.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Typewriters with New Look

You probably already can see that we've changed the look of the blog, and some of the photos.  We decided it was time for an upgrade from the basic template we'd applied in 2010 when we built the blog - which itself has grown in purpose since then and become our main outlet for information, articles and photos.

I suggested for the new header photo that Dave and I each pick a machine we'd like to have represent the blog and we'd just photograph the two together.  The one I picked is on the left.  I'll tell you about it in a moment, but first, let me ask you a question:  What was the first standard typewriter ever marketed? 

Every collector knows that - it was the Sholes & Glidden which first appeared in 1874, later to become the Remington and that line after which all other major makes for heavy office use were modeled.  Many, many dozens of makes and models appeared before the First World War in a bewildering assortment.

Now another question:  What was the LAST all new standard to be marketed?

I'm pretty confident that the last all-new effort in standard typewriters (by a company that had never made typewriters before, and not by a company producing someone else's design under license) was the SIEMAG, put on the market by Siegener Maschinenbau of West Germany in 1949.*

The machine you see here is my SIEMAG II-T, serial number 057175 II T, which dates to 1951 -- not too long after the introduction in terms of years, but updated quite a bit from the first model which was all black and had ringed keytops with black inserts.  This machine also has altered features elsewhere.  (A video showing this machine's features will be shot and put up soon on our YouTube channel.)

So why pick this machine?  Well, for starters, it might look rather common at first glance but these are really hard to find here in the US; this machine is a confirmed military bring-back.  It's representative also of that last marque to hit the market brand new, with its own patents, by a firm that never made a typewriter before.  And it's green.

I should add also that this is not a bad typewriter at all.  While it's not my top favorite, I'd say it's in the middle of the pack.  Certainly in post-War Germany, where there was a desperate shortage of typewriters, any brand new machine would have been an improvement over some or other pre-war machine that was being strung along on repairs and adjustments until it died and it does seem that the SIEMAG sold pretty well.  Serial number records show that the SIEMAG's various models sold something over a quarter of a million machines before production was sent to Messa in Portugal.

In the end, that machine represents a whole lot of things I'm interested in, all wrapped in one, and that's why I chose it.  Who knows what I'll pick if we redo the photo again?


*  There could be contention for this, but I'll explain.  I discount newly developed models in the 1960's, as an example, from Royal because Royal entered the business in 1906 and was only a typewriter manufacturer; later models are evolutionary.  You can't count the 1955 Godrej, because that was the R.C. Allen built under license; their following models were based on the Optima.  You also can't count the 1970 Lucznik, later Predom, because that's the Facit built under license.  The SIEMAG represents the latest introduction of an "out of the blue" newly designed and patented standard manual machine I know of.

9:45 AM 12/5/2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

SIGNATURE by Woodstock

We recently had the good fortune to spot, win, and actually pick up the typewriter you're about to see.  This is one of those machines that until now, anyway, was mentioned in some collector materials but not shown in detail.  The machine is the "Signature," manufactured for only about seven months during 1949 by Woodstock Typewriter Company.

This machine represents a significant departure from the previous post-war Woodstocks, which themselves had already changed significantly once post-war.  After the Second World War Woodstock continued manufacturing its regular standard machine (which had been built throughout the war for the Government) in overall crinkle black, as prior.  In 1947, the machine was altered to segment shift by incorporation of a completely new and different key lever / type bar mechanism that perfectly retained the inherent speed characteristics of all prior Woodstock machines.  In that same year, Sears Roebuck & Co. sold its interest in Woodstock Typewriter Company to Century America Corporation.
Century America changed nothing immediately - but in May, 1949 the machine you now see here appeared.  The body style outside was changed everywhere, and an overall color scheme of brown and tan was applied. 

The marketing of this machine was completely unique among not only standard typewriters of the day, but also among all standard typewriters ever built.  You can click here to see a short YouTube video we did showing this marketing feature, and some of the features common to Woodstock typewriters that make them the favorites of some typists.  The typewriter was said, in advertising. to "sell itself on sight because it's personalized!"
The serial number of the example you see here is N1060765, and information that came with it shows a date of December 7, 1949.  That date correlates well with a corrected tabulation of Woodstock and R.C. Allen serial numbers, which in some lists are quite a bit off.
In November, 1949 the newly formed R.C. Allen Business Machines Inc. (itself formed only in March, 1949 by merger of several affiliated businesses Allen himself was involved with) announced it had purchased the Woodstock Typewriter Company, with all rights and good will.  After an initial announcement that production would be moved to the Allen plant at Grand Rapids, Michigan, the decision was made later not to move the production, and it never did move.
Considering that this machine dates roughly to the last month of 1949, and that R.C. Allen labeled machines began rolling off the assembly line at the factory or or about January 17, 1950, this is certainly among the very last Woodstock typewriters ever made.  I should quickly note however that R.C. Allen continued in production at the same plant with successive models through 1970.

What seems obvious now is that there really is, and has been, quite a tendency to ignore Woodstock machines on the internet and among collectors (outside of my now nearly defunct website pages on 'visible typewriters.')  We are prepared to rectify that shortly, with a large article in the works right now showing literally every Woodstock variant from the start to the end, and the R.C. Allen variants as well.  Our good friend Thomas Furtig has supplied photos from his collection, and we have several machines of both makes ourselves as well as paperwork to throw in.  That post will be coming up shortly (within a week or two) following the acquisition of a couple more key pieces of information.
So, keep an eye on this blog for that big article / photo montage.  I think it's exciting that there is such an unusual variant stuck right in the middle of the history of the two related product lines, so to speak, and I'm fascinated by it.  It's also a wonderful typewriter of course - as are all Woodstock and R.C. Allen machines. 

One final point, for now - it has not been lost on me that the December date, and personalized nature of the machine (which you'll see in the video) might well indicate that this machine was a Christmas present ... which makes it all the more fitting that we found it now, and are posting about it now.
6:30 PM 12/2/2014