Vibroplex Patent Wars: The Rise of the Albright bugs

I do not know why but I have a love or interest in patent violation bugs, mostly referred Albright bugs or clone bugs. I present to you an article about the Albright bugs written by myself.

Chapter 1: Introduction to 1914 Vibroplex-Mecograph Co.

 Left:Dunduplex Transmitter Bug, Credit: Bill Holly                                                                                     

Right: 1911 J.E.Albright Shop Advertisement, Credit: Bill Holly

By 1914, the sole selling agent of the Vibroplex-Mecograph Company was James Eugene Albright. He had a good business in selling typewriters and the Dunduplex bug in 253 Broadway Street in New York City. As the fame of the Vibroplex bugs or speed keys rose, clones of the Vibroplex bug started to rise up in the market. Although there is no existing physical advertisement of these clone bugs, it was probably told through telegrapher through telegrapher that the clone bugs were cheaper but to have the same qualities of the genuine Vibroplex bug. The webmaster of telegraph-office, Mr Neal McEwen states that there were ads in the magazines and journals.

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 1914 Vibroplex No.4 Blue Racer bug, Credit: Ebay

Chapter 2: ATOZ Electric Novelty Company

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Up-Max Levey, Owner of ATOZ Electric Novelty Company- Credit: Paul Carreiro, N6EV

Down- Maroon Base ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Bug-Credit: Claudio Ruggieri, IZ0KRC

The flag patent violator of the patent wars was the ATOZ Electric Novelty Company of Chicago which was ran by Max Levey. The ATOZ Electric Novelty Company manufactured around 10,000 bugs. They have three models but their single lever was the main seller (Vibroplex original Clone), double levers and one model X was made. For more information on Max Levey, check out this cool history about Max Levey researched and written by Paul, N6EV. Click Here to go!

Most historians and people do not state this but the ATOZ Electric Novelty Company had two types of nameplates. The first nameplate were engraved this: (XXXX is a 4 digit serial number)

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THE SINGLE LEVER

TRANSMITTER

MADE BY ATOZ ELEC. NOV. CO

No XXXX CHICAGO

Type 2:

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   The Improved Vibroplex

              Made by

THE ATOZ ELEC. NOVELTY. CO.

No. XXXX              Chicago

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Rare ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Type 1 Nameplate Bug, Credit-Ebay

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ATOZ Electric Novelty Company Double Lever Bug with Albright License- Credit: Robert Sauvan, W0YBS

Chapter 3: Other ‘Bastard’ bug producers

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V.D.Liggitt Model X Clone Bug, Credit-Neal McEwen (One known to exist)

There were other minor companies which copied Vibroplex bugs, some even imitated the real Vibroplex tag and stuck it on their bug. Few minor company clones survive to this day, the V.D.Liggitt, Texas (ATOZ re-named bugs), O.M.Thomas Electric Company (only two known in existence), Mt Auburn Electric Speciality Co. (none known in existence), Oscilloplex by ATOZ ELEC. NOVELTY CO. (Double Lever bugs that avoided patent violation made by the ATOZ Electric Novelty Co) and AE Electric Co, Chicago. (two known in existence, Similar to ATOZ).

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Clone Bug with Counterfeit Vibroplex tag, Credit:Ebay

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Improved Vibroplex by ATOZ Electric Novelty Co. Credit: Bill Holly, Vibroplex Book

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Author’s Non-Tagged Clone Bug, Circa 1914 (Presumed O.M.Thomas or Late ATOZ)

Chapter 4: Albright takes action

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Author’s early A&E Electric Company Bug with Albright License

Well, Albright took action. He said that the owner of these bastard bugs (clone bug’s name until WWI) were to pay a $2.00 license fee to J.E.Albright to legalise the use of the bastard bug. Many Vibroplex Clones or most often the ATOZ bugs are found with an Albright License. Some are known to have their original nameplates. By that time there were around 10,000 clone bugs in operation in telegraph offices, so Albright issued a warning ad to the Western Union and to their telegraphers that it would be illegal to use a bastard bug if it did not have a license by Albright.

Fun Fact: Some collectors and operators of the past say some of them felt much better than the ‘real’ Martin Vibroplex.

There are two types of Albright license plates. {This field of Albright nameplates were researched by Thomas M French, W1IMQ (SK)}

The Type 2 license is very rare to come by and usually an Albright license with a Special No. or W.U.T.Co No. under 1000 will have a Type 2. Collector, Tim Patton’s Dinger Key carries a Type 2 Albright license with a number under 1000, around the 990s.

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Type 2 Albright License on a Dinger Bug, Credits: Tim Patton

Type 1:

This machine is NOT guaranteed NOR made

but only licensed by

J. E. ALBRIGHT

253 Broadway, New York

Special No. 1234

Type 2:

This machine is licensed

but NOT guaranteed NOR manufactured by

J. E. ALBRIGHT

253 Broadway, New York

No. 123

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Improved Vibroplex Bug by ATOZ Electric Novelty Co with Albright License, Credit: Bill Holly

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Rare Specimen: Dinger Telegraph Bug with Albright License, Credit: Tim Patton

Chapter 5: Albright License no longer needed

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Lytle Triplex, Straight Key/Left-Handed bug/Right-Handed Bug, C.1922

During the First World War, inspectors from the Albright Company were asked by the War Department to inspect and approve semi-automatic keys purchased by the Signal Corps for military use, to ensure efficient operating on their circuits.

When the exclusive manufacturing rights were relaxed in the early twenties, there was no longer a need for the so called, ‘Albright License’ since by then many manufacturers were producing semi-automatic keys quite regularly.

Following extract is from the ‘The Story of the Key’ Volume. I, Morse Magnificat. Written by historian, Louise Ramsey Moreau, W3WRE

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