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Blickensderfer No. 9

The no. 9 is the last of the classic Blickensderfer typewheel machines, a direct descendant of the Blickensderfer no. 5, the ingenious little machine that amazed the world when it was introduced in 1893. The Blick no. 5 was the first portable typewriter with a keyboard. George C. Blickensderfer's inventive genius was apparent in the little machine's interchangeable typewheels, easily replaceable ink roller, and good visibility. Blickensderfer even introduced a new keyboard layout, a 3-bank, double-shift keyboard with the most common English letters (DHIATENSOR) in the bottom row. This "Scientific" keyboard became the standard on Blick machines, and the principle was easily adapted to create Scientific layouts for other languages.

Later Blick typewheel machines -- nos. 6-9, the revolutionary Blick Electric, and a host of minor variants -- all followed the sound principles of the no. 5. According to The Five-Pound Secretary, a 2003 history of Blicks by Robert Blickensderfer and Paul Robert, the lowest known serial number for a model 9 is 147,193 (1910) and the highest is 198,111 (1919). Perhaps 9,000 model 9s were made (serial numbers are concurrent with other Blickensderfer models). According to Paul Lippman, the no. 9 sold for $60. By this time, typewheel machines and other single-element typewriters were losing ground to frontstroke typebar typewriters such as the Underwood. In 1919, the company followed the trend and introduced the Blick Ninety, a portable frontstroke. In 1923, Typewriter Topics commented, "the late Mr. Blickensderfer's invention was practically discarded at this time. This latter mentioned fact was and still is, we might say here, the reason for much regret on the part of those who knew George C. Blickensderfer best, for his memory deserved perpetuation more in keeping with his contributions to the typewriter industry and his personal characteristics." The Blick typebar machine failed to find a market, and the company soon disappeared.

Like the no. 8, the no. 9 has a solid, substantial-looking body and a frame, decorated with gold pinstripes, that surrounds the keyboard. This frame is structurally unnecessary, but makes the typewriter look a little more like conventional typebar machines. Unlike the no. 8, the no. 9 does not have an elevated scale or a tabulator. The ink roller on the no. 9 is fastened onto a curved arm that folds down to the side, very neatly, when the typewriter is stored in its wooden case.

Since the no. 9 is one of the less common Blickensderfer models and the final creation of George C. Blickensderfer, it deserves the interest of every collector.

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