.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Monday, January 31, 2011

The ABC in Detail - 3

In our last installment we paused at serial number 3-54640, made during the initial Wagenfeld body style era of the ABC portables and which was made just after introduction of the ribbon selector device (which employed a lever at the right side of the machine.) We now take up our examination with thorough coverage of the continuation of the early, all-Wagenfeld bodied production.

ABC / serial 3-69883 / Thomas Furtig collection. This example shows another two-tone combination, in beige and light blue. Many collectors will have noticed the red triangle seen on the right carriage end of this machine; this is a mark for the page end indicator, a feature of the ABC which warned the typist of the page end approaching and which was similar to Smith-Corona's "Page Gage" in the United States.

Above, illustration of the page end device and how it is used for three different sizes of paper. This prevents the writing from trailing away at the end of the sheet- which is shown at the top of the illustration.

ABC / serial 3-75369 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine is finished in the green hammertone paint. Many collectors find the hammertone paint colors to be the most desirable. There was a green hammertone, a grey hammertone, and a dark beige hammertone. These are seen mixed throughout the early production period 1955-1963 with all machines in one model, and one body style; a few hammertone machines are known after this as well in two body styles. But we get ahead of ourselves!

ABC / serial 3-77380 / Thomas Furtig collection. This is the first pink machine we've seen in our look at this line. Interestingly, in the large database we have constructed for this project it is the earliest identified pink machine. Furthermore, there is only one other pink machine known (at least in our database, so far) and we will in fact see that machine as well later on. Pink as an optional color doesn't appear in our advertising material either - you certainly don't see many ABC / Cole-Steel machines in this color.

ABC / serial 3-83765 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine at first might look like one we've seen, but look again; this machine is not two-tone but rather is the same very attractive blue color overall. Also note that this machine's top cover doesn't have the small metallic buttons on the sides to allow it to be removed; it simply pulls up and off. This is the 29th machine listed in our database, and the next machine you will see is the 30th machine in our database.

ABC / serial 3-99632 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine features the dark beige (or dark creme if you prefer) hammertone paint discussed previously as one of the three known 'hammertone' paint options. This extra feature in the finish adds a great deal of depth to the paint's appearance, which makes any machine so painted appear very luxurious .. and expensive.

The very next machine in our database is a Cole-Steel, and in fact so are the next nine machines. There is a solid run, or block, of Cole-Steel machines running from serial number 3-108447 (owned by Mark Rosenzweig) through 3-163529, which we will see next. However, one machine in this block is very notable for us; serial number 3-149323, a Cole-Steel owned by Christopher Pilant, is known to have been purchased originally on March 21, 1960. This gives us our first solid date evidence.

Cole-Steel / serial 3-163529 / Will Davis collection. The machine we see here is somewhat significant, in terms of the progression of models of this whole line, so we will carefully detail the things that it represents. Not only is this the last known, or in other words highest serial number known, Cole-Steel in our database, it is also the second and last known pink machine of any label. In terms of mechanics, this machine is the earliest known to incorporate the new dial-type ribbon color selector to the right of the keyboard; this is much easier to see than the lever mounted back on the right side. Machines with higher serial numbers than this one seem to go back and forth between the dial selector and the lever selector with no apparent pattern; however, this is the only machine with a serial number prefix of "3-" that has the dial type selector and in fact is the highest serial number in the database with this prefix.

Next installment: Continuing with the original Wagenfeld body style in the serial number range with a "4-" prefix.. and new labeling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ABC series note

I have just received from Thomas a photo of the second known (by serial) ABC mentioned in the series earlier; I will shortly be editing that post to include this machine and some observations. Readers may wish to examine this slightly changed post. Expect another post in this series tonight or tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Victor No. 10: A Quick Look

Years back, when I constructed my "Visible Typewriters" website section, I included a thorough article on the Victor Standard machines, with help from Peter Weil, Richard Polt, Jim Dax, Tilman Elster and Thomas Furtig (who is on board with me on this new site's "ABC in Detail" series, still ongoing.) We reviewed the history, the known models and even some relabels, and fully examined and tested a Victor No. 3. What's left to do is to get out and test my Victor No. 10... so let's do that now. Better late than never.

Victor No. 10 serial no. 52072

The Victor No. 10 was a 42-key, standard, $100 machine meant to compete with the best of the other machines in that price range. The machine has, as standard equipment, a rather novel decimal tabulator device which we'll describe shortly, and completely unobstructed view of the print point from all useful angles from the front. Many machines of the early 'visible' period incorporated front-mounted margin setting (see the Continental we just reviewed) a la the original Remington blind-writers, which of course partly obstructs the front view of the machine; some makers, like L.C. Smith and Royal heavily advertised the openness of the front on their models and the Victor machines all fall properly into this sort of visible machine.

This particular example has been very heavily used and repainted partially at least once; this is why the paper table and front frame decals aren't visible. While it's nice to have really mint condition machines in many cases from a collecting point of view, from a research point of view it's also nice in many cases to have some with high mileage so that the effect of wear can be judged. Further, it's nice to see what we might today call an "off brand" machine that stood up to the test of time.

Of course, the front of a machine gets a lot more surface abuse than the back so that commonly the rear decals are in much better shape than those on the front- and that's the case with this machine. It's interesting to note how prominently the machine tells us that it's made in America; we know from Typewriter Topics' 1923 compendium that Victor had been essentially exporting all of its production for about six years at that point, so that this labeling makes sense. And collectors should note that the list of patents found in the same places on the earlier models is still there, but much longer and running through 1919.

Although we will show, in a later article, a side by side comparison of the No. 3 and No. 10 Victors for point-by-point differences I'll note here briefly that the Victor No. 10 is improved over the Victor No. 3 (the previous model) in two major ways: First, the ribbon spools are now mounted on the top deck horizontally instead of internally and vertically; second, the ribbon vibrator is wholly conventional on the No. 10 and much more agreeable.

The No. 10 Victor has margin stop devices mounted to the rear of the carriage, but fixed to the frame of the typewriter and not to the carriage; as a result, the setting of the margin stops is like that of front-mounted designs, or else like that of the Monarch Visible in that, giving one side only as the example, the stop on your left side controls furthest left motion of the carriage and is thus actually the right margin stop (if we say 'right margin stop' thinking about the number of carriage spaces at which printing ends on the right side of the line.) This system would have been intuitive for those familiar with Remington, Underwood and Monarch machines but is backwards to most modern typists. However, once figured out and set, the device is no problem for modern non-secretarial and non-business work.

The decimal tabulator, standard equipment on all No. 3 and No. 10 Victors, is of unique design. The operating device consists of a depressed or dished button for the fingertip, a marked quadrant near the top and a pivot at the bottom. The quadrant is rotated to the corresponding number of places required for the column at hand (if entering "3042" then move the device to "1000" on the quadrant) and then the button is depressed. The rotation of the device to the desired digit translates by shaft to the rear of the machine and up to the top deck, whereby through linkage the entire tabulator stop rack is moved horizontally to match the number of typed spaces corresponding to the desired figure. Depression of the button then performs the carriage release until the stop is reached, at which point the device is simply released and the figure entered. We have tested many decimal tabulator designs and this device seems easy to use, although not truly intuitive, and would be handy once familiar.

The 42 key layout is fully standard. Note the shift lock key, above the top left of the keyboard. This may be depressed to obtain shift and the lock action simultaneously, or else depressed while the shift key is held. This is somewhat reminiscent of early L.C. Smith machines, if I recall correctly. The shift on this machine must be described as very stiff, and the shift key lever throw fairly short, so that strong fingers are required. However, this is nothing compared to the key action itself. There is no doubt about it - this machine is tuned for professional typists. Simple slow easy depression of the keys results in only the very lightest contact between the type slug and paper. This forces the staccato touch method for this machine. Once this method is employed, the key action is best described as very springy and stiff, with sharply increasing resistance feel with travel. Of course, at the highest speed typing the fingers are not following the keys down that far so that at this odd feel isn't important. Once this speed is achieved, the machine comes into its own. I have not typed a whole lot of late, but am not out of practice - and I think maybe this machine is in the upper rank of speed capability. (If Richard Polt has another get together with typing speed contest, I might bring it.) A very steady rhythm is needed with this machine and is rewarded; the key rest is hard, and the type slugs bounce on return which might theoretically limit speed - but I never did jam any type bars at all with this machine. Further, the type is dark, and in alignment. No skipping, piling, shading from machine error. I note here that this machine does in fact have elite type, in a very attractive type face with just slightly heavier than normal print so that the product looks between, say, that of any normal typewriter and that of an Oliver Printype. Having said all of this, I can add one thing: I do not know of any typewriter that has a feel like that of this Victor. There are distant similarities in feel, but none the same. The overwhelming feel of driving large springs with the fingertips when typing is notable. For the experienced typist, this feel is like that of an open top sports car; it demands more speed, and more speed, until the limit is reached. It pulls the performance out of you.

(Item: Other very fast machines can be subtle. The R.C. Allen, for example, feels a lot like many other machines vaguely if you just type lackadaisically. But as you speed up, you realize that the return speed of the type bars is adequate, the carriage doesn't skip, and the feel is good so you go faster and faster. But nothing about the machine MAKES you realize, at least initially, what it is. It's more refined, more well rounded. The Victor almost demands to be run one way - really fast, and really steadily - and rewards nothing else.)

After getting my Victor No. 10 out following a long period of neglect (you can't pay attention to every machine when you have THIS MANY TYPEWRITERS) I'm impressed. The Victor as we all know played no significant part in the history of typewriters, per se; that is to say that nothing Victor did made any other builder stand up and take notice. Further, from the time of the First World War's end the company really didn't sell their machines here as much as it exported them which might to some give them no sense of real identity; they're American-made machines, but made to be exported for the most part. Bearing all that in mind doesn't negate the fine qualities of this machine, though. While there are some features that aren't top notch, none is really awful on this machine. The machine's worst feature can also be described as its best; the key lever and type bar mechanism's action is such that a new or non-dedicated typist might just give up on using this machine, but is such that an experienced typist might come to really prefer it over many others - including many major makes.

Once again, an 'off brand' or non-major make surprises us with something we would not have known had we not decided to really put all our machines to the test around here! Keep watching for more installments in the "Quick Look" series, which are intended to give readers the best possible brief idea of what a given machine is really like .. next to owning one.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Continental Standard: A Quick Look

Let's take a break from our ongoing ABC series (much more to come on that this week) and get out a typewriter to examine and test.

Continental Standard s/n 672780 mfd 1938

There is something almost tragic about the Continental brand of typewriter; the company originally introduced its first typewriter, a four-bank single shift visible writing $100 machine in 1904 and later on added portables and the vaunted Continental Silenta prior to the Second World War, and in the decade preceding that conflict had become one of the well-known makers of typewriters certainly all over Europe and in the trade itself, certainly worldwide. Hostilities curtailed production; the tooling for the Silenta, according to Beeching, went off to Russia and disappeared while that for the portables went to Belgium where the machines were built briefly and badly. Other marques continued to fill the void of typewriter production post-war; the Continental essentially did not (although the Communists appear to have restarted the standard machine; see our European Typewriter Project page on the Continentals.)

My example shown in the photo is from 1938 and is in fine condition. Many pre-war machines from Germany weren't so lucky- the war was hard on typewriter production and damaged machines were often patched up and made to soldier on. This machine is in very good shape. I wanted it all the more when it became available as it had an English keyboard (and this is a factory keyboard, not a re-solder job.) I've just run a full sheet of paper through it at various speeds and examined it overall, and here are the details....

This machine might properly be called the Continental Standard A since there is a decal letter "A" on the paper table, although this might just be the carriage width. The machine has 45 keys typing 90 characters; the keyboard includes a numeral 1, an exclamation point, a "1/" symbol for fractional numerators, diacritical and German letters and a standard English layout for the alphabet. Carriage release, paper release and line space / return levers are all duplicated on both sides of the carriage on this machine, which is very handy. We note that most Continental standard machines seem to have much shorter return levers that don't drop down over the front of the machine as to the levers on this example; this lever placement took some getting used to but it seems that when familiar it might allow higher speed since the total hand travel to return the carriage is less than it would have been with the older style short levers. Item: How many machines have return levers on BOTH sides? Only the Demountable comes to mind immediately - and in that example, they are not identical since the left side lever is practically duplicative of that found on the Harris Visible, all models, and Rex Visible, all models.

The action of the machine is very sturdy feeling, with a feel of high key resistance and fairly rapid type bar return. The control arrangement on the carriage is convenient and sensible; the small machined block that is the setting device for the line space mechanism is a great touch, and very easy to use. Line spacing is available in half line space increments from one to three line spaces, as is very typical of European machines. The backspace key seems to be perfect; both the location of the key generally and its height seem to be ideal for me, although this again is a matter of personal preference. The margin release and bypass controls on the front left of the machine take a bit of getting used to but once figured out are easy to use. Unfortunately, the tabulator device on this machine is not functional so that we cannot review it; parts are missing. (Again, not surprising for wartime machines.) The carriage shift is about as light as one could expect for a full size machine. The machine does require strong fingers and does not reward uneven speed or touch at all; in fact, I was able to jam type bars fairly easily with the machine when deliberately typing badly.

Control layout and operation on this machine are above average; touch is average; type bar return speed is average or just below; fit, finish, tolerance, in other words quality of material and quality of assembly are absolutely first rate for any typewriter made anywhere at any time. So then I rate this machine just above average overall for use today. (Your results may vary.) Stated briefly; I like it!

Final note: We do have a Contiental Silenta that's been sitting around neglected since being purchased for quite some time and we'll be getting that machine tanked, lubricated and adjusted in the near future for full review, so watch for it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The ABC in Detail - 2

We now begin our examination of the ABC series in order of serial number.

APSCO / serial 1-2442 / Courtesy Carmen, member of the Portable Typewriter Forum. This machine bears the mark "APSCO" which is certainly that representing the Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company (which was actually a business division of Spengler-Loomis Manufacturing Company) and which is familiar to a generation or more of students who daily used APSCO pencil sharpeners in school classrooms all over the United States. This is the earliest known ABC series machine, bearing the lowest serial number and is only one of two known to have a serial number prefix of "1." This example has 43 keys (typing 86 characters.) The exact arrangement by which APSCO acquired these machines has never been discovered, nor have any advertisements. Further, it is not known if the following Cole-Steel contract was the result of a buyout of this arrangement or license or if it was totally unrelated. Regardless, this is a rare typewriter by virtue of its name. As with all of the early machines of this original make there is no model number or name.

ABC / serial 1-4929 / Thomas Furtig collection. Another very early ABC is this fine green example owned by Thomas. This is the second of two known machines having a "1-" prefix. Both of the machines, seen on this page, are notable as being different from all other ABC machines in the early series in that they have dark keytops. No other color but white is seen until much later on in the series. This photo expands when clicked larger than most on this site so that readers can get a very close look at the second oldest known ABC.

COLE-STEEL / serial 2-24954 / Will Davis collection. This is the third known machine in our database, which is interesting because it was formerly owned by famed television news pioneer John Cameron Swayze. This machine is in the 'tomato red' color and has the leather carrying case. 43 keys. This may be one of the most-used machines in this entire presentation, but it operates perfectly. There is evidence of a few repairs and one modification - the ribbon cutout switch, for making stencils, that this series of machines has (under the ribbon cover) is permanently overridden. Much wear is seen on the carriage by the carriage release, and the keytops show wear as well. Swayze himself was featured in magazine ads for the "New 1958 Cole Portable" and in those ads is quoted as saying that "my Cole Portable has been all around the world with me." This machine certainly looks it, and was well taken care of. Note that while the serial prefix has changed to a "2-" that there are no major changes to operative features of the machine. Further, it is of interest to examine the serial numbers seen so far:

1- 2442
1- 4929

Considering the findings in the rest of the large database we have collected, it seems improbable that about ten thousand machines worth of production are missing even today or were skipped. It might be that the serial numbering was deliberately jumped by addition of a "2" in front of the serials, in which case Thomas' machine and the ex-Swayze machine would only have been 25 units apart. This is only speculation, however, and is supported by nothing in terms of hard fact.

Whatever the case, it does seem very likely that Swayze's machine was among the very earliest Cole-Steel machines and given the advertising information we can roughly tie the serial 24954 to late 1957 or early 1958. This is the first serial in the known production that we can even roughly tie to a date, given the fact that Koch's appears not to have supplied a serial list to any organization.

The ad depicting Mr. Swayze further indicates (by complete list) a total of 186 dealers nationwide offering the Cole-Steel at that time, for a price of $94.50 without tax. Three colors were offered; Mist Green, Desert Sand and Cole Gray. It is interesting to note that the color of the ex-Swayze 2-24954, "tomatenrot" in the original German, or "tomato red" in English, is not listed in this advertisement. Further, the machines were offered with the plastic case lid and not the leather case found on the Swayze machine.

Cole-Steel / serial 2-26472 / Will Davis collection. This machine is seen in the attractive hammertone green paint, which in all likelihood corresponds to the 'mist green' mentioned in the Cole advertising copy. The machine has a green snap over lid. It is interesting for collectors to note that the four earliest known serial numbers for ABC machines are not in fact found only on ABC-branded machines at all; one is the already seen APSCO, and two are Cole-Steel machines which are shown as well. Given the previously discussed serial number discrepancy, and US trademark information to follow, it seems clear that something not yet known to us was occurring early in the production of these machines and it may be that the start of major production volume did not in fact occur until a year or more after the assumed introduction date of 1955 - which given the nature of industrial manufacturing would be no surprise at all.

ABC / serial 2-35541 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine is finished in the attractive gray hammertone paint. The advertisement for the machines seen on our earlier installment in this series showed only four colors as having been available, and the Cole-Steel ad mentioned only three - but as we will see, many more became available and there were even two-color combinations.

At left, the original ABC emblem in detail from the previous machine. This mark and emblem were filed for trademark in the United States by Koch's on November 15, 1955; the registration was granted May 22, 1956. The US filing indicates that the same design was filed for copyright in West Germany on March 8, 1955. The rights to this mark were retained by Koch's until March 23, 1967 at which time they were transferred to Messa of Portugal, which will be covered in great detail in later installments.

ABC / serial 2-37663 / Thomas Furtig collection. This is our first look at a two-tone machine, combining tomato red for the upper body and beige or 'creme' for the lower. One of a number of possible combinations offered later. The machines continue to have 43 keys typing 86 characters, with a ribbon cutout for making stencils (one color ribbon only) and no tabulator. Essentially the machines are still as originally manufactured.

Our next displayed example will reveal changes that have been made to the machine prior to its manufacture; at this point we will break from the lineal progression to note the points in serial numbering at which changes were made.

43 to 44 keys: Somewhere between 44600 and 53100
Two color ribbon: Somewhere between 53100 and 54300

The alteration to the keyboard as a result of adding an extra character key was the displacement of the margin release key from its former position at the left end of the top row to the left end of the second row down. The new character key was added to the upper row, and on most keyboard layouts this allowed the addition of a numeral "1" to the keyboard.

ABC / serial 3-54640 / Thomas Furtig collection. This machine displays the revised 44 key arrangement as described, and also barely visible on the right side of the machine is the three position ribbon selector switch. This is alongside the body, just in front of the carriage. This replaces the previous stencil ribbon lift cutout device, and gives true two-color plus stencil ribbon availability in line with most other portables of the day, large or small. The addition of one further key to the keyboard also brought the machine well in line with competition of the day.

Closeup from an ABC sales brochure of the lever selector, directly from the side. The round object upper right is the platen knob, not seen fully, while the corresponding color dots are actually on the removable top cover.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Continuing with the original Wagenfeld design production in Germany...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The ABC in Detail - 1

By Will Davis and Thomas Fürtig.

The ABC portable, a medium-sized machine, was introduced by Koch's Eagle Sewing Machine Company of Bielefeld, West Germany in 1955. The machine immediately stood apart from close competitors in size - for one, the Keller & Knappich Princess - due to the styling given the body casing pieces by Prof. W. Wagenfeld. The machine was not only styled, but styled from all sides and views; further, the machine was styled in a way wherein it would be fitting in any sort of decor anywhere in the world.

At left, art from a 1964 sales brochure featuring a slightly later model of the ABC which retains the original body styling. Note how the machine appears at home even in the most ultra-modern environment; such a sleek, streamlined design would fit very well in a home from thirty years earlier.

The typewriter manufacturing situation in Europe at the time of introduction of the ABC in 1955 was still essentially one of total over-demand and under-availability. Very many typewriter designs appeared in Europe in the decade following the end of the conflict (both standard and portable) and even mediocre machines were able to sell. The ABC quickly seemed to gain ground, though, even though it was not the product of an already-established typewriter manufacturer; Koch had prior to this never manufactured any typewriters at all. The machine's status would be bolstered late in 1957 or perhaps early in 1958 with the securing of a sizable export arrangement - to the United States.

In this new arrangement, the ABC portable was relabeled as "Cole-Steel" for sale in the USA through Cole Steel Equipment Company, a well known manufacturer of office furniture and cabinetry. This move allowed Cole Steel to edge toward a position occupied by much larger companies (Remington-Rand, most notably) that offered a wide variety of office products for essentially "one supplier" service. Sales of the machine were transferred to a new division, Cole Steel Office Machines, by early 1959 with the machine retaining the same name. Item: Although some ads for the machine refer to it as the "Cole Portable," the machines themselves always bear the "Cole-Steel" brand name, and it is by that name that they're known generally to collectors today. This venture with Cole and Koch's appears not to have lasted for more than six or seven years.

In the meanwhile, the ABC had established itself well on the Continent and was being distributed both directly by the maker and through other channels such as wholesalers and retailers.

At left, further early advertising artwork courtesy Thomas Furtig (as is all ad art for the ABC in this series) from 1957. The original machine's external design is very striking, as has been mentioned and in fact many collectors finding or seeing their first ABC are surprised that the machine is as large as it is; for some reason, the styling implies a compactness which tricks the mind into assuming petiteness which does not exist. Further enhancement to the appearance sometime after introduction was made through the introduction of "hammertone" paints which gave the exterior an appearance of great depth and which in fact is superior in appearance to any automotive paint. Very few typewriters have ever been marketed with this expensive finish style. Several styles of case were also available, up to a deluxe leather case.

Retrospectively we can identify an 'early phase' of production, which might better be described as the 'main phase' since it appears to have lasted the longest, which lasted from the introduction of the machine in 1955 through 1963. During this entire time period, only one model of the machine was available at any given date. However, modifications, improvements and changes were made to the machines over time so that alterations are easily noted - but again, during this phase, there are no model names or numbers to help differentiate these. These machines almost always have a single digit preceding their serial numbers, and in the main these prefix numbers do correlate to a set of characteristics... but some of the changes are seen on scattered machines of the preceding prefix number which confuses matters.

It is for these reasons that the previously employed method of describing machines by their serial number prefixes is now discarded by us, and replaced with a much more complicated set of characteristics which identify a specific machine. However, trends and commonalities are visible after compilation of a large database of serial numbers and characteristics and the viewing of very many machines, so that a complete discourse is possible without attempting to enforce model designations retroactively that are essentially inaccurate.

THEN, it follows that first we will describe the 'early phase' of production, whose main characteristics are as follows:

-Production of the machines entirely in W. Germany
-Wagenfeld body design used on all machines
-No model name or number appears on any machine

This early phase of production saw a number of modifications to the mechanical design of the machine, which include the following major changes:

-Alteration to change from 86 characters typed to 88 characters
-Concurrent keyboard rearrangement
-Move from original with no multi-color ribbon and only a stencil cutout switch to a ribbon selector lever on the right side, and later a ribbon selector dial on the front right

We will describe these changes concurrent with the photo montages to follow, and will give serial number breakpoints for changes in that material.

All of this first phase of production in Germany used the same key lever and type bar mechanism, shown in motion in this illustration from an ABC sales brochure. The intermediate link that actuates the type bar is actually pulled by a short link that has, by virtue of the lever design and proportion, a much higher angular rotative speed than the primary key lever does which helps lead to the snappy motion these machines are often described as having. Distinctive when observed on these machines is the prominent drive bail on TOP of the entire mechanism, unusual in that day since most were concealed below in all other designs made elsewhere.

NEXT TIME: Photo montage of the early phase of production including rare name variants and very many color combinations.

The ABC typewriter in detail: Introduction

Quite some years ago, I was fortunate to acquire my very first Cole-Steel portable. The machine was wonderfully styled, compact, well thought out, and seemed to have more than the usual amount of design focus applied to it than you normally find with typewriters that didn't appear until well after the end of the Second World War. That began a fascination with this line for me - one that continues through until today.

One of the first things I discovered of course was that this wasn't the root brand for this machine. Norbert Schwarz, one of my very earliest collecting friends over in Germany, identified the machine as an ABC, made by Koch's Adlernahmaschinenwerke AG of Bielefeld, West Germany. This led to general inquiries that found the machine to be in some collections in various places already - people liked the design and certainly the variety of colors these seemed to be in. Further work with Norbert and later with our late friend Tilman Elster developed the story much more fully, and of course we had a number of US contributors too. This link takes you to the final incarnation of that original website effort.

Late last year, another good friend, Thomas Fuertig, also of Germany, began work with me on a far more intense study of this entire line of machines which has revealed previously unsuspected variations, details and information of all sorts that allows us to fairly clear the fog surrounding the production of the companies involved, if not their motives. Thomas and I (in the grand old fashion) exchanged many e-mails, data tables, spreadsheets, photographs and web links until we were fairly sure we had the story straight.

This whole story and description will be accompanied by more photographs of this line of typewriter than has ever appeared anywhere in print or on the internet, coupled with our complete dissertation on the mechanical variations and their correlation to serial numbering and model delineation. This will take many more than just two blog site updates and we hope that portable typewriter fans will find this in-depth examination of what has, over time, been proven to be a very popular typewriter with collectors to be of interest and worth reading and commenting on with further information, update, and discussion.

I intend to make the first installment of this series later this evening. For those familiar with my web content on the main site to date, it might be worthwhile to note that the information you will see here will not simply supplant the original content but will in many particulars improve upon it and in several should be considered to supersede it. ABC (and on this side of the Atlantic, "Cole-Steel") fans should get ready to be excited!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Wrecktacular Discovery - 2

When I left off yesterday, I'd shown you what the 'undiscovered machine' from our vault looked like as we just got to the point of opening the box to see some details for the first time. Let's first pick up the story there and finish examining the machine and then we'll place it in context.

Here's the machine as it appeared yesterday, finally free of packing material. Luckily there weren't any packing peanuts involved - these are open on the back and those peanuts get in as badly as if the sides were open too. (Remember that on our blogs, the pictures can be clicked to be enlarged.) Quickly visible is that we've only got one of two original ribbon spools; the one on the left side is some kind of goofy gear-tooth edged silver tall spool that has LEFT printed on one end and RIGHT on the other. I don't know what it's for, but we'll figure that out. The type bars are very clean as in fact is most of the machine. Of course instantly we see the broken front frame, and the piece is separately bubble wrapped and included in the packing material very nicely. It's nice to see a shipper take care even with a pre-damaged article. Looks like the paper table is at some new modified arc, although we'll have to do some looking at other machines and photos too to get the right curve back on it. What's important now is that the machine appears complete enough to actually be operable instead of just displayable - except of course for that missing spool. But we have at least three or maybe four other machines that'll have exactly the same spools so that if needed we could switch out ribbons to type on this machine if and when we wanted to.

This is not a problem; we've dealt with far worse. For those who don't remember, the very first pair of machines ever seen on our workshop site sub-section included the only known dual-branded RC Allen Woodstock machine whose frame was so badly broken it would have been depressing to most who received it ... but we're mad scientists. We'd rather have this machine, even with a broken frame repair, than not have it. The fact that the official dealer handbooks and the NOMDA handbooks indicate that machines with broken frames have a $0.00 trade in value doesn't bother us much either.

NOW THAT WE'VE LOOKED THIS MACHINE OVER, let's put it in the proper historical perspective.

This machine at first appears to have no model number on it - but examination of my site page on the general line indicates that there should be model numbers on the frame. Sure enough, very close examination of the broken frame piece under varied light sources (fluorescent turned out to be the best) reveals the number "30" on the right side, as one might expect since this is a 42 key machine. So then we might call this machine the Remington Smith Premier 30. As we see on the back of the machine, the Smith Premier name appears boldly and it's clear that it was made at Syracuse, New York; this location is the old Smith Premier factory that was built immediately after the Smith brothers left to form their own new, unrelated company.

The serial number of this machine is MM10004. Surely this is a 1921 machine according to the serial number lists. At this date, the 30 and 40 models were introduced (the 30 had 42 keys, the 40 had 46 keys) and were essentially identical to the previous Remington Monarch machines. The example seen here still has individually mounted type bar bearings, and the shift motion on the type basket is upward as on the original models. Before 1926 the machines were redesigned to use a slotted solid type bar segment; in October 1926 the 30 was dropped. A new 60 model appeared in June, 1923. Right off the top of my head I can't tell you how that's different from the 40 though even though we do have a 60. I'll have to look at that one.

So then we now have another labeling variation of this Monarch-pattern machine, which appears at the very beginning of its third life. The 'first life' was that of the Monarch Visible, introduced in 1904 as a product of the Monarch Typewriter Company and produced at a new factory in Syracuse, New York, built for the new company's new typewriter. Of course, Monarch was actually a creation of Union Typewriter. In perhaps 1913 the Remington name appears on the machines, but not as the major brand. In 1914-1915 the actual manufacture of the Monarch was transferred entirely to Remington Typewriter's massive plant in Ilion, New York and from this time forward the Remington name took more prominence, essentially relegating the Monarch name to a model.

Production of this machine then had a third life, when the tooling was shipped back to the city of Syracuse, but not to the long-since sold Monarch plant but rather to the Smith Premier plant. The full keyboard Smith Premier 10 was dropped and the Monarch machine was placed in production at that plant; the machine you've seen unboxed yesterday and today is perhaps the earliest known example from that third round of production and is surely the first labeling variant.

Within a couple of years the name Remington completely disappears again from the machine, leaving only the Smith Premier name (and a spiffy new "SP" emblem too) to identify the maker. This in a way parallels the first incarnation of the machine as the Monarch. The design overall had a relatively long life in the world of typewriters, being produced at three different plants from design about 1900 to production launch in 1904 to cessation of production about 1939. That's 35 years; did any other Union design last that long in the visible typewriting era?

Click here to see our gallery of Smith Premier machines featuring many machines from the late Tilman Elster's collection. Look at the original DTW site link to find another Monarch labeling variant; link on the right.

We'll have more to come on the variants in this whole line over time, and of course the work on this machine will be shown here as it happens. Standard typewriter fans take heart - standards have returned to the DTW site! Stay tuned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

So THAT"S what's wrong with it! I knew it!!

Once again our subscribers have zeroed in on just what it is that is "wrong" with our featured machine, an innocent enough looking typewriter that most would not even give it a second glance. BUT, this is "typewriter collecting 301: doctorate level" and therefore if we told you there was something odd about it, there is! You could do the same sort of thing with mucsle cars, like SS Chevrolets with 6-cylinder engines, or maybe with odd golf clubs. Hmmm... No, no... this is a TYPEWRITER blog.

Both "Machines of loving grace" and "Baki" were correct! This is a "speedline" body in "Super 5" paint, and with "Super 5" keys. And before we go any further, for the sake of accuracy Smith-Corona referred to the "speedline" bodied machines as "4 series" machines, and the next, so called "Super 5" machines as "5 series" machines. One will note that the serial numbers of these types do in fact start with either a 4 or 5 depending on the series. So, both of the machines in the picture above are technically 4 series machines. On the left, a totally standard "Silent", and on the right, our mutant in question. Looks totally different in that paint and with those keys doesn't it? But clearly that's what we have. What gives?

Often collectors, actually HUMANS, like to categorize, tabulate, and organize things into neat piles, lists, types, groups, whatever. What would your silverware drawer look like if you didn't? NOW, would the silverware be any less usable if it were just dumped in there? But that's not how we roll, is it? No. So we like nice, neat 4 series machines and neat tidy 5 series machines. But in the real world, production of types can overlap, or parts from a previous series have to get used up in some useful way, while production of the new series has already started. We think that's what we have here. We believe that these machines were made to use up existing parts, to be sold after the release of 5 series machines had already happened.

But there's one thing that everybody missed about this machine, and actually Will and I thought it would be the first thing noticed! IT HAS NO MODEL NAME!! Is it just a "Smith Corona"? (No dash). Above, we see another almost identical mutant, but this one has a model name, "Tabulator". Wow, not a normal Smith-Corona name at all! This name has been associated with Sears, so did they sell it? We don't know, but there it is. That's two of these things. How about a third?

Above, mutant 2 meet mutant 3! Same machine, same features, same body, but it says "Eaton's" on it, and again, no model name! This name is actually a Canadian department store, but again no model name! So there are 3 machines like this, and a fourth JUST SOLD on EBay with the name "Sterling" on it. The two machines here with no model name are also the ONLY Smith-Corona machines we have EVER seen with no model name at all on them.

One final note, and a big one. ALL the machines like this, these "mutant" 4 series machines with "5 series" features, HAVE SERIAL NUMBERS THAT START WITH "4AR..." 4A is commonly associated with sterling model machines, but that "R" is totally and completely unusual, and exists only on this kind of machine so far as we have seen. All 3 shown here have it. So, we are going to refer to these mutants from here on out as "4AR" machines, denoting this intermediate variant. Was it done to use up parts, or fill contracts? We don't know. They do NOT appear to us to be rebuilds, which that "R" might make you think. No, we think they were assembled and distributed as they are, to a variety of sources, intentionally. And, we know it was late, because the use a few parts common to 5 series machines, like the mainspring housing/reel. So, an interesting variant to look out for. Are any mutants lurking undetected in your collection? Look closely, THESE have escaped detection all the way up until now! We hope you all have enjoyed this feature, and stay tuned for the next installment. More mutants guaranteed or your money back!! Promise!!

A Wrecktacular Discovery - 1

Sometimes around here we forget how many typewriters we have. I can't tell you off the top of my head. And sometimes we discover something we forgot! How about this large heavy cardboard box we found at one of our secret typewriter storage locations (and there are four of those, folks...)

Now, I recall having bought a broken machine of some kind a loooong time ago... but not broken so badly that it scared us. I think this is it. Let's get to work!

Box inside a box... that's good. The inner one is open as if I'd looked at it once before, and I might have. Often times I can't remember where my cup of coffee is, so how am I supposed to remember which of my machines this might be considering it never got out of the box? Who knows. But at least either it's from another collector or else it got packaged and shipped the way I instructed, since I always give instructions for packing like this for standard machines. Even if I know they're already broken -- see the Woodstock Electrite on the original DTW site.

Lots and lots of sealed air packs inside! I wonder if the air in these things is filtered. I mean, who's to say what kind of air they're packaging in these things? Didn't they find out that lots of bottled water is really just tap water in pretty spring-water-labeled bottles? You wonder if the air in these things is asbestos and petroleum fume laden. I do, anyway. No matter; back to the typewriter.

"Do you see anything?" "Yes, wondrous things." Or one wondrous thing. Quickly I remember that this machine was a Monarch-pattern machine, but with the number of variants that we had discovered over time for a second I didn't really know what this one was except that it was special and I wanted it. I look and see the large REMINGTON name on the paper table, and then the letters "MIER" below that, smaller. Aha! We do have something special here indeed - a previously unremarked branding, or labeling, variant of this machine and perhaps a very interesting intermediate step.

Here is the detail of the paper table. Now I remember! This is a machine that carries both the Remington name and the red, round Remington brand decal but that also carries the Smith Premier name below that. Quickly, I wonder to myself what model this thing is and what goofy serial number I'll discover on it.

The rest of the unearthing tomorrow, and more interesting facts revealed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

What's wrong with THIS thing?

Time for the second installment of our popular "what's wrong with this thing" segment where we show you a picture of a typewriter and invite you to comment on what you think is odd about it. True, there are a lot of "odd" machines out there, but the point of this feature is to show machines which at first glance may not seem off, but under closer examination vary in some way (or ways) from "normal" production machines.

So here it is! I have been suffering under this thing's somewhat "cyclopean" glare ever since I promised to put it on here, before Thanksgiving I think! Or is it more like that mythological monster that had 100 eyes instead of just one? I mean, are the keys eye-like or the clearance hole through the top cover? You know, Will and I had an electric hand mixer in our family when we were young that had a definite smiley-face on one end. It was a Dormeyer, and towards the end every time we used it it smelled like it was burning the motor windings. I imagined it grinning evilly as flames shot out the "smile", mixing...... flaming... MIXING!! FLAMING!!! AAA--HAAA-HAAA-HAAA-HAAAAAA!!

Ahem. So, intrepid type-spotters, what's up with this thing? To cover the bases, no we did not make it, yes it works, no it isn't photo shopped, no it was never on fire, and yes it did fit in my stocking, which promptly went south scaring both Santa and our dog, leading to some unpleasantness between the two.

Post your thoughts below as comments! We had a great response on the first one, so hopefully everybody will have fun with this one. Maybe you will spot something nobody else has, including us! Get out those bi/tri-focals and have a ball. (Really? It's just me? NOBODY ELSE has them? REALLY?) Our "answer" will be posted up next Monday, so check back then to see how everyone did!