Lee Burridge (1861-1915)
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.
Among his toys were a walking man and a crawling doll - true marvels of his ingenuity (pic 2). 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 (pic 6); 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, a patent drawing of which can be seen in pic 4, was never produced.
In between Toys, Index machines and Keyboard machines Lee found time to create a stapler which he patented in 1897. It is not known if this was ever manufactured, but a cut of the stapler is shown in pic 3.
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
(pic 5). 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.
Sun keyboard machines were fairly successful and quite a few were made. One source says they were made up until the early 20's. (For the machines, check the Collection pages.)
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. His brother Frank received $82,500. Fern Hines, not related, got $7,000. And other smaller amounts were given to various causes.
Burridge never married, but did manage to leave behind at least three small Suns, the index model and the two keyboard models.
(This article includes original research done by Ray Thomas for the Typex newsletter -Aug. 1998)