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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
William K. Jenne

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 602-604 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Identified with the Remington Typewriter Company of Ilion for a period covering fifty-seven years, William K. Jenne was the central figure in the history of the mechanical development of the machine and was in personal charge of its manufacture for more than three decades. He was in the eighty-first year of his age when he departed this life at his home in Ilion, on the 18th of January, 1918, his birth having occurred in Lenox, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1837. His parents were Siloam and Amelia P. (Root) Jenne, the former a son of Thomas and Betsy (Hunter) Jenne. Thomas Jenne, the paternal grandfather of William K. Jenne, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on the 11th of January, 1773, and passed away in Lenox, that state, on January 9, 1861. He carried on general agricultural pursuits and also manifested considerable mechanical skill and ingenuity, inventing part of a cotton gin. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Betsy Hunter and was born on September 13, 1777, was called to her final rest on the 13th of January, 1854. Their son, Siloam Jenne, was born in Grantham, New Hampshire, on July 26, 1809, and in early manhood taught school for a time, for he had received excellent educational advantages. A millwright by trade, he was an expert mechanic and became an inventor of some repute in his day, originating an envelope machine which proved of much practical value. He wedded Amelia P. Root, who was born on the 5th of October, 1806, in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she passed away on January 12, 1892. The death of Siloam Jenne occurred in Lenox, Massachusetts, on March 1, 1882.

William K. Jenne acquired his education as a public school pupil of his native city. He became an apprentice machinist in Lee, Massachusetts, at an early age and soon displayed marked efficiency along mechanical lines. He was a young man of about twenty-two when he was married in New Lebanon, New York, on the 27th of February, 1859, and the following year, learning of the need of skilled mechanics and draftsmen at the Remington Works in Ilion, New York, he determined to leave Massachusetts. It was in 1861, when twenty-four years of age, that he made his way to Ilion and became associated with E. Remington & Sons, whose fame for making guns had spread to the four corners of the earth. Here Mr. Jenne was destined to spend the remaining years of his long, active and useful life. It was just at the outbreak of the conflict between the north and the south that he became connected with this firm, which was busy in filling important war contracts. In 1873 Mr. Jenne was made assistant superintendent of the sewing machine department, but after the arrival in Ilion of the Sholes and Glidden model he was identified exclusively with the typewriter department. As his ability won recognition he was promoted to the position of superintendent and subsequently became manager of the Typewriter Works. He had been in personal charge of the development and manufacture of the Remington typewriter for over thirty years when he retired from active service on the 1st of December, 1904, on account of failing health. At this time he was elected a member of the advisory board of the company and appointed resident director. The Sholes and Glidden model was first shown in Ilion on March 1, 1873, at the Osgood House, then known as Small's Hotel, and there were present at the meeting Philo Remington, Jefferson M. Clough, superintendent of the Remington Works, William K. Jenne, assistant superintendent, and Messrs. Densmore, Yost and Benedict. A tentative agreement was made which developed into a contract for manufacture only, but in due course of time the Remingtons acquired complete ownership. Though the machine was still a crude model in spite of the years of labor expended upon it, the manufacture thereof was the inception of a mammoth industry. Prominent among the inventive geniuses at the great Remington factory was William K. Jenne, to whom the mantle of Sholes had passed and who became the central figure in the history of the mechanical development of the typewriter. Among other of his improvements which greatly added to the commercial value of the machine was the shifting device which enables the machine to print both capitals and small letters.

When Mr. Jenne retired as manager and accepted the position of resident director and member of the advisory board of the firm of Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict on December 1, 1904, a complimentary dinner and loving cup were tendered him by the Remington board of directors at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York city on the night of Monday, November 28, 1904. The following is an excerpt from the speech of Manager McClain on this occasion:

"The laboratory of nature turns out no duplicates, and there will be no other Mr. Jenne; but there exists for his successor the opportunity to make for himself a name as great and a fame as great in some other way."

The citizens of Ilion also tendered Mr. Jenne a banquet at the New Osgood Hotel in Ilion on Tuesday evening, December 6, 1904, at which time they presented him with a handsome cut glass punch bowl with set of glasses and ladle. On both banquet occasions Mr. Jenne was the recipient of many testimonials of esteem and appreciation. He also received congratulatory cablegrams and telegrams from many parts of the world from the members of the Remington organizations. Samuel T. Russell was the toastmaster at the Ilion banquet. All the speakers were at their best and generously applauded, especially when they mentioned the evening guest of honor. The speeches reflected the warmth of affection felt for Mr. Jenne in Ilion, where he had wrought so successfully and accomplished so much for the prosperity of the village. The factory employes also paid tribute to Mr. Jenne and presented him with a valuable solid gold hunting case watch which was inscribed as follows: "W. K. Jenne. Presented by Foremen and Friends. 1872-1904. Remington Typewriter Works."

On the 27th of February, 1859, Mr. Jenne was united in marriage to Miss Mary McSherry, who was born in Liverpool, England, on November 27, 1834, and who passed away in Ilion on the 12th of August, 1902. They were the parents of four children, namely: Willis P., of Utica; Elmer E., of Ilion; George Densmore, deceased; and Evelyn Alice, deceased. Mr. Jenne gave his political support to the republican party and fraternally was identified with the Masons, belonging to Ilion Lodge No. 591, F. & A. M. He was likewise connected with the Commune Bonum Club of Ilion, while his religious faith was indicated by his membership in St. Augustine's Episcopal church of Ilion.

Elmer E. Jenne, who was formerly a member of the firm conducting the Sterling Knitting Mills of Ilion, is now connected with the engineering department of the Remington Typewriter Company of Ilion. On the 31st of December, 1889, in Big Flats, New York, he wedded Miss Anna M. Goff, a native of that place and a daughter of Francis M. and Mary A. (Rhinehart) Goff. Mr. and Mrs. Elmer E. Jenne are the parents of three children: Helen Anna, William K. and Francis M.

Helen Anna, whose natal day was November 9, 1890, was graduated from the Ilion high school as a member of the class of 1910, and also pursued courses of study in Folts' Mission Institute of Herkimer, New York, and in Miss Madeira's School of Washington, District of Columbia. On the 28th of June, 1919, she became the wife of Millard F. Eldred, of Utica, and they have a daughter, born January 1, 1921, and a son, born October 24, 1924.

William K. Jenne, who was born on the 8th of July, 1892, was graduated from St. John's Military School of Manlius, New York, in 1912, and three years later completed a course in the University of Pennsylvania. In September, 1917, in Toronto, Canada, he enlisted for service in the World war and became first lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. He was at the front with the British Expeditionary Forces until the signing of the armistice. Mr. Jenne is now associated with the Crescent Portland Cement Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Francis M. Jenne, who was born on October 1, 1897, was graduated from St. John's Military School of Manlius, New York, as a member of the class of 1918. He enlisted for military duty in the British Royal Air Force in Toronto, Canada, on the 15th of April, 1918, and was flight cadet at the time of the signing of the armistice. Subsequently he attended the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now occupies the position of final inspector with the Remington Cash Register Company.

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