Monday, December 4, 2017

More Typewriters at Benton County Museum!

In the last post, I described some of the many typewriters in the museum's collection.  Another one which caught my attention is this Simplex typewriter patented in 1892.

As the typist rotates the dial, the rubber characters pass over an ink pad.  Once the dial is at the appropriate letter, the typist presses down to print the letter.  The original Simplex printed only upper case letters; later versions had larger dials with both upper and lower case letters. This machine was marketed to individuals for neat letter writing and sold for $2.50 which was much less than the $100 price of keyboard models.

I noticed this typewriter because it reminded me of a toy typewriter that I had as a child which used  similar technology.  As keyboard machines improved and prices fell, the Simplex was too slow to be  competitive in the office and even home use markets. The company began marketing the machine as a toy for children. The Marx Toy Company also made similar typewriters for children in the 1950s.

Another version of  an index typewriter (one which selects the letter and prints it in separate actions)
is the Odell typewriter which inventor Levi Judson Odell patented in 1889.  Instead of a dial, the typist used a small handle to slide along the vertical bar to the chosen letter then and pressed it to print. The vertical bar then moved over one space. Odell typewriters were sold until 1906.

Another unusual machine is this Elliot-Fisher book typewriter from 1905. In the early 1900s, many businesses and government agencies kept records in bound books and ledgers. To make the entries more legible, the Elliott and Hatch Book Typewriter Company introduced book typewriters in 1897.  In 1903 it merged with the Fisher Book Typewriter Company, a new competitor.  The Elliott-Fisher Company continued to produce book typewriters until at least 1925.

The typist would place the opened book on a special table to hold it in place.  Then the down-stroke typewriter portion moved along the rails as the user typed. The machine was also advertised as especially useful for typing forms that had many layers of paper and carbon paper due to the firm base the table provided.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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