The Classic Typewriter Page


Ten Most Wanted Typewriters

Every collector has his or her personal wish list. Here's mine. So far, I've found 4 out of 10 of these rare typewriters. Let me know if you can help me complete the list! --Richard Polt

10. Sphinx (1913). The production of this sleek Swiss typewriter was interrupted by the First World War. Most collectors have never heard of it, but something about it grabs me. It features a bulbous body, vertically mounted ribbon spools, and a luscious decal of two Sphinxes. (Enhanced illustration from Ernst Martin's Die Schreibmaschine.) And check out this ribbon tin design by Darryl Rehr, inspired by the Sphinx typewriter!

9. Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter (1895). Fortunately, Thomas A. Edison's reputation is unblemished by this cumbersome index typewriter. It was not his invention, but a was marketed by A.B. Dick as a companion to the mimeograph, which Edison did invent. This machine, though attractive, was slow and was no better at making mimeographic stencils than any other typewriter. It was soon forced off the market.

8. Saturn (1897). A turn-of-the-century Swiss oddity: you first select a row of printed letters on the index, then type on one of the nine keys of the keyboard. Inefficient? You bet! (Photo from ETCetera #31, June 1995.)

7. Fitch (1891). This down-stroke-from-the-back typewriter has a distinctive look and a unique keyboard arrangement. The papers coils up in front and behind the platen. I finally got a Fitch in 2007 -- but traded it in 2012 for a Sholes & Glidden (keep reading).

6. Maskelyne (1893). The substantial and elegant Maskelyne, a British writing machine, is inked from a pad, prints 96 characters, and uses proportional spacing -- a feature of printed books and modern computer fonts. Good show! In the Maskelyne's "grasshopper" mechanism, also used by the Williams, typebars "hop" up from the ink pad and onto the platen.

5. Sholes & Glidden (1873). The granddaddy of all American manufactured writing machines, this "Type-Writer" was invented primarily by Christopher L. Sholes of Milwaukee. Sholes & Gliddens have many minor variants; often they are decorated with decals and painted flowers. To read more about the S&G, see A Brief History of Typewriters and visit Darryl Rehr's Web site devoted to "The First Typewriter."

4. Peirce Accounting Typewriter (1912). One of several turn-of-the-century typewriters designed to type in bound accounting books, the stately Peirce bears an eerie resemblance to a computer terminal -- and to a stool. Unsolved mystery: is this machine any relation to American pragmatist philosopher Charles S. Peirce?

3. Hammond 1 (1881). The pioneer of the long-lived Hammond line is encased in wood and has a curved keyboard of a unique design known as the "Ideal" (this keyboard was also available on later models). Speaking of Peirce, he used one of these! To read more about Hammonds, visit this page. I acquired a Hammond 1 in 2003. Click here to see my restoration work on it.

2. Blickensderfer Electric (1st model 1902, 2nd 1913?). The Blick Electric was 60 years ahead of its time. Like most manual Blicks, it printed from an interchangeable typewheel and an ink roller -- and it was fully electrified. This at a time when electricity was a luxury used mostly for nighttime illumination. IBM Selectric, eat your heart out!

1. Crandall (1881). Invented by one of the pioneers of typewriter production, Lucien S. Crandall, this type-cylinder machine appeared in several models. The New Model, shown below, is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and has to be one of the most beautiful writing machines ever built. I found a Crandall in 2003. (See a larger picture here.)

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