.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Letterhead for Typewriter use

Don't you miss a more formal era? Oh sure, things like the computer I'm typing this on are handy, but really I'm using it to talk about "obsolete" typewriters! But there was something really neat, really cool, about typewritten materials, stuff "copied" by hand, by typewriter that is. Something that I fondly remember from my youth is when Dad would bring home papers from work, on fancy, official looking letterhead. Sometimes they were from other companies, sometimes from where he worked, but nothing made a letter look official or formal like letterhead did.

With the realization that we miss these things, or enjoy them, we seek to recapture them. With typewriters, it is still easy to do. And, with the help of our computers, we can have nice looking letterhead too. Yes, I am talking about using a computer to print out letterhead to then use in a typewriter.

For those who have PC's, Microsoft offers many free templates that you can download, which open in Word, which you can then modify to suit your likes. The photos accompanying this text are such a template, modified to suit our liking. Here is a link to the microsoft templates that you can use, just as we have here.

The above photo is of the letterhead style we liked the most for everyday use. This style isn't too formal, but formal enough that we feel it could be used for virtually any purpose. It's modern enough to not look outdated, but still conservative. Of course, you only need letterhead for the first page of a multi-page document, so you need only cook up one style, as subsequent pages use blank paper.

One of the fun things you might want to do related to this task is to whip out one of your typing books, if you have one, and revisit the various instructions for letter writing! How do you format a business letter on a typewriter? Or how do you format one that is informal, to a friend? What if your letterhead, like ours, does not contain an address? How do you add that? Find an old typing instruction book, and put it to use!

Another fun thing to consider is this: how does your font choice in your letterhead look when compared against your chosen type face? That is, do they look compatible, do they "go" together? We tested several machines, with different type faces, in both pica and elite, and settled on one in particular as looking the best for going with the letterhead font style we chose. We can't really quantify this, but since it is an aesthetic thing, we don't have to! But at least one of the type faces that I really like, on a machine I really like, just did not go at all with this letterhead. Somehow it looked wrong. So, what kind of font/type face combination will you come up with? Could you then customize the same letterhead style with a couple different fonts to purposely match a couple different machines? Sure! Or, could you intentionally design a letterhead with a particular machine/type face in mind? Of course! There's lots you can do with a project like this. And then, the next time you want to use the good 'ol fashiones U.S. Mail, you can whip out a nice fresh sheet of your new (old fashioned) letterhead, put it into your favorite typewriter, and really send something unique.

Friday, February 4, 2011

the Cherryland

We take a break from our ongoing installments in the "ABC in Detail" series to cover some breaking news from the other side of the world.. Australia!

Chris Ronayne has reported to us today the discovery (and thankfully the purchase) of a heretofore unknown name variant typewriter.

This machine carries the label "Cherryland," and was purchased from an antique store very recently in Morpeth, New South Wales, Australia. Chris reports that although the owner of the shop noted that the machine was of good quality, and was worth around $70 AU, he was able to purchase it for $60 AU. We like that! Let's take a look at it now.

At left, the Cherryland. This picture blows up larger than usual for this site, since it's a one of a kind label. This machine's serial number is 401670. Quickly notable are the machine's distinctive green hue and green keytops; note also the gull wing ribbon spool covers, or doors and the markings on the margin release key at the top left of the keyboard. These are all the hallmarks of the very earliest NIPPO machines, from Japan .. and in fact we can very nearly match this new find with a known machine, already on the net, that most of you will probably know.

This is the Del Mar, from my collection. This machine is serial number 400455 which is only about 1200 units earlier than Chris' newly found Cherryland machine. This coupled with the fact that the new discovery is in Australia nails the heritage of the new find.

There is something inherently pleasing to the eye about these early machines - in fact, this shape is almost deliberately totally contradicted in every way by the very ultra-modern design of later Nippo machines. The body shape on these early Nippos is very like the shape of the last variant of Halberg Traveler, on which these are based, and the early Royal portables derived from the Halberg after Royal bought out and integrated that operation into its own and began distributing the machines made to that design all over the world -- a very early case of typewriter outsourcing, as it is now called here!

The earliest of these Nippo machines are always all-green, with green keytops. There is some rough indication by way of illustrations found in instruction manuals that there might have been a gray color used as well, but none are yet known.

Above, a page from the instructions found with the "Graduate," which we'll see in a moment. Note all the distinctive early Nippo features and the typical zipper carry case. No other style of case is known for these machines -- yet!

At left, the Graduate. Also from my collection, with serial number 602777. This machine is still all green, with the green keytops but has a more conventional double arrow marking on the margin release key. Also still has the typical gull-wing doors.

The second phase of production in this body is found in smooth-surfaced, glossy and very attractive enamel paint. The Japanese were very adept at manufacturing very fine looking machines for home use - they'd learned this with their sewing machines. The painted surface on these later units is very like that of many sewing machines in my collection. However, the machines themselves remained unchanged.

This machine, also from my collection, carries the name ATLAS and is serial number 709985. This machine actually has something in common with the Cherryland - it was discovered in Australia! This was the very first typewriter I ever bought on an overseas auction, quite a number of years back. It was the first early style Nippo identified, and was our first hint that there was someone in Japan other than Brother, Nakajima and Silver-Reed making manual portable typewriters. Note the white keytops and overall smooth paint.. but otherwise this is still the same machine.

Of course, machines like this were sold in the United States as well.

At left, another one of my machines, the Elgin Collegiate. Serial number 711207. This machine's name seems tied to the Elgin Watch concern; there were very many companies that tried very brief shots at typewriter sales and distribution in the 1960's here in the United States, especially because batches of fairly inexpensive foreign-made typewriters seemed to make a good short-term profit plan workable. This helps explain why so very many unusual or 'off brand' portables with odd names are very hard to duplicate here; not too many were sold and very often there was no second batch for many distributors. This seems to fit many machines made and distributed by Nippo - and might fit the Cherryland too as a scenario!

Many thanks to Chris Ronayne for telling us about this machine, for showing it to us and for allowing me to present it here on the Davis Typewriter Works blog for the first time.

For more unusual portables sold in Australia, check out this link!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The ABC in Detail - 4

ABC in Detail - by Will Davis and Thomas Furtig

We left off our discussion still in the "Classic Era," during which only the original W. Wagenfeld designed body was in use; the point at which we departed was the final known Cole-Steel machine for distribution in the United States by Cole Steel Office Machines. The large batch of serial numbers assigned to what we might think of the main batch of Cole-Steel machines (there seem to be two smaller batches earlier, but that is not certain from what must be considered incomplete serial number data) is large enough that it appears as if Koch's, maker of the ABC, decided to start over with a new prefix and new serial number range for its own distribution. This is suggested by the advertising image we're about to see.

This illustration is from a 1964 brochure but the artwork appears to be recycled; look closely at the paper in this machine and you'll see a date of 25.11.1960 or November 25, 1960. What's important along with this is to notice the new, more modern and minimal 'abc' logo. There seems good evidence that this logo was introduced about the date shown in this advertising illustration.

For a time after this change in logo, the ABC continued in production as before; that is to say, only one model offered with a variety of colors, and different carrying cases as options. Let's now look at some of the machines built in the remaining part of the early, "classic" Wagenfeld-only era before new designs, new models and new distribution channels made the ABC's story vastly more complex.

ABC / serial 4-224595 / Thomas Furtig collection. The series of Wagenfeld machines with ABC logo, albeit in the new style, continues as before but with a new serial number prefix as well. Adwoa Bagalini owns the lowest serial number with this new logo in terms of our database, with serial number 4-203813 so that we might assume that the new machine series began at serial 200000 as well. This is, however, only a guess. That machine however has the older lever type ribbon selector; Thomas' machine seen here in fact has the newer dial type ribbon selector.

Two things are instructive to examine at this point. Our database is sequential in terms of serial; here are entries 39 and 40

Cole-Steel (pink) serial 3-163529
ABC (green hammertone) serial 4-203813

Note that there is a gap in known machines of roughly 40,000 in serial numbers at this point - further evidence that the serials might arbitrarily have started over again for the ABC labeled machines in 1960.

Moving further into the Wagenfeld machines with the new logo, two actual dates of original sale from Thomas Furtig's shop are known. Here they are:

ABC / serial 4-226764 / sold March 1963
ABC / serial 4-229884 / sold March 1963

Whereabouts and colors of these machines is not known. We now move to the next machine in sequence we're able to show.

ABC serial 4-235980 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine is only several thousand above the higher of the two known sold in March 1963 so that we might assume it too was made in late 1962 or early 1963. Note the dial type ribbon selector to the right of the keyboard. This machine is a brownish beige which I myself actually like very well.

We're approaching the end of the Wagenfeld body carrying simple names without model number delineation, which will appear shortly in a wider pantheon of machines. However, for the sake of clarity, we'll follow the Wagenfeld machine to the end of its production, then provide some further commentary and overview before moving on to newer designs.

ABC serial 4-237464 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine displays another, and very uncommon, paint variation; the surface is textured, but the paint isn't the hammertone style seen on earlier machines. The texture is somewhat visible on the paint surface of this machine. Normally these machines are either finished with a smooth surfaced enamel or else with the hammertone paint - this provides an interesting and unusual paint variation for collectors to hunt down!

The highest known (so far) serial for an ABC machine is 4-242199, which was owned by the late Tilman Elster (who, were he still with us, would surely have been along on this project.) Wagenfeld body style machines with higher serial numbers than this are actually model ABC 1300, and are labeled as such externally. At this point, a brief explanation is necessary.

There is evidence that since about 1960, Koch's Adlernahmaschinenwerke had been looking at doing two different things with its typewriters: The company wanted to change the body, perhaps to make it less expensive (perhaps Wagenfeld was drawing royalty checks), or perhaps to update the style (the machine was not as modern looking as when introduced); also, the company was looking at simplifying the key lever / type bar mechanism, which was dated in design in terms of manufacturing cost and complexity since the introduction in a number of places of machines with four-dowel mounted key levers (dowels mounted in a machined block, a plate, or else suspended in space from their ends with key levers aligned by a comb.) The company did both of these things, which resulted in the introduction of new models into the lineup.

Further, after about 1963 or so the company really branched out into other distribution channels so that the number of brand names, and models, applied to machines of Koch's manufacture increased a great deal.

What is important to our conclusion of the Wagenfeld-body, original style machines is to note that this particular machine took its place in the model pantheon, with model number ABC 1300 and it's also important to note that machines in the Wagenfeld body were never changed mechanically to the newer design of key lever / type bar mechanism.

Production of the original Wagenfeld body, with original mechanism, after this expansion in designs in the 1963-1964 time frame was apparently very slight. Only three machines of model ABC 1300 are in our database; we can show the last one in the database now.

ABC 1300 / serial 4-246779 / Thomas Furtig collection. As you can see, the machine is essentially unchanged from the previous production when it was simply the ABC because there weren't other models. In the new pantheon, the Wagenfeld machine only too briefly held a place in the middle range of model numbers and probably in the range of cost to purchase. This machine is the highest serial number in our database in the Wagenfeld body.

Let's now recap the whole classic Wagenfeld-body series with some advertising illustrations and observations before moving on to the almost scattered array of models and brand names to follow.

ABC W. Wagenfeld style body
Produced 1955-1963
Known variants: ABC, Cole-Steel, APSCO, ADS
Changes over production - 42 to 43 keys, additon of ribbon selector and then later movement of selector and change of control style, slight changes in top cover latches, some very early machines with black keytops.
Serials: 1-2442 through 2-, 3- and 4- prefixes through 4-246779. Breaks in serial range identified in test.

The 1957 sales illustration shows four colors (click to enlarge) and two carrying case styles- a snap over lid, of plastic (which Thomas reports on some early machines to actually be clear under paint) and a deluxe leather case. In point of fact the former Swayze machine matches the lowest example in the ad, being 'tomato red' with the leather carrying case. The vast majority of ABC and Cole-Steel machines found today have the snap-over plastic lid.

Above, further illustrations from a 1964 brochure showing the ABC 1300 range (with art probably recycled from about 1960) and showing three styles of carrying case including the two previously mentioned plus another zippered cloth case.

It appears today that the ABC, while never making a giant place for itself among the typewriters of the world, did very well in its own way with steady distribution on the Continent and one decent if not large outlet in the United States, in the person of Cole-Steel. Certainly the styling of the machine was unique in a time when blocky, and later even angular lines were becoming the rage. The smooth, flowing lines of Wagenfeld's design are a pleasure from any angle. Further, the color combinations and options offered on the machine seem very classic to us today. Collectors not only like the style, but these color variations as well. Modern typists seem mixed on these machines; some collectors report high failure rates while others report absolutely none. The action is crisp, more than rapid enough for most typists, and made to very high (if not perfect) standards in terms of fit, finish and tolerance. The other design touches - such as the single lever on the top right of the carriage, used as both paper release and carriage release - are very well thought out.

This concludes the line of Wagenfeld-styled ABC machines. However, don't give up - there is a bewildering array of further models, styles and colors to follow in this story and in some ways what is ahead is much more interesting than what we've already covered. Stay tuned!