The Classic Typewriter Page


The Franklin is a delightful typewriter that is always a favorite with collectors -- its curvy lines are irresistible. This handsome machine was invented by Wellington P. Kidder and patented in 1891. Kidder went on to invent the popular Wellington (patented 1892), a thrust-action machine. Later, Kidder developed the thrust-action principle by contributing to the Noiseless and inventing a small thrust-action portable, the Rochester, in 1923.

The Franklin is a downstroke-from-the-front machine with a curved keyboard. At least three British typewriters, the Salter, English and Imperial, have similar designs. This configuration offered visible writing (at least to a typist who craned her neck forward). Many nineteenth-century typewriter designers viewed the curved keyboard as ergonomically superior to the straight.

Most typebar typewriters use complicated series of linkages to join the key to the typebar. But the Franklin is amazingly simple: each key is on a lever whose geared teeth mesh directly with those of a typebar. Remington portables of the 1920s and 1930s use a similar mechanism, made only slightly more complex through adaptation to a straight keyboard and a frontstroke mechanism.

The space bar, at front and center, is short and broad. To the left we find a shift key; the similar key on the right is the shift-lock key. (It would really have been more convenient to provide a second normal shift key.)

The Franklin uses a narrow ribbon wound onto two spools which, on most models, partially obscure the platen. This ribbon can easily be replaced with a modern ribbon made for a dot-matrix printer. Your Franklin will then do excellent work!

Richard Dickerson, writing in ETCetera #1 (October 1987), established that about 19,000 Franklins were made, at a steady rate, from 1891 to 1907. Thus, you can date your Franklin approximately by using the following formula: (serial number / 1187) + 1891 = year.

Dickerson categorizes the model types as follows:

There are also reports of a very early model of the Franklin which had only two banks of keys; if you find such a specimen, you should know that it's rare and valuable. Type I is also quite rare. Finally, there are reports that on a few late Franklins, the keys on the sides were extended, forming a straighter, even though not perfectly straight, keyboard -- which suggests that the beautiful curved profile of the original Franklin had fallen out of favor with the typing public.

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