Early Office Museum
Antique Special Purpose Typewriters
This Museum gallery covers the
following special purpose typewriters: shorthand typewriters, the
Edison mimeograph typewriter, book typewriters, billing typewriters, combination typewriter-adding or
bookkeeping machines, automatic typewriters, Japanese language
typewriters, braille typewriters, encryption machines, and music typewriters. (MBHT)
designates images that are courtesy of the Museum
of Business History and Technology.
An 1886 advertisement identified the seller as U.S. Stenograph Co., St.
Anderson Shorthand Typewriter, Scientific American 1897
Sample of Stenotype Printing (MBHT)
~ Bartholomew ~ Anderson ~ Stenotype ~
Adler (1997, p. 43) reports that the first stenographic typewriter was
invented in 1827. He also reports (p. 37) that another stenograph machine
that printed on paper tape was introduced by Michela in 1862 and was
manufactured in France and Italy into the 1880s.
The Stenograph(patented 1879-82,
introduced 1882) was a shorthand typewriter invented and produced by Miles M. Bartholomew.
The machine printed a code of dashes lengthwise in different positions on a
3/8" paper strip. For example, a single dash near one edge of the tape
represented the letter d. A single dash a little farther from the same
edge represented the letter n. The sequence d n stood for the word done. "All
the letters can be made either with the right hand or the left. The
4 finger pieces on the left of the keyboard are duplicates of those on the
right, and make the same marks on the paper. Those on the left are
operated by the fingers of the left hand, and those on the right by the
fingers of the right hand. The straight key [located between the two
sets of 4 keys] is operated by either thumb. ... [The] machine [is] so
made that the complete alphabet is produced with either hand and the hands
used alternately in writing, as the feet are in walking. ... In the autumn
of 1881 the inventor began using it in his work as a court stenographer,
but no extended effort was made to introduce it until the autumn of
1883,... At this time about 80 instruments had been sold." (Appletons'
Annual Cyclopaedia 1890, 1891, p. 816) During 1883-86 the Stenograph was $40.
Keyboard, 1899. The machine printed dashes in any combination of 4
out of 5 positions in each line across a narrow strip of paper. To print
the combination of dashes corresponding to a particular letter of the
alphabet, the operator simultaneously pressed on up to four of the keys
labeled 1 to 5.
strip shows the combination of dashes representing each letter of the
alphabet typed on a Stenograph, 1899
This strip shows a shorthand specimen printed using the Stenograph, 1899
The Anderson Shorthand Typewriter
(patented 1885, advertised 1889 onward) printed letters rather than dashes from side to side across a roll
of 2"-wide paper. A number of
keys could be struck simultaneously, and the machine printed a syllable or
each stroke. The machine automatically started a new line after each word.
According to a description published in 1891, "There are 13 keys, 5
of which are struck by the thumb and fingers of the hand on either side, 2
by the outer portion of the palms of the hands, and the dot by a slight
movement of either thumb. ... [T]he dot represents a, an, and, or I
according to context." (Appletons'
Annual Cyclopaedia 1890, 1891, p. 818) The inventor claimed this
machine was substantially faster than the Stenograph, at
least in part because it printed a syllable, rather than a code for a
letter, with each stroke. The inventor continually improved the
machine, with the result that there are many different models with
different keyboards and bases. The machine, which was advertised from 1889
until at least 1897, was $30 in 1889; it was $20 and
$25 in 1893. The inventor himself, who was a court reporter, used
his machines until at least 1942. (ETCetera, No. 26, March
1994, contains illustrations and photos of several models)
The Universal Stenotype Co. (which soon thereafter became the
Stenograph Co.) introduced the Stenotype
in 1912. The machine used 16 letters to spell words phonetically
with one word per line on a roll of paper 2 3/8" wide. The
machine was initially successful but the company folded in 1918-19. In the late
1920s another entity purchased the rights to make Stenotypes, and it made
machines under the Stenotype and Stenograph names for many years. Marco
Thorne reports that the Stenotype was not widely used in business offices,
because it was too large and heavy for the typical stenographer to carry
into an executive's office to record a letter. The Stenotype was
used primarily in court rooms and elsewhere to produce transcripts. (ETCetera,
No. 39, June 1997)
Anderson Shorthand Typewriter (later model similar to 1897 patent
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter
Photograph by Auction Team Köln, which sold this at
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter, images from 1896 catalog distributed in
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter
Index typewriters did not
play a significant role in offices because they were slow. As a result,
our principal discussion of index machines is included on a separate web
page. One index
typewriter was designed specifically for office use, however: the
short-lived 1894 Edison Mimeograph Typewriter.
This typewriter was designed to type stencils used in the Edison
Mimeograph duplicating system, but it could be used for other typing as
This typewriter was invented and
produced not by Thomas A. Edison but by A. B.. Dick, which also produced and
marketed the Edison Mimeograph.
The type was on the tops of vertical
type-bars (three of which are identified by blue highlights in the
photograph to the right). To select a letter, the operator
rotated a disk with letters on it located on the bottom of the machine.
This caused a vertical rod (identified by the red dot) to rotate, and this
in turn caused the circle of type-bars to rotate so that the selected type-bar came into position. The operator then pressed a lever (yellow
activate a hammer (green dot) that struck the lower end of the type-bar
that carried the
selected letter. The plunger-like type-bar moved up and the type struck the underside
of the platen. The typewriter was therefore a blind-writer; the
operator had to lift the hinged carriage in order to see her work. (See
photograph to the right and image to the left of machines with the carriages up.)
were three models at $22-$25. The machine had a short commercial
life because it was
machine is also discussed in the Early Office Museum's exhibit on copying
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter, detail
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter with Carriage Raised
For spectacular photographs of another Edison Mimeograph
Typewriter sold by Auction Team Köln, click here.
Elliott & Hatch, 1899 ad
Elliott Hatch Book Typewriter, two photos. Courtesy of Ernie Jorgensen
of Elliott Fisher Book Typewriter
~ Elliott & Hatch ~ Elliott-Fisher ~
Book typewriters typed on bound books that lay flat when opened, including bookkeeping ledgers,
books used to record deeds, and other books used to maintain government
and business records. Book typewriters were also used to type letters while simultaneously printing carbon copies
in a bound copy book.
The first practical book typewriter was the
Elliott Book Typewriter produced by the Elliott & Hatch
Book Typewriter Co., New York, NY (1897). While the book remained stationary, the
typewriter moved on rails as the operator typed. When keys were pushed,
the type-bars struck downward. Elliott book typewriters were advertised
during 1901-02. A 1902
advertisement claimed that the machine
could do everything any writing machine could do. The advertisement
claimed the Elliott was particularly suitable for typing manifolds (forms with alternating sheets of paper and carbon
paper) used for ordering and billing, and that it could make twenty good
copies at a time. An attachment could be used to feed paper and carbon
paper into the machine automatically. At about this time, a mechanism was
added that enabled the operator to add columns of numbers. According to an observer, "The
great power of manifolding which the firm platen yields, permits of many
copies being made simultaneously, so that on receipt of an order a single
operation will permit of an acknowledgment being typed, and at the same
time all other necessary forms for manufacturing, packing, shipping,
invoices, etc." (Mares, 1909, p. 168) In 1898 the Elliott Book Typewriter was
The Fisher Book-Typewriter Co.,
Cincinnati, OH, developed a new book
typewriter with a number of advantages, including typing that was visible to the operator.
This was marketed as the Fisher Book Typewriter and Billing Typewriter as of 1901.
(See image below left.)
Elliott & Hatch merged with Fisher in
1903 to form Elliott-Fisher, which
produced book typewriters and related machines that typed on a horizontal
flat surface. Elliott-Fisher won a prize at the 1904 St. Louis exposition.
As of 1925, in addition to a machine for typing in bound books,
Elliott-Fisher offered a machine for typing cut forms (such as index
cards) and an automatic feed machine designed for forms supplied in
continuous rolls and fanfolds.
Elliott-Fisher Book Typewriters being used to type address
labels at the W. Atlee Burpee Co., seed dealers, Philadelphia, PA,
S. Siegel, 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
ID: fsa 8d16080. Repro. No: LC-USW3-022366-D and fsa 8d16078. Repro. No: LC-USW3-022364-D
Woman Using a Book Typewriter to Type on a Large Bound Ledger
Fisher Billing Typewriter, Fisher Book-Typewriter Co., Cleveland, OH, 1901
The mechanization of book-keeping began in the very early
1900s. In 1905, Chas. E. Sweetland stated that "there are many
firms now using the book typewriter or billing machine and producing the
bill, the charge, the delivery slip, and the salesman's record, and any
other forms necessary for the business, in one writing." (Anti-Confusion
Business Methods, St. Louis, 1905, p. 52) In 1906, Erwin William Thompson published Book-keeping by
Machinery, which began with the statement that "a field
practically unexplored" is "the actual performance of
book-keeping and auditing by machinery." (p. 1) Thompson
observed that "Small offices...employing from one to three
men...generally cannot better their condition by the use of much
book-keeping machinery." (p. 7) But Thompson accurately argued
that for larger offices use of machinery for book-keeping would be
efficient. At about the same time that offices adopted machines for book-keeping,
offices adopted standardized forms that could be completed on
book-keeping machines and filed in loose-leaf binders or files.
Elliott-Fisher Billing Machine, 1906 ad
Elliott-Fisher Adding and Billing Machine, 1906 ad
Elliott-Fisher Simplex Accounting Machine
Elliott-Fisher Simplex Accounting Machine, 1925
Elliott-Fisher Public Service Universal Accounting Machine
Main Offices, Wiedermann's, Newport, KY, with two Elliott Fisher
~ Elliott-Fisher ~ Remington ~ Smith Premier ~ Oliver ~
Elliott-Fisher typewriters were advertised for billing and
-- with the addition of adding modules -- for adding and billing by the
very early 1900s. See illustrations to left.
The Remington Billing and Tabulating Attachment, used for
billing, statistical, and accounting work on the Remington standard
typewriter, was advertised in 1899. In 1903, a new version was advertised
as the New Remington Billing Typewriter; this was a Remington No. 6
standard typewriter with a tabulator attachment. A tabulator attachment was
advertised in 1906. "A key-set
decimal tabulator makes it possible to set the stops on the tabulator rack
by depression of a key. The tabulator also moves the carriage to the
correct decimal position." (The Office Appliance Manual, 1926,
The Oliver Typewriter Co. produced
a Way-Billing Typewriter, which was an Oliver No. 2 with a tabulator
attachment. The Virtual Typewriter Museum has an illustration. Because the
Oliver No. 2 was introduced in 1897, this Way-Billing Typewriter may have
been introduced shortly after that. The Smith Premier Tabulating and Billing Machine
was advertised in 1899, and the Remington Billing
Typewriter (top right) was introduced in 1903.
These billing typewriters had a tabulator mechanism for form and tabular work
located on the rear of the machine. The
image top right shows a row of tabulator keys (mounted horizontally) along the front
of the base of a Remington Billing Typewriter, which was a modified Remington No. 6 upstrike.
and location of the tabulator keys changed over time on successive
Remington models that had tabulators. Remington marketed its No. 7 with a tabulator, and in 1908 Remington began to market its No.
11 front-strike typewriter with a tabulator. The tabulator keys on the No.
located above the regular keyboard.
Underwood No. 3 Billing
Machine, 1911 catalog (MBHT)
Underwood Decimal Tabulator Attachment, 1911 catalog (MBHT)
Underwood Billing Typewriter with Attachment for Use with Fan-Fold Paper (MBHT)
Fox Billing Typewriter Model No. 24 with Full Decimal Tabulator (MBHT)
Remington Billing Typewriter 1903 ad
Remington No. 11 Vertical and Cross Addiing and Subtracting Typewriter
with Five Totalizers (MBHT)
Remington No. 11 with tabulator, front
Remington No. 11 with tabulator, back
Remington Standard No. 20 billing typewriter with key tabulator and palm
Fay-Sholes Typewriter with Arithmograph, 1904
Elliot-Fisher ~ Remington ~ Smith Premier ~ Moon-Hopkins ~ Ellis ~ NCR ~
From 1904 through the 1920s, a number of companies sold combination typewriting-adding machines for use in
accounting departments. These machines were variously called
writing-adding, typewriter-adding, typewriter billing, and typewriter
bookkeeping machines, as well as adding and subtracting typewriters. Some
of these were blind-writers. They were used to do the adding and
typing required for tasks such as preparation of invoices..
In 1904, the Arithmograph Co. and the Fay-Sholes Co. advertised the Arithmograph,
"an adding device mounted upon a typewriter, at present the Fay-Sholes
Typewriter. The Arithmograph, which was patented in 1902-03 by John T.
Howieson, "consists of a series of adding wheels, and their driving
mechanism,...so connected to the numeral keys as to add numbers" when
the operator engages the mechanism. When writing invoices, it will tabulate them. It does the work
of a typewriter and adding machine with the single operation of
typewriting." The Arithmograph together with a Fay-Sholes
typewriter was $200.
In 1906, the Carlin Calculator Co. issued a prospectus that describes a
calculator attachment that was placed under and operated by a standard
typewriter. The Calculator was connected to the number keys of the
typewriter. According to the prospectus, "our machine makes all
computations simultaneously with the writing of the original entry on the
typewriter." In 1911, the Howieson
Calculating Machine Co. marketed the Howieson Calculating
Machine for use with any standard typewriter. This machine, which was
conceptually similar to the Carlin Calculator, added and
subtracted across and down the page simultaneously.
Howieson Calculating Machine, 1911 ad
Howieson Calculating Machine with Underwood Standard Typewrite No. 5, 1911 ad
Elliott-Fisher Billing and Adding Machine, 1905 ad
Elliott-Fisher Bookkeeping Machine, 1907 ad
By 1904, the Elliott-Fisher
Co. produced Billing and Adding Machines that combined the ability to
type on a flat surface with the ability to add columns of numbers. (See
illustration top left.) While the book typewriters discussed above were
often used to type on the pages of bound books, these billing machines
were generally used to type on standardized loose-leaf forms. One reason
they were used is that they were able to make more carbon copies than the
typical alternative billing machine. A Billing Machine alone was
$190 ($200 in 1906); an Adding
Attachment with two registers was an additional $190 ($220 in 1906). In 1908, Elliott-Fisher advertised
"Forty-Seven thousand and some odd more are doing their work the
Elliott-Fisher Way," which implies that the company had sold at least
47,000 book and bookkeeping typewriters. In 1910, the company claimed that
"95% of the machines used for writing and adding are Elliott-Fisher
machines. 5% only are typewriters with attachments or adding
machines with typewriter attachments."
In 1913, an Elliott-Fisher Bookkeeping Machine was
$960. In 1917, the company claimed that "Nearly 5,000 American
business houses have installed Elliott-Fisher Bookkeeping Machines in the
past two years."
In 1921, Elliott-Fisher advertised its Universal
Accounting Machine for accounting work on statement and ledger forms. The
largest capacity Universal Accounting Machine could carry out addition in
23 columns at one time. In 1923, Elliott-Fisher stated that the
Snellenburg and Lord & Taylor department stores used 40 and 30 of its
Universal Accounting Machines, respectively, to handle customer accounts,
accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
In 1928, Elliott-Fisher was acquired by the Underwood Typewriter Co.
Elliott-Fisher Universal Accounting Machines at Snellenburg department
store, Philadelphia, 1923
Underwood Elliott-Fisher Accounting Machine, c. 1930s. A line of
totalizers is visible behind the typewriter.
Remington No. 11 with Wahl Adding and
Subtracting Attachment, 1909
Remington decimal calculator attachment, 1925
Beginning in 1909, the Remington
Typewriter Co. advertised its No. 11 with a Wahl Adding and
Subtracting Attachment, or Wahl Register, in addition to a tabulator. This machine was marketed for
required writing combined with adding and subtracting in vertical columns
on the same page. Uses included filling out order forms and ledger sheets and
preparing bills and statements. The Smith Premier
No. 10-A Adding and Subtracting Typewriter, which also had a Wahl
Totalizer, was similar.
In 1916, Remington introduced the Remington Accounting
Machine (Wahl Mechanism), which looked like the No. 23 pictured to the right. In 1927 Remington marketed its Model 23
Bookkeeping Machine for applications requiring horizontal as
well as vertical adding. The latter had an automatic electric carriage return
and line spacer.
In 1925, Remington advertised the decimal calculator
attachment shown at the left for its No. 11 typewriter.
The operation of these machines has been described as
follows: "The usual method of accomplishing addition and subtraction
is by means of registers called totalizers, which are attached to a rack
on the front of the machine. These totalizers are movable from column to
column. As many totalizers may be used as there are columns to be added or
subtracted, up to about thirty. Computation is performed by depression of
the regular numeral keys and the amounts appear in the register." (American Technical Society, Practical Business Administration,
1930, Vol. 9, "Office Equipment," p. 26.)
Remington No. 11 Adding and Subtracting Typewriter, 1913 catalog
Smith Premier No. 10-A Adding and Subtracting
Typewriter with Wahl Totalizer (MBHT)
Remington No. 23 Bookkeeping Machine, 1927. "It writes, adds
and subtracts, both vertically and cross--all in one operation," 1928
Burroughs Typewriter Adding Machine, drawing,
Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp. Collection, cb000197.
Burroughs Typewriter Adding Machine, drawing,
Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp. Collection, cb000205.
In 1911, Burroughs Adding Machine
Co. was developing typewriter-adding machines. Two drawings are
shown at the left.
Machine Co., named for its president John C. Moon and vice
president Hubert Hopkins, marketed a typewriter-calculating machine from 1909 until 1921, when it
was acquired by Burroughs Adding Machine Co. Burroughs continued to market
the machine until at least 1951 (by which time the plate glass on the
sides had been replaced by sheet metal and the name Moon-Hopkins had
apparently been dropped). The front part of this machine was an
upstrike typewriter; the rear was a direct multiplication calculating machine. The Moon-Hopkins
had a conventional 4-row keyboard for the
typewriter. In front of this was a 2-row keyboard with two sets of keys numbered from 0 to 9 for the calculating machine.
The machine was able to type 20 carbon copies of an invoice or other
The image to the lefts shows the keys on a 1922
Burroughs Moon-Hopkins Billing Machine.
The image to the right shows an invoice typed on this machine.
The operation of the Moon-Hopkins machine has been described as follows:
"A separate keyboard is used for the operation of the calculator
section; the numbers entering into the computations and the results of
computations are printed directly by the computing mechanism as in
calculating machines. The typewriter keys are used principally for
addresses, descriptions, dates, and numbers not entering into the
calculation. Several columns may be listed and several totals carried in
the machine at one time, the number being limited only by the number of
totalizers which the machine carries." (American Technical Society,
1930, p. 28.)
In 1911, electric motors
were added to the Moon-Hopkins, and models were priced at $500-$750.
One model was $750 in 1916. In 1924, different models were priced at $650 to $1000, plus $50 each for
additional registers for the calculating machine.
to Turck (1921, p. 189), the Moon-Hopkins was one of only two
calculating machines that had been marketed with direct multiplication.
With the exception of the Millionaire and the Moon-Hopkins, calculating
machines carried out multiplication by repeated addition.
Kidwell (2000, p. 17)
states that, if serial numbers are to be trusted, Moon-Hopkins sold a total of 3,226 machines by June
The Burroughs Moon-Hopkins appears in a 1951 marketing catalog. By
that time, the glass sides had been replaced by sheet metal, and the name
"Moon-Hopkins" had apparently been dropped. There is a website
that indicates that this machine was produced until 1957.
Two views of Moon-Hopkins Billing Machine (MBHT)
Burroughs Moon-Hopkins Billing Machine, c. 1925.
Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp.
French Burroughs Moon-Hopkins Typewriter-Adder.
Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp.
Moon-Hopkins Billing Machines at the Equitable Assurance Co.,
National Museum of American History, PA Juley &
Ellis Adding-Typewriter Model A, 1913 ad
National Accounting Machine, NCR, 1954 ad
|Ellis Adding-Typewriter Co.
sold typewriter-adding machines from 1911 until 1929, when the company was
purchased by the National Cash Register Co. The
machine described above was a typewriter with an adding/subtracting attachment. The Ellis
was an adding machine designed to print on ledger cards; it was supplied
both with and without the addition of a typewriter keyboard. A
merchant could have a ledger card for each customer and use an Ellis
machine to update a customer's credit balance each time a purchase was
made or a payment was received. For a photograph of an Ellis Adding-Typewriter, see Kidwell
(2000), Figure 10.
machines were sold by NCR as National Accounting Machines, National Typewriter Bookkeeping Machines
and NCR Accounting Machines from 1930 until at least 1962. At
one time, NCR produced at least 13 different models for various types of
accounting and bookkeeping applications.
National Class 3000 Combination Adding and Typewriting Bookkeeping Machine
National Accounting Machine, NCR, ad (MBHT)
Woman in Office with NCR National Accounting Machine, Burroughs adding machine, and checkwriter
Ellis Bookkeeping Machine
National Typewriter Bookkeeping Machine, NCR, 1935 ad
NCR Accounting Machine, 1962 ad
Underwood Arithmometre, French ad, 1910
Underwood Standard Adding Machine No. 2, 1911 catalog (MBHT)
Typewriter Co. also
produced combination typewriting-adding machines by 1910. In 1911, an ad stated that "the Underwood Computing Machine meets the long felt want
for a machine that will write names and descriptions and list amounts in
as many columns as may be required, and automatically add or subtract the
amounts in all columns both vertically and cross-wise. The computing
mechanism is attached to the figure keys (of the standard typewriter
keyboard), which do computing automatically as the keys are struck and the
figures are imprinted on the paper." The computing mechanism was
electric. The prices of the four models of computing mechanisms (not
including the price of the necessary typewriter with decimal tabulator)
were $200 to $275 in 1911.
Underwood bookkeeping machines were still
advertised in 1923. Subsequently, Underwood and adding machine
manufacturer Sundstrand apparently merged, and the company offered
Underwood Sundstrand Accounting Machines.
Underwood Computing Machine Model B with Underwood No. 5 Typewriter, 1911 ad
Underwood Standard Bookkeeping Machine No. 3-14
Underwood Sundstrand Accounting Machine ad (MBHT)
Secretary with Bookkeeping Machine, mid-1900s
Underwood Automatic Typewriter Operator, 1911 ad and detail (MBHT).
Presumably the Underwood is being driven by a Hooven Automatic
Hooven Automatic Typewriter, 1937 photo
~ Hooven ~ Auto-Typist ~ Robotyper ~ Flexowriter
Automatic typewriters were designed to type form
letters. Early automatic typewriters were similar to player pianos. A
person typed a letter on a perforator that punched holes in a wide paper
fanfold or roll or, later, a narrower paper tape. The paper fanfold, roll
or tape was then put in a machine that controlled a typewriter. The
typewriter would type a form letter over and over again, stopping at
predetermined points so that an operator could insert individualized
material such as names, dates, quantities and prices.
Hooven Automatic Typewriter, which was
electric, was introduced in 1911. "The Hooven is an automatic,
electrically driven mechanism which operates a standard Underwood
typewriter mounted upon it. The operation of the typewriter during the
typing of the letter follows exactly the [same] mechanical movements as
when the machine is operated by a typist. These mechanical movements are
actuated and controlled by a perforated strip of record paper (similar to
a perforated roll used on a player piano), running through the automatic
mechanism of the machine. The record paper is cut on an auxiliary machined
called the 'Perforator'.
"In general appearance the Perforator
resembles a typewriter. It has a standard four-row typewriter keyboard.
The record paper, contained in a continuous strip (approximately 12 inches
wide and 250 feet in length) is fed into (under) the Perforator so that as
the keys are struck, small round holes are punched at different points
across the width of the paper and down its length. The paper automatically
feeds each time a perforation is made, so that but one hole is made on
each line. When the record for the entire letter has been finished, the
recorded portion (usually several feet long) is torn from the roll and the
two ends pasted together, forming an endless belt. It is then ready to be
placed on the drum of the automatic typewriter actuating mechanism.
"This drum has a number of slots running lengthwise and when the
record paper is placed on the drum, the holes rest over the slots. Pins,
connected with the key levers of the typewriter, arranged in a horizontal
row, rest on the paper across its width. When the machine is started, the
drum revolves, carrying the record paper forward. As the perforations for
each character come under its corresponding pin, the pin drops through the
perforations into the slot of the drum, completing the mechanical
connection between the automatic and the typewriter keyboard, resulting in
operating one of the typewriter keys.
typewriting speed is 130 words per minute. The usual procedure in larger
institutions is to have one attendant for a battery of three or four
machines, inserting paper, making fill-ins and removing paper successively
from each machine. Fill-ins of addresses and other changes throughout the
letter are typed manually by the attendant." (The American Digest
of Business Machines, 1924, pp. 246-47, which listed the Automatic
Device complete with Underwood No. 5 typewriter at $650 and the Perforator
at $75.) The manufacturer claimed that a
typist with four Hoovens could do the work of 12 to 16 typists.
Hooven systems were still marketed in 1937 by the
Hooven Automatic Typewriter Corp.
Two views of Hooven Automatic Typewriter (MBHT)
Hooven Automatic Perforator, 1937 photo
Auto-Typist with IBM electric
typewriter. Three rows of buttons to the left of the typewriter were used
to select paragraphs to be included in a customized form letter.
Auto-Typist Model 5020, American Automatic Typewriter Co,, Chicago, IL,
The Auto-Typist, which was introduced in 1927, was produced in the 1930s by the Schultz Player Piano Co. and
later by the American Automatic Typewriter Co. The Auto-Typist
consisted of two machines. A perforator was used to punch a
wide paper roll. The paper roll was read by another machine housed in a
special typewriter desk. The latter machine controlled the keys of a standard
manual or electric typewriter through a system of pneumatic bellows, hoses, and
valves. The operator could customize a form letter by pushing numbered
buttons on a control panel to select paragraphs to be included.
Auto-Typists were still marketed in 1951 and in use during the 1960s. The Aerotype was similar to
Inside the Auto-Typist is a machine that reads perforated paper rolls.
The Auto-Typist controls the typewriter through a pneumatic system.
Auto-Typist, 1947 ad (MBHT)
Robotyper. Right unit made paper rolls. Form letters
were produced by a typewriter resting on the left unit.
Other automatic typewriters included the
Robotyper, which was introduced in 1935, and the Flexowriter, which was
introduced in the early 1940s. The Robotyper was pneumatic and used paper
rolls. According to a 1951 ad by the Robotyper Corp.,
Hendersonville, NC, "Operating four Robotypers, one girl can produce
from 600 to 800 perfectly typed, personalized letters in an 8-hour
day." (See photo top right.) Robotyper introduced the Carlson
Selector (see photo bottom right) in 1951 for answering letters using
paragraph stored on punched cards. "The executive determines
from a list of predetermined paragraphs" the ones that will properly
answer each letter. The operator could also use the Carlson as a
conventional manual typewriter.
Robotyper and Instructions (MBHT)
Woman operating four Robotypers, 1951
Carlson Selector punch card Robotyper, 1951
used paper tape and was also used as an input-output device on computers in the 1950s.
Friden Flexowriter Programmatic with detail of tape reader, 1959 (left
Electric Vari-Typer, c. 1951 Model
Electric Varityper. Drawer in front of keyboard contains
a selection of type-shuttles
on the Hammond office typewriter design
were sold under the Vari-Typer (later
VariTyper) name from
1927 until 1977-78. Vari-Typers were not ordinary typewriters but composing machines that made professional looking camera-ready masters for offset
(photo-lithographic) duplication. As on the Hammond, one could
easily change the type-shuttles on the Vari-Typer to type in different fonts and
languages. The Vari-Typer added right justification (1937), variable
letter spacing (1947), and variable line spacing (1951).
Vari-Typer Type Faces in Foreign Languages
As of 1951, Vari-Typer machines were produced by
Ralph C Coxhead Corp, Newark, NJ. As of 1960, the VariTyper Corp. was a subsidiary of the
Addressograph-Multigraph Corp. (We discuss Addressograph and Multigraph
machines in our exhibits on Mail Room Machines
and Copying Machines, respectively.)
The range of products with the VariTyper brand name had expanded to
include office machines that look nothing like the earlier typewriter-like
Vari-Typer machines. (Addressograph-Multigraph, 1960 Annual Report,
illustrations) The 1967 Annual Report of the Addressograph-Multigraph
Corp., which also owned the Addressograph, Multigraph, and Multilith
"This annual report was reproduced entirely on
products of the corporation. Text matter, tables, financial
statements, and cut-lines for illustrations were composed on a VariTyper.
Headlines and sub-heads were composed on the VariTyper Headliner.
The complete type composition together with illustration was transferred
photographically to Multilith masters -- and thousands of copies of this
report were reproduced from these masters on Multilith Offset
duplicators. The envelope in which this report was delivered was
automatically addressed on an Addressograph machine."
The 1967 Annual Report further states that "VariTyper
is pursuing aggressively a wide range of direct impression typography and
photo-typesetting products to serve better the needs for type
composition." VariTyper ceased making the typewriter-like
direct impression machines in 1977-78. "With the manufacture of
the last strike-on composing machine during fiscal 1978, A-M's transition
to microprocessor based phototypesetting technology is complete."
(Addressograph-Multigraph, 1978 Annual Report) The 1985 Annual
Report of AM International (successor to Addressograph-Multigraph) states
that its VariTyper division supplied "computer-based
phototypesetters, terminals, composition systems."
For further information on VariTyper, click here.
Remember to use the back button on your browser to return to the Early
Coxhead Vari-Typer Composing Machine (MBHT)
Coxhead Vari-Typer Composing Machine, 1951 brochure (MBHT)
The two photographs reproduced here are Dept. of the
Interior, War Relocation Authority, photographs taken in 1943 at the
"relocation center" at Heart Mountain, WY. National
Archives, Still Picture Branch, NWDNS-210-G-E691 and E728.
Nippon Typewriter Q-35 (MBHT)
Chinese and Japanese Language Typewriters
~ Nippon ~
The first typewriter with Chinese characters was produced around
1911-14. Nippon Typewriter Co. began producing typewriters with Chinese
and Japanese characters in 1917. A typical Japanese typewriter of this type has a flat bed with the most commonly used 2,400 to 3,000 Japanese
characters, well short of the total of around 50,000 that exist. (Thomas A. Russo, Office Collectibles: 100 Years of Business
Technology, Schiffer, 2000, p. 161; ETCetera No. 73, Mar. 2006, p. 7) A successor company, Nippon
Remington Rand Kaisha, was producing similar machines in the 1970s.
To use the typewriter, paper is
wrapped around the cylindrical rubber platen, which moves on rollers over
the bed of type. The operator uses a level to control an arm that picks up
a piece of metal type from the bed, presses it against the paper, and
returns it to its niche. While the machine is complicated, because of the
shorthand character of Japanese writing, the Japanese language typewriter
is nearly equal to an English language typewriter in speed for recording
Japanese typewriter at the United States Office of War Information (OWI),
Photo courtesy of the LIFE
Domestically, the OWI (1942-45) disseminated and regulated war news,
promoted patriotism, and warned about spies. Abroad it engaged in
propaganda and sought to undermine enemy morale.
photograph of a Nippon Typewriter, see Thomas A. Russo, Mechanical
Typewriters, p. 166.
Chinese typewriter invented by Lin Yutang, 1947. For
more information, click here
Midget Braille and New York Point Writer, S. J. Seifried,
Chicago, c. 1890.
For information on braille
typewriters and numerous photographs, click on the following link to the American
Printing House for the Blind Callahan Museum.
Left: Typist using Braille typewriter, London, England,
Right: First Perkins Typewriter, 1948. LIFE
Picht Braille Writer, Germany, c. 1900
Columbia Music Typewriter, 1886 ad
Melotyp Music Typewriter
~ Columbia ~ Melotyp ~ Keaton ~
The illustration to the left shows the simple Columbia
Music Typewriter, which sold for $10 in 1886. "This is the
invention of Charles Spiro [who also invented the Columbia Typewriter and
the Bar-Lock Typewriter], and was patented Dec. 1, 1885. The music
written by this instrument is the exact equal of a printed sheet, and can
be adapted, by a special device, to print in the words of a song by the
use of an additional type wheel. It is 4 1/2 inches in length, 2
inches in width, and 2 1/2 inches in height, and weighs 1/2 a pount.
There is a disk, a handle, and a base. The disk contains on its periphery
the requisite characters,.... The disks are 3, 1 containing the notes, 1
for inserting accidentals, and 1 for signatures and barring." (Appletons'
Annual Cyclopaedia 1890, 1891, p. 817)
Melotyp music typewriter was made in Germany.
It won a grand prize at the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris. According to a member of
the family, only 10 of these typewriters were made.
Robert H. Keaton received a patent
for a 14 key downstrike music typewriter in 1936 and for the 33 key
downstrike Keaton Music Typewriter shown to the right in 1953. Like the Elliott-Fisher book
typewriter, the Keaton types on a sheet of paper lying on the flat platen
under the machine. The machine sold during the mid-1950s for $225 (D. Rehr, ETCetera, No. 25, Dec. 1993)
and for $255 and $355 (MBHT)
[Text on Vistomatic Musicwriter to be added.]
Keaton Music Typewriter
Two Keaton Music Typewriter brochure images (MBHT)
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