Monday, November 20, 2017

Typewriters at Benton County Museum

The current exhibition at Benton County Museum is a traveling show from the Smithsonian called “Things Come Apart.”  One of the objects which has been disassembled is a 1964 manual typewriter. As the label for this item notes, the typewriter was invented by Christopher Sholes in the 1860s. The Benton County Historical Museum has over 50 typewriters in its collection, ranging in age from the 1880s to the 1970s. 
Artifacts in the Benton County Historical Society storage vault

One aspect of the typewriters I found interesting is the various ways manufacturers arranged the type-bars.  The early typewriters were called up-strike machines because the type-bar swung up and hit the paper on the underside of the roller (platen). The typist could not see the result without lifting up the top portion.  I imagine there were lots of typos in the early days! 

The Calligraph 2 typewriter pictured here is an example of an up-strike machine, with separate keys for lower case and upper case letters.  It was the first typewriter purchased for use on the campus of what is now the Oregon State University and was used by then president John Bloss, who did his own typing.  
University President John Bloss' typewriter

The Oliver Standard Visible Writer #3 used a different arrangement of the type bars which permitted the typist to see the results directly.  The type-bars, which have an inverted U shape, swing down to hit the paper on top of the platen. It has two shift keys—one for upper case letters and one for figures. Because this motion exerted more force, the machines were especially useful for making stencils. The arrangement of the type-bars into two towers led some to call it the “iron butterfly.”  Various models with this design were produced from 1894-1928; this model dates from 1902-1906. 
Oliver Standard Visible Writer
In the next post, I’ll tell you about some other odd typewriters in the collection.

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

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