.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another unusual Bulgarian-made portable

Readers of my site are aware of the range of Bulgarian-made portables loosely affiliated by the name MARITSA, which is the name of the river that runs through the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. That city was the location of the "Typewriters Works" (sic) .. later called "Plant for Typewriters" .. which made two general ranges of typewriter over a yet unknown time period.

The two ranges were, first, a series based on the West German PRINCESS line, apparently after having acquired the tooling from Keller & Knappich, and second a range based on the Japanese SILVER-SEIKO small machines. Although neither of these Bulgarian-made series is common, they were in fact distributed at times the world over and an attentive collector almost anywhere can snag one. To learn more about these machines of both ranges, click here to see my long-standing web page.

This machine adds some information to the story, and yet asks questions we cannot answer. This machine, clearly Bulgarian-made even if not labeled as such, is a Montgomery Ward Model 101. Most machines distributed by this well known department store and mail order company carried the SIGNATURE name, but not all. The machine has its instructions, and is serial number 11176474. Now for the details.

The instructions for the machine include photos labeled "OMEGA 11," which in itself isn't surprising considering that very often any Plovdiv-made machine will NOT have custom instructions made for this or that end seller. What's really interesting is that the machine also has a warranty card -- a card addressed not to Montgomery Ward but to Cheromi, Inc. This company was one of a string who owned rights to the brand name OMEGA for typewriters, and in point of fact only had these rights after May of 1977, when the descendant corporation of General Consolidated conveyed rights. Cheromi gave rights apparently off and on to Allyn Distributing through 1994 when rights were finally assigned to Corpex International.

(At left, the manual that came with the Montgomery Ward 101.) We are assuming at this point that this machine is labeled as Ward's model 101 because prior to this, the Signature 100 was sold for years (and that machine was the small, flat, very simple original Brother manual portable relabeled for Ward's.) On the rear of this new machine is a label, with the following information:

Wards Manual Typewriter
Model # 101 DCG8001
Serial #97 3155

On the label, it's important to note that everything is printed in except the "3155" of the serial which is actually stamped. More research is underway on Ward's internal and - or catalog identification numbers to make sense of this label.

We might have a good date on the first use of Omega by Cheromi, since Richard Polt spotted an Omega 11 in identical color with a serial number about 1000 below this machine that went on e-Bay a short while back. It carried instructions labeled for the MARITSA. So we have a machine actually labeled OMEGA 11 with MARITSA 11 instructions, and within 1000 or so units a machine labeled for Montgomery Ward, carrying OMEGA 11 instructions.

While still puzzling in some ways, this machine does one thing; it pushes our conception of known Plovdiv production of the Princess-derived machine even later than we'd thought. We're almost sure it didn't appear in the 50's now, or probably even the 60's. More work must be done, but finally this unduplicated and somewhat rare machine has cracked the door a bit wider.

(Note: Serial numbers of machines on my site are as follows. Maritsa 11, tan color, serial number 11263536. Bundy, blue and white, serial number 11118151. Omega 30, blue color, 30242061. First two digits of serial are always Plovdiv model number.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Imperial Good Companion 6

Here is a machine that I've been after for some time- actually, it's from a family that I've been after any one of for a long time. This is a British-made Imperial Good Companion 6, which is hard to find here in the U.S. since none of these was ever sold directly here. This example is serial number 6AG 816 and was manufactured in 1962. A similar 6T model, with tabulator, was also offered.

This general design for Imperial portables dates back to the early 1930's and incorporates a geared type-bar mechanism not unlike that found in Remington / Remington-Rand portables from the early 20's until 1949. On the Good Companion, the gear rack portion of the mechanism is fairly hidden by the distinctive type bar segment which is large and raised, apparently to provide better type bar alignment.

Here we see the machine, with (forward tilting) ribbon cover raised and a type bar at the print point. The black geared arc is visible sticking up through its slot in the segment. The action is taken off of the primary key levers by links that then actuate a series of bell cranks mounted in an arcuate, intermediate segment; the cranks are visible below the resting bar for the type bars. Interestingly, while the primary key levers at the center of the keyboard are essentially straignt, as key levers further from center are examined they display more of an angular nature from keytop to hinge as the hinge section is perhaps only half the width of the typewriter; outer key levers angle quite severely in toward the center as viewed from directly above, or below.

The touch of the machine is light - much lighter than superficially similarly designed Remington machines. None of that "over the top" feel Remington portables are known for exists with the Imperial, making it a lighter and speedier feeling machine. That said, the type bar blow isn't nearly as hard and getting dark impression isn't as easy. The carriage shift moves more back than up, due to the design that essentially results in type slug impact on top of the platen, and this means that gunk or poor lubrication results in somewhat slow return of the carriage to lower-case position since gravity isn't as much of a help as it is in most carriage shifted machines. We're particularly fond of the design of the carriage return lever, which hinges down for storage in a unique way but flips angularly sideways (not unlike Halberg-derived machines) for line spacing. Its chromed slipper spoon appearance is very pleasing.

Overall we like this little machine, even though it is somewhat devoid of features for a machine this late. The keytops are comfortable, the look is very 60's and so can be made to fit in a wide range of (retro or modern) decors, the sound is very quiet, the touch is light and the machine operates well. It took us years to get one in good shape and we're glad we waited.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OK, get this for a coincidence. We have had this kind of luck more than a few times in our antique careers, but never more, well, significant than this time.

While Will was far away buying the machine you saw in the previous post, my wife and I found and bought the machine you see here.

That is to say, while Will was buying the last standard machine associated with the Smith Bros. second company, we were buying the very first machine associated with their FIRST company. So, in ONE DAY, we have Alpha and Omega, so to speak.

Once again, as has happened to us so many times with significant machines, this was found in a large antique mall, which usually does not yield a lot of typewriters. This time, this "first variant" Smith Premier No. 1 (no platen knobs) serial no. 22577, was there, along with several other typewriters which we did not buy. One was a mint Royal Arrow with instructions, another a Consul 232 in sky blue, also very nice. An Underwood standard, Remington portable, and a couple others rounded out the selection. Even in this "EBay era", it can still pay off to get out and look on foot!

But how weird is this? On the same day, in the same state, Smith Premier No.1 and SCM Smith-Corona 76 Secretarial? One of those almost every serious collector has certainly heard of, the other probably almost no collector has heard of. They represent the bookends of a family history, spanning nearly the entire era of standard sized manual office machines. One of them, we have seen very few of, the other, only ever ONE of so far. Which is the "rarer" machine? The 76! More collectible? The Premier to be sure. But for Will and I, being interested in the stories and the people and companies behind the machines, the 76 is a significant find too. Maybe somewhere the Smith Brothers are smiling tonight, as for the first time ever a No. 1 and a 76 sit side by side together.

The last Smith-Corona Standard.

The machine you see here just arrived at the Works today. This is an SCM Smith-Corona Secretarial 76. This model name and number might not mean much to most readers, but this will: This is the final Smith-Corona manual standard (office, upright, whatever you want to call it) typewriter model. We're sure of it.

We knew when it appeared on e-Bay that it was late, and a check of the NOMDA serial lists revealed a cutoff of serial numbers at 6200M in 1966 and only references vaguely to any model numbers; by the 1985 date of printing of the NOMDA Blue Book at hand, SCM was long out of the manual office machine business. We knew that the machine was close to the appearance of the last model shown in Beeching, but we also knew that nothing definitive about any models beyond 72 or 75 was printed in any serial reference anywhere.

Smith-Corona dealer Jay Respler helps fill in the details. According to Jay, who has the complete Smith-Corona serial number listing, the final year of Smith-Corona standard, manual typewriter production is 1969 with the serial range of 7023966 - 7035812. The machine we just bought is serial number 76E12-7037845, which made Jay ask if we got the last one ever made! Jay's records indicate then that this machine was in all probability made in 1970 and that it is surely almost the last of its kind. The decor matches none of the 75 models we've seen so far and may be a last gasp at minimal redesign (mostly re-coloring, actually) for the new decade but we're not sure of that yet.

Jay recalls, concerning the end of production of Smith-Corona standard machines, that SCM considered itself as having made standard ELECTRIC machines for much longer after it dropped the manual and large original electric designs (and in fact we can back Jay up on that with advertising) because the company essentially took the mechanism of the electric portable and placed it in a larger body, calling it a 'compact office machine.' This would be the Model 8000, introduced in 1976, if we interpret Jay's observation correctly. Jay adds that Brother was big trouble for Smith-Corona, and eventually the competition led years later to Smith-Corona having to move production of (by then) electronic daisy wheel machines to Mexico.

All of this adds to the yet-not-fully-told story of the wind DOWN of Smith-Corona. So often we focus on the wind-UP and forget that history has a whole life cycle that we historians and researchers need to cover. What you see here is very likely the newest, last Smith-Corona manual standard machine you will ever see and it provides a bit of historical closure to this whole product line. And don't worry - this one needs some work, so you'll learn what's inside of it right here and become somewhat familiar with it.

The next post by Dave will show something he was buying about 20 miles south of his home, while I was over 180 miles away picking up the Secretarial 76 you see here. Stay tuned!

--edit to correct actual serial number, reposted.--

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adler J5 / ribbon vibrator

The Adler J5 you see here in pieces was displaying an odd problem; operation of the keys caused the ribbon selector switch to move wildly throughout its travel, and the ribbon selector switch had no 'notches' or detentes in its travel. Clearly something had gone wrong, and a look at the bottom of the machine revealed that a spring steel piece that provided resistance to an appropriately shaped tang on an extension of the ribbon selector and vibrator assembly had become bent to the point that it could not be re-bent without first having been removed from the machine.

The carriage is easy enough to take off on this late-1970's Adler portable. Removal of the drawband from the carriage is easy even without pliers, and there's a slot to insert the retainer on the end of the drawband into the carriage rail assembly. Once that's done, two screws are all you need undo to release the whole carriage and escapement assembly from the machine - it lifts right out vertically. Then, with ribbon cover off, you will note four screws total holding the plastic exterior body shell ('mask') to the frame, which lifts off with a bit of wiggling to clear the ribbon selector lever on the left and the tab set/clear lever on the right. These operations left the machine in the condition seen in the photo.

Here we see the machine, lifted up, and we're looking up under the left side. Right by my thumb you can see the offending bent piece. Once you find the screw holding it down, you'll need a very thin long standard screwdriver to get the piece off. It was easy enough for Dave and I to get it bent back to the proper profile and test operation of the lever without the screw inserted; once the screw was back in (perhaps the trickiest part, and made much easier due to lack of clearance by using a magnetic screwdriver) the reassembly and test went without a hitch. Yet another archive machine returned to fully operative status!