After Horace Martin introduced his new Vibroplex key, it took off in popularity, which enticed other companies to begin producing their own copies of the Vibroplex.
Martin had a sole selling agent in NY named JE Albright who owned a shop that sold typewriters and telegraph instruments. Albright saw how others were copying Horace Martin's design and decided to do something about it.
Albright prosecuted the makers of these Vibroplex copies and thought about going after the individual owners of these keys, but instead he forced the key owners to pay a $2 licensing fee to use their knock-off key. After the fee was paid, Albright removed the nameplate from the knock-off key and replaced it with an Albright label stating that the instrument was properly licensed. These Albright labeled keys can sometimes be found by lucky collectors. Even more scarce are the copy keys that have their original maker nameplate.
Although several different brands of instruments can be found with the Albright nameplate, probably the most common is The Improved Vibroplex, made by A to Z Electric Novelty Company in Chicago (ATOZ). It makes sense that Albright would go after this company vigorously since they used the actual Vibroplex name. It is much more common to find an ATOZ key with an Albright label than one with the original ATOZ label.
(Click on the pictures below to see larger versions of the photo)
ATOZ Novelty Co. Key with Albright Label
This is an ATOZ bug in which the nameplate has been replaced with the Albright license label.
Red ATOZ key With Original Label
Here is a good example of an ATOZ key that still has its original nameplate.
Two ATOZ Bugs
|A Green ATOZ with original nameplate and a red ATOZ with Albright nameplate.|
The Improved Vibroplex by A&E Co. Chicago
|Another "Improved Vibroplex", this one made by A&E Co, Chicago. This key also has a JE Albright label so was probably made around 1911-1912. (From the Gil Schlehman, K4WDY, collection).|
"The Vibroplex" by VD Liggett
A shameless Vibroplex copy made by VD Liggett of Tyler Texas. (K5RW collection)
ATOZ Double Lever Bug
It wasn't just the Vibroplex Original that was copied. ATOZ also made a copy of the Vibroplex Double Lever bug.
Another ATOZ double-lever key. Perhaps they thought they could get away with making them by not using the Vibroplex name.