Godfrey, B. D.
Autograph Letter Signed, Milford, Vermont December 21, 1851 to Inventor Benjamin Livermore, Hartland, Vermont

quarto, three pages, formerly folded, postage stamp and markings on integral address leaf, hole in second leaf affecting a portion of text, else in very good clean condition. The letter includes a small sketch of Livermore’s proposed workshop in Milford.

$ 250.00 | Contact Us >

This letter discusses Livermore’s “Pocket Printing Machine” a precursor of the typewriter, and another of Livermore’s inventions - an instrument for lasting boots:

“Friend Livermore,

               … I wrote you last under date Oct 30th acknowledging the receipt of $ 12 = from Mr. Frost and informing you that I had answered his order in sending him 12 Shank Lasters directed to Woodstock Depot. I also sent at the same time 12 pr to Andrew Clements Clairmont and 12 to H D Osgood Lowell  Mas but have heard nothing from them since. If you can collect the money from Osgood & Clements please do so. The Shank Lasters are beginning to sell very well Mitchell of Boston has had 30 of them and Armstrong 18. Rockwood is pushing a head his and is finding sale for some by putting down the price to $ 1 = to journeymen.

            I was happy to see Mr. English in so good spirits, and also in seeing so perfect a specimen of his Tooth Instrument, a small piece of which I send you enclosed. Mrs. Fisk’s little daughter found it in the doorway the next morning after Mr. English was there.

            In reply to your new invention of writing & printing I cannot see why it will not prove a very useful & valuable discovery and as soon as you can get things in readiness I will go immediately on to Washington and I also think you by all means had better accompany me. We could make a call as we went on at the Blind Asylum in Philada and submit the printing machine as I presume we could do so without any detriment to a patent on it.

            As regards the Steam Engines Mr. English has engaged to make they must be drove a head with all possible dispatch for I have got things even now almost in readiness for Mr. English and his family and all hands to come to Milford, but as you have commenced upon the Engine I suppose it might be best to build them there.

            I have just the place I think for our works, viz a small farm of 26 or 7 acres with 4 good tenements on it and a barn and other outbuildings. It is situated on the south Milford road ½ mile from the Parrish meeting house and at the terminus of the new road made directly south of our RR Depot. It is a very pleasant place and all the buildings are good and can be adapted to our work. I will give, or try to give you a drawing of the buildings and wish you to advise with Mr. English and write me by return mail the dimension I had better fit up a work shop from a large shed, running East from the house to the barn …”


       Benjamin Livermore was born in Hartland, Vermont August 6, 1818 and died April 4, 1871. Livermore and his family including his father-in-law Eli English (1789-1852), of Norwich, Vermont, and his brother-in-law, Eli’s son, Nathan Frederick English (1822-1902) were inventors. Mr. English is referenced in the above letter.

       Nathan Frederick English, known as Frederick or Fred, was a machinist, model maker, and inventor. Frederick English went into the shoe machinery business in 1847 or 1848 with his brother-in-law, Benjamin Livermore. They rented a loft in Milford, Massachusetts, and pioneered the introduction of shoe machinery. Around 1850 illness forced English to return to Hartland where he made machinery with his partner Lysander Billings. English experimented with daguerreotypes and in 1862 made a portable “ambertype” machine. In his last years he made microscopes and telescopes in his Hartland shop.


        Benjamin Livermore, son of Joseph Livermore, was born in Hartland, Vermont, on August 6, 1818. He died April 4, 1871. His sister, Emily (b. Nov. 22, 1825) married Nathan Frederick English.

       The letter above discusses two of Livermore’s inventions, the mention of one in particular, “the machine for writing & printing” is of interest. It refers to “Livermore’s Permutation Typograph”, or “Pocket Printing Machine”, years before any extant documentary evidence. A small pamphlet or 16 pages describing the machine was printed in 1857, at Windsor, Vermont, by the Vermont Chronicle Office. It was not patented until 1863. The device is considered to be an early precursor of the typewriter.

List of Inventions by the English-Livermore Family

       Nathan F. English: Hatchet, 1858; Photographic apparatus, 1862; Photographic printing frame, 1865

       Nathan F. English and Benjamin Livermore:  Boot lasting machine, 1847

       Nathan F. English and G. Rowland:  Wire thread for sewing leather, 1871

       Benjamin Livermore: Boot crimp, 1849; Cement drain, 1860; Instrument for lasting boots, 1852; Printing device for hand, 1863