The Classic Typewriter Page

Emerson

The Emerson is a three-bank, frontstroke typebar typewriter. That sounds pretty ordinary, but in fact, this machine uses a unique method of bringing the type to the paper: the typebars swing in to the front of the platen from the sides. The closest relative to this mechanism is the Oliver's downstroke-from-the-side arrangement. The Emerson has better visibility than the Oliver, and maybe it deserved to have a more successful career. The machine sold for $50 -- a good deal. Its positive features include a tabulator, a backspace key, and a two-color ribbon. However, it was not particularly fast, and is said to have suffered from an unfortunate habit: its types fell off the typebars!

The Emerson was invented by prolific typewriter designer Richard W. Uhlig (he also invented the Commercial Visible, the Allen, and many others). Why it was called the Emerson, I don't know -- a tribute to the American transcendentalist thinker, perhaps? The machine was first made in Kittery, Maine in 1907. In 1908, production shifted to Momence, Illinois. In 1910 the company was purchased by Alvah Roebuck, of Sears Roebuck & Co. fame, who unwisely abandoned the mail-order business at this time. Roebuck moved the factory to Woodstock, Illinois.

Almost all Emersons were made in Woodstock and are marked "No. 3." There are some minor variations in the style of the decals and the shape of the body (the bottom edge of the sides is sometimes straight, rather than scalloped). Some Emersons may possibly carry the name Roebuck.

Emerson salesmen were offered a free piano if they sold enough machines. Apparently this incentive did not do the trick. Production of the Emerson ceased in 1914, and the last remaining machines were sold under the name "Smith" by entrepreneur Harry A. Smith, who specialized in this somewhat misleading practice. (His name brought to mind the famous Smith Premier and L.C. Smith typewriters.) The factory was then converted to make the highly successful, but much less charming, Woodstock typewriter -- yet another Underwood clone.

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