The Classic Typewriter Page


The Postal is an appealing portable typewriter which, like the more famous Blickensderfer, uses an interchangeable hard-rubber typewheel and a three-bank keyboard with double shift. The Postal was invented by William P. Quentell and Franklin Judge. It was introduced in 1902 by the Postal Typewriter Company, based first in New York and then (1904) in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was made until 1908 or shortly thereafter. The Postal originally sold for $25 ($27.50 with veneered oak case) -- a nice price compared to the "standard" machines, which cost $100. The company boasted that theirs was "the only low-priced Typewriter combining Universal Keyboard, Powerful Manifolding and Mimeograph Stencil Cutting." With features such as these, the Postal enjoyed some popularity; the company employed 2,000 salesmen in the U.S., and the typewriter was exported to Great Britain, Germany, Austria, France, and even Russia.

The Postal differs from the Blick in several ways: it uses a ribbon rather than an ink roller, it sticks to the conventional QWERTY keyboard rather than introducing a new one (such as Blickensderfer's "Scientific" or DHIATENSOR keyboard), and its fundamental mechanism is different. When a key is depressed, it slightly raises one of the long, thin shafts, or "index pins," that can be seen behind and above the keyboard. The typewheel rotates until an arm connected to it hits the raised index pin; then the typewheel proceeds to the printing point. This mechanism is similar in principle to that of the Hammond.

Postals were apparently made in models 1-8, but only the 3, 5, and 7 are known to collectors. The No. 3 and No. 5 are very similar. The No. 5, pictured at the top of this page, was probably the best-selling model. Its main point of difference from the No. 3 is a raised scale -- which, unfortunately, is often missing, as on this specimen. The visibility of these models is hampered by the ribbon mechanism, which is located over the printing point. A small tab makes it possible to lift the ribbon out of the way.

Postal No. 7, Casillo collection,
courtesy of Anthony Casillo

The No. 7 (1908) is quite different from its predecessors. It is about 20% larger than previous models, and the works are encased in a shield made of cast iron. The No. 7 types on the front of the platen rather than the top, and its ribbon spools are horizontal and located to the left and right of the typewheel. This arrangement improves the visibility significantly, and brings the machine a little closer to what we consider a conventional typewriter. The No. 7 also features two-color ribbon selection with the flip of a button. At $50, this was the most expensive Postal. Alas, it did not find favor in the market; today, it is quite rare.

One detail that no one explains is why this machine was called the "Postal." My guess is that the company wanted to suggest that it would be perfect for correspondence.

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