, Mar 1885, p. 277, for example, though Waterman in a 1900 letter to the Institute would modestly downplay the extent of his phrenological studies and expertise). Not long after, he makes his first appearance in Trow's New York City Directory, vol. 85, for the year ending May 1, 1872 (compiled and copyrighted, however, the year previous), p. 1201: "Waterman Lewis E. health lift, 214 B'way". This was a business address, as home addresses were preceded by an "h". "Health lift" may be obscure today, but at the time was a popular form of weight training based upon partial deadlifts done with a machine.

The machine Waterman was promoting would have been the Reactionary Lifter, illustrated above and sold by the Health Lift Company of New York City, which published a most informative book about their system in 1876. One of the three addresses listed in that book for "Principal Agencies and Exercise Rooms" in New York City was 178 Broadway, which is also where we find Waterman listed as "manager" in the 1874 edition of Trow's (vol. 87, compiled and copyrighted 1873, p. 1359*). Further confirmation of Waterman's employment by the Health Lift Company comes from the record of his (second) marriage on October 3, 1872*, where he is recorded as a resident of New York City, occupation "Supt of Health Lift Co."

Waterman's name disappears from Trow's after the 1874 edition, right around the time he reappears in Boston at Aetna's office. Perhaps he found it easier to sell insurance than weightlifting machines. Perhaps his new wife was not so keen on New York City life, and liked staying near her New England family and friends. As noted above, Waterman reappears in the Boston directories for the years 1875 through 1877. He is also listed in Massachusetts' Annual Reports of the Insurance Commissioner as one of Aetna's Boston sub-agents for life insurance for 1874, 1875, and 1876 (pp. 207, 140, 180), and as a Boston sub-agent for Northwestern National of Milwaukee for 1876 and 1877 (pp. 183, 161).

By 1877, however, Waterman was again on the move, popping up as one of two licensed Aetna agents for Saco, Maine in the state's 1877 Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner, p. 85. The next few years are a bit of a blank; he was on the road again at the time of the 1880 census*, which found him on June 14 in Elmwood, Peoria, Illinois. His occupation was there listed as "Publisher", with his wife listed as "Traveling". What Waterman might have been publishing in 1880 is unclear. Perhaps he was working for Fowler & Wells once again, though something railroad-related is also possible given that his tenure as corresponding editor of National Car Builder (January 1881 to August 1882, per Rimakis and Kirchheimer) began only a few months later. [UPDATE: per Waterman's testimony in Wirt's lawsuit against Lapham & Bogart of 1887-88, he was working for the Railroad Gazette before the Car Builder, working for the two a total of four or five years, which neatly fills the gap between 1877 and 1882]

A number of early sources state that Waterman moved to Brooklyn in 1880. He is listed as a Brooklyn resident in his first patent application of 1883. Yet even when Waterman was supposedly settling down, he is hard to locate. He does not appear in the Trow's New York City Directory until the 1884-1885 edition (listed as "agent" at 304 Broadway -- at the time of compilation, he might not have been quite ready to put all his eggs in the fountain pen basket). In Lain's Brooklyn City Directory, there is a listing for a Lewis P. Waterman, clerk, living at 152 South 1st, that pops up in the 1882 edition* but not in those of 1880*, 1881*, 1883*, or 1884. From the 1885 edition on, however, he appears every year, his occupation consistently listed as "pens" or "penmfr." -- though his name is rather variously rendered: "Louis", "Lewis E.", "L. E.", "Louis E. W.", and "Lewis E.", between 1885 and 1889. His address in the 1885 directory is 471 Tompkins Ave, but he was successful enough by 1886 to move to the house at 265 Macon where he would live the rest of his life.

I have little to add here to the story of Waterman's involvement with Frank Holland, and his entry into the fountain pen business in that fateful year, 1883. And when it comes to noting how Waterman's various professional pursuits overlapped, Rimakis and Kirchheimer are not remiss in pointing out how Waterman's expertise in shorthand allowed him to speak with authority about the writer's tools of the trade, and how logical it was that some of the earliest Waterman pen advertisements are found in shorthand periodicals. Yet some of the early ads also reflect another, less obvious, convergence, for many of them are found in the publications of Fowler & Wells.

The ad shown above, for example, occupied the inside back cover of Fowler & Wells' 1884 printing of William Andrus Alcot's screed Tea and Coffee: Their Physical, Intellectual and Moral Effects on the Human System ("Tea and coffee, it is now believed, not only stimulate, but produce dyspepsia, nervous prostration, disturbance of the heart, sudden death in many cases, and not the slightest good in any case.") Note that the pen is being offered directly by Fowler & Wells, at their main Broadway address. The cross-marketing went both ways: a year's subscription to the Phrenological Journal is included with the purchase of a pen, and pens are sent out as premiums for those who sell three or more subscriptions to the Journal. Another mention of Waterman pens as sales premiums can be found in the Phrenological Journal, vol. 80, Jan 1885, p. 18, along with "Kidder's Electro-Magnetic Machine" and, intriguingly, a "Home Exerciser".

It took the success of his pen business for Lewis Edson Waterman to finally stay put. Not everyone who knew him, though, expected pens to prove all-absorbing. As a fellow phrenologist wrote in 1893 (What is Phrenology? no. 25, Jan 1893, p. 43):
L. E. Waterman, of ‘70, has made himself famous by the making of the Waterman Ideal Pen. He made an address at the Alumni dinner, and he is one of the officers of the Association. We are proud of his pen, and hope that he will make enough money to retire and give himself up to Phrenological work.
Waterman did not retire, but he did maintain his involvement with phrenology. An adulatory biographical profile, "Mr. Lewis Edson Waterman: A Phrenograph from a Personal Examination", was published several years later in the Phrenological Journal and Science of Health (vol. 107, Jun 1899, pp. 171-77). It is predictably full of pseudoscientific nonsense, expatiating upon the admirable qualities that could be read in the contours of Waterman's skull, but it also contains some bits of personal history that appear to have come directly from the subject of the interview, including the statement that "he has been sixteen years in the fountain pen business". Waterman pens were still being offered as premiums for sellers of subscriptions later that same year, and in September 1900 Waterman sent a letter to the American Institute of Phrenology stating:
If you think it would be any encouragement to your class to know that I have found my limited knowledge of Phrenology, which I gathered principally from attending a course of your lectures, has been of great practical service to me in reading the character of those with whom I have come in contact during my business career, you may tell them so. I have found it well worth the cost of time, effort, and money which I gave to it.
After Waterman died the following spring, the Phrenological Journal published a long and effusive obituary under the heading, "THE LATE LEWIS E. WATERMAN, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHRENOLOGY." (vol. 111, Jun 1901, pp. 199-200). The following excepts are of particular interest:
As a believer in Phrenology, he has done much to convince others of its usefulness, and, consequently, his influence has spread among hundreds of families with whom he was intimately connected through business, if not through other ties . . .

He was at one time connected with the Fowler & Wells Company, and was universally respected among his large number of work-people connected with the Waterman Company and the Waterman Condensing Company. He was an ideal man, in that he perfected everything he touched, and his great desire seemed to be to instil the principles of an earnest life into the character of those with whom he came in touch . . .

At his suggestion we have made a large number of phrenological examinations among those in whom he was particularly interested.
The reference to the Waterman Condensing Company brings us to the last of Waterman's ventures, begun well after fountain pens had made him wealthy. An early mention is found in The Medical Times (vol. 28, May 1900, p. 146):
The Waterman Condensing Co., of 157 Broadway, has located its plant in the heart of the best vineyard districts of California, and the product, to which has been given the name of “Uvada Grape Extract,” is becoming exceedingly popular wherever introduced.
Other sources and advertisements refer to the product as "Grape Food", emphasizing its value as a tonic -- "an invaluable food for invalids and convalescents" (Contemporary American Biography, vol. III, 1902, p. 205). And of course, Waterman personally shared the news of his new elixir with his fellow phrenologists (The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health, Apr 1901, p. 140).

The Waterman Condensing Company did not long outlive its founder. Manufacture began in the summer of 1900 (Sunset, vol. 5, no. 2, Jun 1900, p. 93), with ads for the fruit extracts appearing in various periodicals from the end of 1900 into 1901. The company was paying tax to New York State in 1903, but disappears from Trow's Copartnership and Corporation Directory between the 1902 and 1906 editions.

When I first learned of the Waterman Condensing Company many years ago, I presumed it was a case of a serial tinkerer coming up with something that took him in an unexpected direction -- a reasonable conclusion to draw about the Waterman of the later biographies, the inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Now that we have a better understanding of the real Lewis Edson Waterman, this final venture appears in a quite different light. Waterman was less an inventor (his only patents of significance were for his original 1883 feeds) than a man on the move, ready to seize opportunities that came his way. The Waterman Condensing Company, with its "non-alcoholic, predigested fruit food of great force-giving power for those who THINK", was not a new departure so much as a return to its founder's roots. Had Waterman lived longer, he might well have gone on to pursue similar enterprises -- or even retired to "give himself up to Phrenological work". His heirs and successors, however, had different ideas, for his businesses and his legacy alike.


Phrenology wasn't Waterman's only idiosyncratic interest. In 1897 he joined the Society for Psychical Research (one of five new associates of the American Branch listed in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 8, Jan 1898, p. 165), a membership which he maintained to the end of his life (see Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vols. 13-15, 1897-1901).

Waterman and his first wife were converted to Spiritualism in the late 1860s. The story is recounted in great detail in Benjamin Coleman, “The Twin Sisters: An Instructive Narrative”, The Spiritual Magazine, vol. 4, Sep 1869, pp. 401-404. Their daughter Rose, born in 1865, had a imaginary playmate who turned out to be her twin sister -- Sarah, called Lily -- who had died at birth. Waterman's wife Sarah Ann turned out to have psychic powers and was recognized by Spiritualist authorities as a medium (another mention of her as a medium appears in The Spiritual Pilgrim: A Biography of James M. Peebles, 1872, p. 58). The famous "spirit artists" Wella and Pet Anderson drew a portrait of Lily whose whereabouts I have not been able to determine. A contemporary reproduction can be seen here alongside a photograph of the four-year-old Rose. The twins must have had some celebrity, as their parents sold these photographs in various formats to devoted Spiritualists (25 cents each plus a three cent stamps).

The images above are © Bright Bytes Studio, and are shown with their kind permission. Visit their site here for related examples of Spiritualist portraits from their collection.
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