.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hermes Standard 8

The machine we review today is a Hermes 8, a standard manual typewriter introduced by Paillard in 1954.  The particular example before us today is serial number 8125641, manufactured in 1965, according to NOMDA serial number records here.

The Hermes 8 is a 44 key / 88 character machine incorporating segment shift.  The machine is equipped with a tabulator, whose stops are set and cleared by use of a single lever on the right rear of the carriage. 

The most instantly notable feature of the machine is the recess on the front cover to hold a stenographer's notebook.  Tabs at the bottom ensure the notebook will not slip down.  This feature, first introduced on the Hermes Ambassador model in 1948, eases the typist's work a bit since his or her eyes are always directly forward.  Incorporation of this design element gives the machine a very tallish look and an unusual profile.

Another peculiar feature of the design can be seen in the profile photo; the Hermes 8 introduced a vertical carriage rail assembly.  The silver-ended carriage support can be seen in the photo, with the carriage mounting wrapping around it from the rear.  Ball bearings are used on this mounting and we think that this machine may have the smoothest-running carriage of any we've ever tested. 

Other than these peculiarities, the machine is actually quite conventionally fitted out with line space selector (including half spaces, as many European machines do), flip up paper support arms, a paper release that also, when operated, lifts the paper bail (a feature we like,) and a well designed and shaped carriage return lever.  Margin stop setting is "automatic," with the location of each stop indicated by a pointer visible through slots in the paper table. 

The touch regulator is located under the ribbon cover, on the right hand side and does have a marked effect.  That said, the action on this machine might by some be considered excessively stiff; this machine is surely one of the stiffer standard machines we've encountered.  While the action is not so hard as to be unusable by any means, it does require strong and/or experienced fingers to both develop the machine's full speed potential while not shadowing, or skipping with the machine.  It is of interest to note that Wilfred Beeching, in his book "Century of the Typewriter," wrote that the follow-on Hermes 9 was "specially developed to give a light and rapid touch."  The Hermes 9 was introduced in 1964; by 1966 the Hermes 8 was out of production.

The machine includes other features, both peculiar and desirable.  A peculiar feature is the manner of the ribbon selector; it is a knob, or perhaps spindle, protruding from the right side of the machine which correlates to dots printed on the carriage rail extension.  A desirable feature is the inclusion of jam clear function in the margin release key.

The Hermes 8 gives the impression of being a real workhorse.  It seems extremely solidly made, and in fact has a key lever / type bar system that positively ensures that any misalignment in a key lever cannot be transmitted to the type bars, by use of a novel dual-segment design.  The action is quite stiff but the shift is remarkably easy and positive. 

We put enough paper through the Hermes 8 to be able to recommend the machine with no misgivings, except to say that it might not be the machine one would initially wish to learn to type on due to the stiff action.  Of course, if one did learn to type on this machine, he or she would have a leg up on others who learned on less stiff machines -- the payoff would be typing speed and endurance.  The machine was clearly very expensive to manufacture and will take just about any abuse an operator could dish out on it.  For office and transcription work, the notebook holder feature materially adds to this machine's utility and value.  While the Hermes 8 is not our top favorite standard typewriter, it is a worthy and well made instrument.

Further reading
11:00 PM Eastern 10/24/2012  Will Davis

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dejur Triumph Standard

Our recent examination of a pre-Second World War Adler standard typewriter caused me to examine a family relation of sorts while moving a number of machines around today.

The machine is a Dejur Triumph Standard; while quite a number of portables are seen carrying this dual branding, standard machines seem to be a lot more difficult to find with it.

The Dejur Triumph we see here is a large, fairly heavy 45 key / 90 character machine with segment shift and key-set tabulator.  The serial number of the machine is found both on the inside of the machine, on the lower left side on an attached plate and is also found on the front of the carriage rail.

The serial number 985380 dates the machine to 1956.

A notable feature of the machine (not at all unlike that found on the pre-war Adler reviewed recently) is its quickly removable carriage.  The operation of the two rear-mounted release buttons is exactly like that found on the pre-war Adler.  Removal of the carriage leaves the machine as seen below.

The ribbon cover flips up in the conventional fashion as seen below.

The two unusual keys either side of the space bar combine with wires and a multi-point socket on the left side of the typewriter to allow the typist to remotely operate a Grundig manufactured "Stenorette" dictating machine. (For those unfamiliar, the typist could insert a dictated tape into the Stenorette machine, and then control the machine from the typewriter keyboard in order to listen to the dictation and type it directly rather than interposing a step of hand-writing the dictation.)  Dejur Amsco Corporation was distributing these dictating machines in the United States, and within a few years of the date of manufacture of this typewriter it would have the rights to the trademark of the name "Stenorette."  Of course, at this time, Grundig (a German firm) was shortly to take control of Triumph itself.

This machine is extremely pleasant to use.  The action is smooth, crisp and quick.  The shift is positive and bounce free, but easy.  Carriage removal and reinsertion could not be simpler.  The machine's fit and finish are excellent.  A useful added feature that various makers of typewriters have added, then removed from time to time is the paper winding lever seen on the right end of the carriage on this Triumph that makes paper insertion a snap.  The keytops are of that modern, conformal plastic style which just feels very natural.  One is certainly given the impression that this would be a highly welcomed tool in the office when compared with a very large number of other makes and models from years previous.  The Adler and Triumph machines of this date range are probably not given their due as fine, top-grade working typewriters but this writer highly recommends them for any and every job.

9:10 PM Eastern 10/22/2012  Will Davis

Friday, October 19, 2012


The machine we review today is a portable manufactured by Clemens Muller A.G. Dresden, Germany.  This model, the Klein-Urania, appeared first in 1935 as a replacement for the very similar Urania Piccola which had been made from 1925.  The Klein-Urania was produced continuously through 1943, when production ended due to the Second World War. 
According to an online history of VEB Schreibmaschinenwerk Dresden, authored by H. Reckzeh, production of the Klein-Urania was restarted in mid-1946 (as was that of the Urania standard machine, the Model 9.)  Whereas production of the standard machine increased year by year, the Klein-Urania was produced at a far smaller rate and not for as long.  According to the work of Reckzeh, totals produced for the Klein-Urania were as follows:  1946, 705 machines; 1947, 1388 machines; 1948, 1541 machines; 1949, 687 machines.  At that time, production of the portable ended while the standard continued at increasing rate per year.  The company itself operated as VVB Mechanik vorm. Clemens Muller from 1948 through 1951, when it was completely merged along with Seidel & Naumann (makers of the famous Ideal standard and Erika portable typewriters) into VEB Schreibmaschinenwerk Dresden. 
(Aside - This set of events was transpiring across the entire breadth of the typewriter industry that found itself "behind the Iron Curtain" in the GDR following the end of the Second World War.  All of the makers, including Clemens Muller (Urania), Seidel & Naumann (Ideal, Erika), Wanderer-Werke (Continental), Optima, Groma, and Mercedes were combined into VEB's and eventually the production of all typewriters was "rationalized" so that only the Optima-pattern standard machines were being produced, and only the Erika-pattern portables were being produced.  This rationalization took some years and production continued at all the firms for some time, and some crossovers did occur.  For example, there are known examples of the final metal-bodied Erika portable which carry the Optima brand name.  According to Wilfred Beeching's "Century of the Typewriter," nothing of the Continental brand ever reentered serial production under Soviet control; the portable plant had been moved to Belgium and was in private hands, while the tooling for the two Continental office machines, the Standard and the Silenta, was moved into the USSR and somehow just disappeared.)
The example we show here is one of the small number of post-war Klein-Urania machines.  Its serial number is 423875, placing its production in 1947 according to available records (which are reproduced at tw-db.com.)  The machine appears to be essentially the same as the pre-war production version.
Details and operation
The Klein-Urania is a portable of roughly average size and weight in the larger class of four bank portables offered in Germany and in the US before the War and immediately after.  The machine has 44 keys typing 88 characters in the conventional four bank single shift layout.  This particular example has the English-German keyboard in QWERTY style; at some time in the past, the furthest right type slug has been replaced (and the keytop legend replaced as well) with \ and $ symbols.  Backspace key is on the right of the keyboard; shift keys are both sides, with the shift lock being a lever style acting on the left shift key.  Carriage shift is employed, raising the entire assembly and rail.
Controls on the left end of the carriage are the carriage release lever (nearer the typist) and the margin release lever.  On the right, a line space selector is forward of the platen knob shaft, while the paper release is an unusual chromed crank instead of a lever.  A positive and sure carriage lock design, fitted to the right end of the carriage and to the machine body is a notable feature of the Klein-Urania.  Margin stops are set from the rear of the machine in conventional style; two fold up paper arms are attached to the rear of the short paper table.  The paper bail, with two rollers, flips up and away from the typist.
The ribbon selector is a three position dial on the left side of the machine.  Ribbon reverse is automatic, actuated by the ribbon forks. 
The machine in operation is fairly pleasant to use, striking hard enough with a normal touch to provide good impression.  Relatively high speed is achievable on the machine, and it was noted that the machine seems quite reluctant to jam type bars, even if deliberately poor technique is employed in order to force the issue.  Of course, it must be noted that by the time this machine was built, most portables of this size class had a tabulator available (none was on this machine,) and had more modern control arrangements; the use of a lever operated, carriage mounted margin release being noted as particularly archaic.  It must also be recognized though that when this machine was built, there was a massive shortage of typewriters in Germany specifically and in Europe generally so that any decently workable machine which could be built could also be sold.  Viewed in this context so unfamiliar to us today, the Klein-Urania can be found to have no real faults.
Collectors' notes: 
This machine has been modified at some time with a resoldered type slug, and replaced keytop legend.  The space bar shows wear; it is painted metal.  Pre-war machines had the name of the maker, Clemens Muller, on the front frame below the keyboard; either this machine was repainted or the decal was never there.
On the front of the machine is a small dealer identification plate which reads as follows:
J.C. Wiederholt
Prinzenstr. 14/15  Fernrut 2049
The machine is complete with case; the machine's four feet rest in circular depressions in the case base, to which the machine is attached by spring loaded flip up levers, one each side.  Case lid is separate.  Machine can be fully used still on base.
I myself believe this is a very collectible typewriter, and like it very much, because of what we find out about the history of typewriters in Germany, and then later in the GDR, when we look into its facts.  I am actually pleased that the machine is from the post-war period, because that period, even though newer, is far more rare in total of numbers made (total of 4,321 machines.)  Further, we have in the collection a "companion" for this machine - a post-war standard Ideal, manufactured by Seidel & Naumann which is the other company that was eventually combined with Clemens Muller to form VEB Schreibmaschinenwerke Dresden. 
In addition to the attraction due the machine's heritage, I also happen to like its appearance.  The machine is unusual in every way and dimension, causing the investigator to turn it round and round and examine all of its sides.  Doing so reveals the unusual design and placement of some of its controls, and brings up the unusual top casing surrounding the type bar rest.  The machine's operative features (and in some cases lack thereof) as well as its touch would not cause the avid collector - typist to deploy this machine first, or for NaNoWriMo, but the machine's operability is unquestionable, even if in a rugged no-frills sort of way. 
Background and more reading
2:30 PM 10/19/2012 Will Davis

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Introduction of the Woodstock No. 4

The Woodstock No. 4 was released to the public in 1915 as the second model from Woodstock Typewriter Company; it followed the No. 3 which had been released in September 1914.  At the time of the appearance of the No. 4 Woodstock, the typewriter market was already heavily saturated in the United States with visible machines from established makers, including Remington, Smith Premier, L.C. Smith & Bros., Royal, Underwood, Monarch, Fox, Oliver and Victor - all at the $100 mark for price.  In addition, Blickensderfer had begun manufacture of a true $100 standard machine at the end of 1913, which was getting some headway.  There were lower priced machines available as well; Sears, Roebuck & Co. was distributing the Harris Visible at roughly the $40 mark. 

Woodstock clearly intended its machine to be in the true $100 or "top end" bracket, but took a marketing approach which not only allowed it to charge less, but depended upon it and in fact capitalized on it.  We have a Woodstock sales brochure here which probably dates from the last quarter of 1915 that tells the story.

This brochure contains 126 testimonials from actual Woodstock purchasers, most with tiny photographs of the users.  The reason that this was possible was in fact that this supply of testimonial from the new purchaser back to Woodstock was a part of the purchase agreement.

Woodstock nominally priced the No. 4 machine at $100.  However, it offered to its buyers what it called the "Credit Draft Agreement," which cut the price of the machine by $32 for a total by-mail installment cost of $68 if the purchaser agreed to show the machine to friends, family and other prospective purchasers and to send back to Woodstock a testimonial of their experiences with the machine. 

From the testimonials, we can glean a few facts about Woodstock's sales terms in late 1915.  The machines were offered on five days' trial.  They were guaranteed for 18 months against defects in material or workmanship.  Woodstock also paid all of the shipping charges for the machines, whether they were kept on installments, or whether they were returned after the trial period.  Although it appears that most of the business was being done by mail order, Woodstock did have agents representing some territories at this time, as proven in the testimonials from those who purchased from them.  According to Typewriter Topics' 1923 compendium, Woodstock did not launch its official sales and distribution organization until the beginning of 1916.

The front and back covers of the sales brochure are above, left and right; click to enlarge.

Interestingly, Woodstock has added a further claim to its repertoire of angles by which to sell the machine; throughout the brochure, the Woodstock No. 4 is repeatedly referred to as the "Woodstock Visible, Silent Typewriter" and many of the testimonials refer to it as such -- although in other places the machine is simply referred to as the Woodstock.  The company was pushing the assertion that their machine was the quietest of all of the conventional front-striking standard machines of the day; it does so numerous times in the brochure, and numerous testimonials ensure that it was when compared to other makes.  None of the other makes is called out by name in the testimonials, though; they're lined out or asterisked out so that the clear inference of mention of a specific brand is made but the actual brand is never identified. 

The brochure also takes the opportunity several times in its many pages to identify that the four bank, single shift keyboard had become the industry norm and that three bank double shift machines were slower and less convenient to operate.  Certainly, this sort of statement has the Oliver in mind, but also might have the Harris Visible in mind, considering that Sears, Roebuck & Co. owned Woodstock but was also distributing the Harris Visible through its catalog. 

Looking generally at what Woodstock was emphasizing in this sales effort, we find that extreme visibility, mechanical simplicity, quietness of operation, and a standard 4-bank single shift keyboard were the things mentioned the most either in the material or the testimonials.  In terms of the sales campaign, Woodstock clearly indicated that their machine was in the $100 class but that it had a unique plan to allow the buyer to pay far less - in return for provision of testimonial.  The Woodstock brochure sets the whole campaign plan out fairly neatly:

"...we have determined to sell the Woodstock Typewriter for no more than is charged for other typewriters, namely, $100.  We have further determined in order to rapidly introduce our machine and its superior qualities to the public that we shall within the shortest time possible introduce the Woodstock Typewriter into every city, town and hamlet in the United States, distributing thousands of typewriters.  For this purpose we have a very unique plan which appeals to everybody with a taste for the best.  Our plan is very simple, yet very effective, and it is based on the principle of giving the purchaser every possible advantage in return for which he agrees to lend friendly assistance toward further sales.  We are leaving in the purchasers' pockets what would otherwise go to expensive advertising and high-salaried salesmen, with their costly hotel and traveling expenses.  We are giving concessions that no typewriter company was ever known to give before.

The other benefits are everything that anyone could possibly offer, absolutely free trial, express prepaid, whether typewriter is accepted or returned, easiest kind of installment payments, less than is charged for rental on a high-class typewriter, and on top of all this the greatest benefit and the feature that has proven so attractive is our Credit Draft allowance of $32.00 off of our regular $100.00 price in return for good will and friendly co-operation, as his conscience and convenience may dictate."

As I have mentioned a number of times both on my websites and on this blog, rebuilt typewriters of various sorts (whether rebuilt and distributed in volume, or rebuilt and sold individually by dealers) were always a factor, and at the time the Woodstock was introduced, the FTC action against typewriter rebuilders had not yet fully evolved.  As a result, hordes of poorly refinished, lower quality used machines were being marketed both by mail order and through various dealers and their low prices were definitely a problem for companies honestly manufacturing brand new typewriters.  Woodstock takes a whole page in the sales brochure to address the rebuilt typewriter competition:

"Look Out!  for Second Hand, So Called "Rebuilt" Typewriters

REFINISHED WOULD BE A BETTER WORD for this uncertain article of commerce.  The people throughout the country have for some time been imposed upon, and in many cases very greatly deceived by these revarnished, renickeled creatures of uncertain age, whose exterior disguise gives little intimation of the infirmities and impairments within.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as rebuilding a typewriter to make it as good, or nearly as good as new, without literally making a new machine, and this is not done.  The "rebuilding" process commonly followed is usually nothing more nor less than a "patching up" that would be given to any worn out piece of machinery to make it last a little longer, and the greatest effort is given to renewing the exterior finish, which is not an essential element in the efficiency, durability, or practical usefulness of a typewriter.
THE FACT THAT THESE WORN OUT MACHINES do not, and cannot have all their worn parts renewed, coupled with the fact that they are also usually back number models, make them a thing of very uncertain value and service, to say the least.
ADVERTISING PAGES ARE FILLED with advertisements, calling attention to a low price on various makes of typewriters, and saying little or nothing about the fact that they are of this so-called "rebuilt," back-number class, and also illustrating the large profits in this class of business.
ALL THIS SHOWS:  That it is necessary, every so often, that a new machine be built, bringing all previous experiences down to date in one harmonious, complete structure, getting away completely from the "added-to," "tacked-on" features, and from the curse of the "rebuilt."
The Woodstock has done this.  It is NEW from Start to Finish.  There are no Second Hand Woodstocks.  R-E-B-U-I-L-T spells "REGRET"."

{Two images, front and back, of advertising card found inside the sales brochure; click to enlarge.}

There are two ironies to be found overall in this brochure.  First, the company states that it can allow its buyers to keep the most money in their pockets because it has no salesmen, nor their associated costs - but it did launch its sales organization the following year.  Also, Woodstock tells its buyers the hazards of rebuilt typewriters - but it did eventually begin factory rebuilding and distributing its own machines some years later.

As we now know, the Woodstock Typewriter Company was a success practically from the start.  The company introduced its No. 5 machine late in 1916, and opened an export organization at the beginning of 1917.  From this time, according to Typewriter Topics' 1923 compendium, Woodstock operated on a practically continuous backorder situation, so great was demand.  I have often wondered, considering the saturated environment that the Woodstock entered, how it could have been so successful.  The very ingenious marketing campaign finally revealed by the Woodstock No. 4 sales brochure we've seen above might be the biggest part of that initial success - of course, coupled with the fact that the company was indeed offering to the world a typewriter of the highest caliber.

(Woodstock No. 4, Davis collection, above, and top.)
Background Links (all Davis web pages):
3:15 PM Eastern 10/17/2012 - Will Davis

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Adler 1938 Standard

The Adler I brought was the 'hit of the show' for typists during the Fifth Annual Typewriter Collectors' Meeting at Herman Price's Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum.  Richard Polt, Martin A. Rice and Jack Knarr all declared that the machine was among the finest in actual use that they had ever encountered.  Because of the buzz generated by this machine -- and also because it comes from a very highly uninvestigated time for German-made typewriters in English-language sources -- I've put together a complete study of the machine including design details and features in the usual style, as well as historical background and outside site references for context.

ADLER 1938 STANDARD:  Operation and design in review

The machine seen above is properly simply designated as an Adler Standard, serial number 575954 and which was manufactured in 1938 by Adlerwerke vorm Heinrich Kleyer, A.G. Frankfurt, Germany.  The line of Adler front strike standard machines was introduced in 1931 with the Model 31 and was made until the Second World War (reduction in manufacturing of typewriters to build war materiel, and later bomb damage) forced production to halt.


The Adler office machine seen here is a standard, four-bank keyboard machine with 45 keys typing 90 characters, and which incorporates segment shift with shift motion in the downward direction.  The machine is fitted with a six-key decimal tabulator, whose tab stops are set and cleared individually through use of a lever at the right of the keyboard.  A lever on the right end of the carriage will simultaneously clear all tab stops.  The keyboard includes a back space key whose keytop legend is red; the margin release, however, is operated by a button located on the right front of the machine.  On the front left of the machine is the lever for reversing ribbon travel.  To the left of the keyboard is located a three position ribbon color selector lever.

Paper handling on the machine comprises an excellent combination of features.  Two bails are incorporated, which may seem complicated but in service these do not get in the way.  The nearest bail is of the conventional type, which both lifts up with the actuation of the paper release lever but which will also separately pull forward toward the typist and lock; slight reverse pressure returns the bail to its normal or engaged position.  The rear bail holds paper guides which will prevent even the thinnest onion skin typing paper from re-entering the feed once typed upon and moved up.  Spacing up to triple, in half space increments, is provided for and the return lever is of excellent design and location.  Margin stops are set in the normal way, but windows in the paper table at each side allow easy view of the margin stop locations by way of included scales and red hash lines on the lower margin stop rack blocks.

The Adler Standard incorporates a quickly removable carriage.  The carriage and its rail and rail base, along with main spring assembly are released by use of two push rods located on the rear of the machine.  Once the rods are depressed, the entire assembly quickly and easily lifts straight up.  Replacement is just as easy, and the rods need only be pushed slightly upward to spring back to their extended or "locked" position.  The tabulator stop and set/clear tunnel assembly on the rear of the machine provides only minimal interference to the performance of this procedure.

The machine is manufactured to the highest quality in both material and fit/finish.  The machine overall is exceedingly solid, but incorporates a rapid and light stroke which is finished with a high degree of acceleration and force due to the special design incorporated in the key lever / type bar mechanism.  Since the action of the Adler is, to the feel of the typist, somewhat unique, this design is worth briefly investigating.

The design incorporated into the Adler Standard which affords accelerated type bar action is actually the patent of one Berthold Baumann, under license to Triumph Werke Nurnberg A.G.  Adler and Triumph front strike standard machines were, as Wilfred Beeching mentions in his volume "Century of the Typewriter,"  "cross pollinated" for most of their lives, which accounts for the coverage of the design in question by a patent assigned to Triumph.

As can be seen in the first illustration from US Patent 2117235, the key levers actuate a swing link which then pulls a reach rod forward, pulling on a swing link of peculiar design that connects at rest and for the first part of its travel with a pin and slot connection to the type bar.  As motion continues, the first connection by pin and slot is broken and a second pin engages the open hook that can be seen mounted high on the end of the type bar and which protrudes behind the segment with the type bar at rest.  This second connection changes the ratio further; note the numbered positions along the travel of the keytop downward, evenly spaced as compared with the position of the type bar along its arc with the same corresponding numbers.  It can be seen how much the angular travel increases as the type bar nears the print point.  The inventor, Baumann, has the following to say about the design in the opening remarks of the description of the patent:

"This invention relates to a novel kind of actuation for the type levers of typewriters, in which two intermediate levers are interposed between the key lever and the type lever.  It has this advantage over the known arrangements, that the type lever experiences an additional acceleration in about the second half of its swinging motion towards the platen, but that the pressure applied to the key remains practically the same and equally soft and elastic during depression of the key.  As the return swing of the type lever also takes place with an additional acceleration, a very great increase in typing speed results, which could not be obtained with the typewriting systems hitherto known.

While type lever actuating systems are known in which the type lever is accelerated towards the end of its swinging motion, in the arrangement according to the invention this known acceleration has an additional positively regulated acceleration imparted to it.

A further feature of the invention consists in this, that for obtaining the additional acceleration of the type lever, the second intermediate lever which engages with it has, besides the usual engaging pin, a second engaging pin lying further away from the point of rotation of the intermediate lever and that the type lever has in addition to its usual slot for the first engaging pin a second engaging slot for the second engaging pin.  The means employed for obtaining these conditions of motion are characterized by great constructional simplicity which ensures a reliable action."

In actual operation, depression of the key levers through their travel is easy to a point at which resistance increases markedly near the end of travel; this occurs when the type bars' projections meet the U-bar behind the segment.  This of course, when running the machine at a normal typists' speed, is hardly noticed and in fact markedly aids the rapid throw of the type bars away from the print point after the impressions are made. 

This typewriter has been judged by all exposed to it as absolutely excellent in every respect; an especially outstanding recommendation has been given by all for its unique touch.



Click here to see the Adler page on the European Typewriter Project site

Click here to see the Triumph page on the European Typewriter Project site; note the similarities between the Adler Standard seen here, and the two Triumph machines seen third (Triumph 10, austere) and fifth (Triumph Standard 14, mislabeled as a 12 on the caption) on the ETP page

Click here to see Richard Polt's post from the Collectors' Meeting wherein he mentions and shows the Adler Standard. 

Data - Corroboration

The Adler Standard as seen on this page is pictured on page 93 of Wilfred Beeching's "Century of the Typewriter" (1990 Edition) where it is described as "Model of 1938."  Serial number data follows on page 96.  Serial data can also be found on tw-db.com.


The first Adler office sized, or Standard machine which was a conventional four bank front strike machine was the Model 31 of 1931.  Other later machines of various front strike and thrust action incorporated model numbers matching their years of introduction through 1937 (the Model 37 being yet another large thrust action machine) but the Adler Standard as seen on this page has no model number or name other than "Standard" on it anywhere, and none exists in literature available to the author at this time.

Removal of the carriage for inspection caused me to note the unusual design of the final swing link in the key lever and type bar mechanism; a half hour's worth of searching for Adler patents on the design proved fruitless, but examination of other material for background caused me to question whether the patent for the design (if one were filed) might be under Triumph rights, which it was.

Application for patent of the design described above for type bar action was filed in Germany by Baumann / Triumph Werke in 1933 and filed in the USA in 1934.  Patent was granted in the USA in 1938.

Royal Typewriter Company had made some amount of press concerning E.B. Hess' designs for accelerated type bar action long before appearance of the Triumph patent; see Typewriter Topics' 1923 compendium "The Typewriter - An Illustrated History" under Royal for a brief description.  Many machines other than the Royal Standard (including the Adler and Triumph machines) eventually incorporated key lever / type bar mechanism designs which afforded type bar acceleration.

7:30 PM 10/14/2012  Will Davis

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bijou in Bombay

One of the more interesting pieces in my collection is this delicate folder you see at left; click the photo to enlarge.

This is a price list for various kinds of office equipment being offered by The Office Applicance Corporation, Bombay, India in September 1936.  This folder is printed on exceedingly thin and delicate paper, and frankly it is a wonder that it survived.

On the front, we see a Woodstock standard machine; the company was offering both brand new Woodstocks (this is still the tried and true No. 5, which as of this date is the 5N variant) and Factory Rebuilt Woodstock machines at roughly half the price of the new ones.  The company also sold a very wide range of duplicating machines, adding machines, and many various office supplies including different kinds of paper and carbons.  The firm must have been a major outlet in that city.

The company also sold portable typewriters, but Woodstock never made any (although it did design and patent them) and thus couldn't supply them.  The market for portables in Bombay at the time was satisfied through Office Appliance Corporation by the "Bijou," which was a product of Seidel & Naumann in Germany.  The machine normally carried the label "Erika," but for the wide export market was relabeled in this fashion.  Inside the folder is this page:

Included with the folder you see above was another one, specially printed by S&N to advertise the features of its latest No. 5 model of the Bijou and the extra-cost 5M or "Master Model."  The brochure is itself a great piece of advertising visually and practically speaks for itself.  First we'll see the front cover.  Click any photo to enlarge (photos quite large for this piece.)

Next, the interior of this tri-fold brochure.  I've tried to ensure that the original colors of the brochure are reproduced on the internet as closely as possible.

Below, the two panels of the other side that we have not yet seen.  Of particular interest are the added features of the Master Model.

I find this brochure of interest because of the name variant; I first became aware of the multiplicity of export name variants applied to many varied German-made machines during the European Typewriter Project days, and had been interested by some of the S&N machines that carried the name "US Mirsa Ideal" and others.  As a historical snapshot, it's interesting enough; its delicate nature convinced me that I should scan it and get it on the internet before it can disintegrate further.

We'll see a bit more of the Office Appliance folder in another post, on another subject.

11:15 AM  10/3  Will Davis
PORTABLE TYPEWRITER FORUM / 10 YEARS 2002-2012  Click here

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Second Incarnation


The typewriter you see below is the only machine in my collection (or my family's, for that matter) which is assured to have been owned by a famous person.  I won it in open auction very early in my collecting career, and the background with the machine all checked out - the seller was fairly specific in the auction information about how he had come by the typewriter.  I checked out the address visible on the machine and it matched with archived information.  The machine was not very expensive because the date for bidding on any portable typewriter was early; they weren't really popular among collectors yet. 

This is a Cole-Steel typewriter, and it was owned by John Cameron Swayze.  The machine had in its case an instruction manual, whose information was unknown to me prior to the auction but which checks out with a very early print date (1957) and was printed "Cole Steel Equipment Company" --- in other words, it was printed before the firm set up a separate business to market office machines instead of just office furniture.

Of course, what no one knew until after the auction was that I had an actual magazine advertisement in my collection that backed up the machine's existence.  I had won the ad on Yahoo! Auctions (now long gone!)  Below is the top two thirds of the ad; the rest just lists dealers.  Click photos to enlarge.

Although we know that the machine initially called the "Cole Portable" in these ads, later known better by its full name "Cole-Steel" appeared here in the United States in 1958 (being a relabeled West German "ABC" specially made for Cole-Steel) we don't know for certain when sales ended.  The numbers surviving seem to indicate several years' of imports from West Germany.

Now, let's fast forward to the late 1960's, when Cole-Steel Equipment Company becomes involved with Litton Industries, who already owned Royal (Royal-McBee by then).  This relationship eventually evolved into a merger of Cole-Steel into Litton in July 1970, according to trademark assignment records.  During this Litton era, the "Cole" brand name appeared again on a different generation of typewriters.

The most often seen late, Litton era "Cole" machines are the large Royal portables like the 890 / Custom III / Sabre.  Much harder to find is the model you're about to see.

The case looks normal enough at a glance that one might pass it up if he or she were not inclined to like smaller, more compact machines.  But take a closer look at the handle.

Clearly, this is no ordinary typewriter.  Well, perhaps mechanically it IS an ordinary typewriter, but this brand name is highly uncommon .. unless it's associated with the old Cole-Steel.

Here it is; the Cole Collegian.  A fairly compact 42 key rocking carriage-shifted portable, labeled "Made in Holland."

Here we see the label on the top of the machine in detail; we also see an extreme close-up of the serial number, found under the left end of the carriage, stamped on top of the bottom frame rail. 

The serial number "6740083" does not make any sense unless we relate it to contemporary Royal machines, because that's what this Cole Collegian is - it's a rebadged Royal.  In fact, we have the correlating model.

Above, a fuzzy but nevertheless useful old photo from my first typewriter site, showing a Holland made Royal Quiet Deluxe.  The serial of this machine is SL 7426286.  It is extremely similar to the Cole Collegian; it has a lever-set tabulator added as compared to the Cole Collegian, but is otherwise practically identical.

A look at the Collegian's serial number reveals that it fits in the known range for the Royalite / Royaluxe family, corresponding to 1966... IF the serial is running in with the contemporary Royal machines, that is. 

(This series is that which derived originally from the Halberg Traveler; it then went through a run as a very flat Royal [sometimes also relabeled for, and sold by, Singer Sewing Machine Company in the United States as the Singer Scholastic] with model names like "Royalite."  The machine was given a new angular body more appropriate for the 1960's as the Royal Arrow, and Royal Parade.  The body style you see here is the third and last body style this machine had under Royal production before being dropped.)

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the Cole name, quite familiar these days to collectors due to the skyrocketing popularity of the Cole-Steel (and the ABC too, I might add) did make a reappearance on typewriters after the original venture to import West German-made machines ended.  This little known enterprise had no real impact on the office machine industry and judging by surviving machines minimal sales; it's of interest to us today in context only.

It's also a good example to illustrate the collectors' tenet that you should fully examine every typewriter you ever find.

10:15 PM  10/2  Will Davis
PORTABLE TYPEWRITER FORUM / 10 YEARS 2002-2012  Click here

What's wrong with that Webster? The ANSWER(S).

Time to reveal just what it is that is unusual about our subject machine for this feature: the Webster XL-800. There is SO MUCH to go into about these Webster machines, which are of course re-branded Brother typewriters, but that is information for another article. It would take many articles, or one REALLY LONG one to go through the complete evolution of typewriters made by Brother, and we could probably write another several on all the re-brandings of their machines sold through other outlets. But we will stick to the machine in question here. Above, you will see a Webster XL-500 on the left compared with our XL-800 on the right. Notice that the machines are very similar mechanically. As for sales of machines branded "Webster" the XL-800 followed the XL-747 which followed the XL-500 we see here. Some viewers got one of the differences (or oddities) exactly right, which is that the 800 has an extra wide tabulator key, which seems to take up the width of two keys when compared to the 500. This renders the 800 a 43 key machine, while the earlier 500 has 44. Now of course the 800 is a later variant, so what gives? Isn't that a step backwards? I mean, everybody's marketing made a big deal once portables got all the features/keys that office sized standard machines had, right? So you GAIN the rapid-space feature and LOSE two characters? Why do that? (Remember, you can click on all of these pictures for a larger view.)

Above is an overhead view of the XL-800, and we can see that the tabulator key does indeed occupy what would, or should be, the position of two keys. Another unusual thing about this machine is that red key top. See it? That is the "@/cent" key. Now, Brother machines and all of their variants can indeed have red "Tab" keys. MANY do, in the top row, right most position, BUT taking up only one key width. But this machine has not only a red double width tab key, it ALSO has a very unusual RED CHARACTER key. Hmmm.....Let's take the cover off and look around inside.

Now with the top cover off, we can see exactly what is "wrong" with this machine! Or, the reason that there are SEVERAL things wrong with it, when compared to any other of this model of Brother machine. (Keep in mind here, there are THREE and ONLY THREE basic Brother manual machines EVER MADE, but with the way they changed styling and casings it can be confusing!) This Webster XL-800 has a "Changeable type" head slug on it's RIGHT most type bar, (@ /cent) and the next type bar over, usually "+/=" is not installed because the extra width of the changeable type head does not allow it! Thus, there would have been a gap in the keyboard, so rather than have that, Brother widened the "tab" key to take up the space. The red key top on this machine denotes a changeable type head, NOT JUST the "tab" key as on all previous Brother made machines with this mechanism. See the empty slot in the segment, just to the left of the right most type bar? See the very large head on the end of the right type bar? There you have it! A Brother with more than one red key top should be suspicious, and this is why.

Above, we have the changeable head type bar raised, and to its right, a normal slugged type bar. Note the size difference between the two. With a segment this tight, (if you have a "small" Brother machine you can see for yourself just how close the type bars really are), there is NO WAY an oversized type head would fit anywhere without omitting one or more adjacent type bars. Of course, putting it out on the end means only losing one key or two characters, but it makes the "red" changeable key top become a lower row key. So far as we know, after having studied literally hundreds of Brother machines, the Webster XL-800's are the only "small" Brother machines to EVER HAVE the changeable type feature! This of course implies that other Brother machines have this feature, but I digress...

Above, we see a machine which, in its many guises, is usually thought of as being the only big selling U.S. machine with changeable type, namely the Smith-Corona "Galaxie" series, (Galaxie II and later) here seen in a re-branding for retail giant JCPenney as their "Caravelle 10". Note the black key top, denoting the removable key top on the type bar that holds their version of "Change-a-type" (as Sears called it) and which key top could be replaced with a top matching the symbols on the head you swapped out. Smith-Corona machines are widely known when it comes to a changeable type feature. But Brother? Not widely known at all, and only in the "big" machine is it usually seen. But this Webster XL-800 is indeed a mutant, that's why it's in this feature!

So, the next time you think of how easy it is to change fonts or type special characters on your computer, think back to a time when characters on a keyboard were VERY limited, and manufacturers had to resort to all kinds of things to get consumers extra characters beyond those available on a standard keyboard. (I know, just leave a space and wtite it in. We all know what that looks like.) And there is the reason to do this, to go to this length to make that possible: sales! Sure, no front settable tabs on this thing, BUT it can accept other characters, just like an SCM machine! And just like many other times in the evolution of the portable typewriter, it is an example of a full size or office sized "standard machine" feature being introduced into a portable to gain an advantage over the competition, or to at least keep up with it.

Reliance Visible "typecasting"

In 1916, a Mr. Enos Lesh sent away for the Reliance Visible brochure you see above.  I think we've all seen the early ads that said "send for our color brochure" or "write for particulars."  This kind of detailed sales brochure, heavy on why you should buy, was the result.

In this case, we can also assert that there was something else; a letter from Montgomery Ward & Co. to Mr. Lesh.  This letter isn't a mass-produced or mass printed affair; it's typed.  Although I mentioned it on my website article on the Reliance, I did not show the letter.  I've decided to do our first ever "typecast" on this blog by reproducing the actual letter Mr. Lesh received.  Two scans below.

{Click photos to enlarge.}

The Reliance Visible (formerly the Pittsburg Visible) was one of the "cut rate" machines being offered in those days - the idea in this case being that most of the value you paid was in the typewriter and not in a separate sales, distribution and service organization.  (Our favorite Harris Visible / Rex Visible family is in exactly the same bracket.)  Below is the centerspread of the brochure, also not before reproduced.

There is a note inside the brochure, written in, that hints at Enos Lesh having purchased a Reliance Visible; this brochure certainly is among the best of the early such examples and it would be easy to see why anyone thinking about getting a typewriter would be fully convinced to act having read all the material contained therein.  The brochure would surely have been expensive to produce, but there may well have been the supporting assumption that those who sent away for one were more than likely to purchase a typewriter anyway. 

For full details on the Reliance Visible and more images from the brochure, click here to see my large article on these interesting machines.

6:10 PM  10/2/2012  Will Davis