When you think about classical objects displayed on the desk of a writer, you envision a vintage typewriter, a quill or fountain pen and a stack of white paper. Vintage typewriters began the communications movement from handwriting to typesetting messages. Most of your collectible typewriters date from 1874 to around 1915. Your vintage machines will be at least 100 years old.
Here are some rare typewriters that are among the “must haves” on a collectors list:
• Sholes & Glidden
• Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter
• Hammond Multiplex
• Blickensderfer Electric
• The Smith Premier
There are four categories of typewriters: pre-electric, electromechanical, electric and portable.
1. Pre-Electric: Manually operated prior to the invention of the electric typewriter.
2. Electromechanical: Not to be confused with the electric typewriter. This typewriter transmitted impulses over a wire to a receiver that printed the message.
3. Electric: Powered by an electric motor.
4. Portable: a small lightweight typewriter usually carried in a case.
History, vocabulary, programming and the multipurpose functioning of today’s computer is technologically married with the typewriter through the emergence of the electric typewriter. The electric typewriter was first invented at the turn of the 19th century and perfected around 1902 by Blickensderfer. This writing machine advanced primarily in the office arena. The Remington No. 2 came along, offering both upper and lower case letters or symbols, by adding the shift key. It is called a shift because it enabled the carriage to shift in position for printing either of two letters on each typebar.
Another rare find is the primitive look of The Pocket Typewriter that reminds me of a pizza cutter! It’s one of the smallest typewriters ever produced, as seen on the website of The Virtual Typewriter Museum. The Pocket Typewriter was marketed in France as the Polyglotte and continued to be sold well into the 1890s. It is equivalent to the popular Palm Pilot we use today.
Check out these online resources for collecting typewriters and connecting with other online typewriter enthusiasts:
• The Virtual Typewriter Museum is based on private collections of antique typewriters from around the world.
• The Early Office Museum engages in research on the history and evolution of antique office machines and equipment along with business technology, based on original documents, artifacts, and photographs.
• The National Museum of American History is one of the Smithsonian Institution museums dedicating its collections and scholarship to inspiring a broader understanding of our nation and its many peoples.
For the historian, novice or seasoned typewriter collector, here are a few reference books for your research:
• Typewriter: An Illustrated History by Dover Publications Inc., Typewriter Topics Staff
• Antique Typewriters, from Creed to Qwerty by Michael H. Adler
• Mechanical Typewriters: Their History, Value and Legacy by Thomas A. A. Russo
I remember using my first Remington typewriter in high school to do class reports and term papers. Although I no longer have that sky blue portable typewriter, which was not remotely considered vintage, memories of using erasable bond or carbon paper makes me appreciate the advanced technology of my computer. Although collecting them may not be a hot ticket among the crème de la crème of collections yet, eventually they may become a happy addition to your collector’s investment portfolio.