19th century typewriter collection


I collect 19th century typewriters and would like to share my collection with the letterpress community.

My website is antiquetypewriters.com

Martin Howard

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Amazing website! Well worth looking at. Thanks for sharing it. I wonder if any of the typewriter companies also made anything related to letterpress printing.

There was some crossover between the typewriter and the Linotype, at least. James Ogilvie Clephane was one of the early supporters of both machines. Frank Romano (who just hosted the American Typecasting Fellowship’s conference in great style) has written two books which deal (in part) with this. His earlier work, Machine Writing and Typesetting (Salem, NH: GAMA, 1986) deals with it directly. His more recent History of the Linotype Company (Rochester, NY: RIT Press, 2014) is a magnificent volume that should be on every Linotype enthusiast’s bookshelf. It reprints significant material by Clephane.

There are connections to Milwaukee for both the typewriter (the Sholes & Glidden, which although not the first typewriter led to the first commercially successful typewriter) and typefounding (the Benton vertical punch and patrix engraving machine, the best known, although not the first, pantograph engraver used in typographical matrix making). As far as I know, this is just a coincidence.

There have also been two typewriters made with “etaoin” (that is, Linotype layout) keyboards (though not full 90-key arrangements). Both were “Smith Premier” machines, though they are of very different generations. Here are photographs of each, from my own collection. The earlier of the two is, sadly, in very poor condition as acquired. The later machine is NOT missing its ribbon spools - they’re cleverly hidden in the back of the machine so as to make everything more visible. My apologies for the poor quality of these snapshots.

David M.

image: smith-premier-etaoin.jpg


image: remington-smith-premier-etaoin.jpg


David M. interesting post, (as above) Thank You.
Are you able to post a reasonably definitive explanation, over and above your excellent run down.?
Specifically, to explain the layout of the keyboard (non qwerty) but to include the speed and descent of the Mats, down the *belt* into the assembly gate.!
Not a trick question, sincere clarification, i.e. in our Museum Print Shop (Amberley Sussex U.K.) Odd occasions when the Regular Volunteers, Lino demonstrator(s), have legged it to the Coffee Shop, (at staff discount of course!!) Your Humble servant does his best, after boring the visitors to distraction re the Monotype, does his best to explain the Lino.!!! NOT too well.

Although there has been 50 Yrs.+, friendly rivalry and banter, re the Speed of the Lino, versus the Quality of the Monotype, (sorry Dick fact of life??) an unbiased opinion re the vagaries, as above would be appreciated, if possible.

Always glad to quote, help/assistance, from our American Cousins and Counterparts.

American visitors seem to appreciate Feedback/Info that originates from *Back Home* especially when we point out that, Tolbert & Ottmar were both THEIR, Kinfolk.
Thanks. Regards. Mick.

Love your site Martin … those typewriter tins are splendid!!

Responding to Mick’s query:
>Specifically, to explain the layout of the keyboard (non qwerty)

The question is rendered more complex because in the Linotype (/Intertype) as we know it - that is, the post-1890 machines - the “etaoin” layout has at least two advantages that were not intended by the original reason for the layout. It does tend to cause the most-used matrices to be distributed as quickly as possible, and (in conjunction with the inclined assembly belt) it does tend to minimize transpositions. But it turns out that we do know - from Mergenthaler himself - the original reason for the layout (and it was neither of these).

It evolved during the development of the machine later called the “Blower” Linotype, which entered production in 1886. In this machine, the magazine consisted of a set of rectangular tubes set vertically (and permanently) in the machine. Mergenthaler knew that he would need to supply matrices in varying numbers, and he knew the frequency of the letters (stories that he asked for a count to be done are dubious - typefounders and printers had known the letter frequencies for centuries). But he was worried that the matrices might be damaged by their fall through these vertical tubes. For the most-used matrices (e, t, a, …) this was not really a problem, since they were supplied in greater numbers and would tend to fill their tubes a bit more (limiting the distance of their fall). But for the less-used mats (supplied in fewer numbers) he feared a problem. So he arranged the tubes in decreasing lengths and put the most frequent characters to the left. The layout of the magazine-tubes led directly to the layout of the keyboard below them. We know this because he said so in US patent 378,798 (filed 1886-07-17, issued 1888-02-28): “… If long tubes were used with a smaller number of matrices at their lower ends, each matrix would acquire a considerable velocity in falling to its place in the tube. This would tend to lead to the mutilation of the matrix.” (p. 3)

In the 1890 machine later known as the “Square Base” Linotype, Mergenthaler introduced a different solution to this - the inclined magazine, which avoided matrix freefall in the magazine. But he kept the “etaoin” layout.

Hope this helps. I’ve been a bit of a keyboard addict for decades, so it was something I had to track down.

David M.

David M. Thank you, Now when the *experts* as above, disappear to the Coffee Shop!! my humble efforts can be spieled of with a little more confidence.
Your last paragraph, implies a labour of love, but appreciated that, that took more than One Cup of Coffee.
Hopefully more than I, will appreciate. Thanks. Mick.