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Early Office Museum

Other Antique Type-Bar Typewriters

This gallery covers early keyboard type-bar machines that do not appear to have been used widely in U.S. offices, judging from early photographs of office interiors. However, U.S. ads for Bar-Lock, Williams and Wellington typewriters claimed that these type writers were used in government or corporate offices, and Bar-Locks were used in offices in England, as a photograph below demonstrates..

Comlumbia Bar-Lock OM.jpg (24806 bytes)
Bar-Lock No. 1

Bar-Lock No. 2 OM.JPG (52504 bytes)
Bar-Lock No. 2

Salter No. 5 OM.JPG (27962 bytes)
Salter Improved No. 5

Salter Standard No. 10 rear OM.JPG (31935 bytes)
Salter No. 10
Photo shows position of the type-bars on downstrike machines

Downstrike Typewriters
~ Bar-Lock ~ Franklin ~ Salter ~

Franklin Key Movement and Stroke OM.jpg (14059 bytes)The type-bars on downstrike typewriters are arranged in a nearly vertical semicircle between the keyboard and carriage, and they strike downward. The illustration to the right shows the key and type-bar movement for the Franklin Typewriter.  The Franklin evolved through several models between 1891 and 1906, with total production of about 20,000 typewriters. (ETCetera, Issue 1, Oct. 1987)

Downstrike machines were advertised as visible typewriters. However, to view what had been typed, the typist had to stand or lean over the machine in order to see past the wall of type-bars.

The Bar-Lock Typewriter, which had a double keyboard, was introduced in 1889. The name of the machine refers to a mechanism that locked the type-bars in position while they printed.

1898_Bar-Lock_used_by_Navy_OM.JPG (44907 bytes)In 1896, the Bar-Lock type writer's name in the U.S. was changed to Columbia Bar-Lock. During 1896-99, U.S. ads claimed that the machine was widely used in offices and by the Navy. See illustration to the right.

The machine was sold as the Royal Bar-Lock in Great Britain. A c. 1898 English ad for the Royal Bar-Lock stated that the machine had "fifty thousand users." The ad stated that over 200 of the machines were being used by Lever Brothers Ltd., over 60 in total by the London, Glasgow, and Liverpool municipal governments combined, over 40 by the London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Co., and over 30 each by the Secretary's Department of the General Post Office, by Arthur Guinness, Sons & Co., by the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Cos., and by the  English offices of the Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New  York.  In 1899, an ad claimed that the Sunlight Soap Co. was using over 160 Royal Bar-Locks.  In 1901, an ad claimed that 150 Royal Bar-Locks were used in post offices in the UK.  E. H. Beach, Tools of Business, 1905, states that the British royal palaces used five Office_with_many_Bar-Locks_England_low.jpg (89166 bytes)times as many Bar-Locks as all other makes combined, that the three largest British city governments (London, Glasgow, and Liverpool) used eight times as many Bar-Locks as all other makes combined, and that the three largest companies (The Bank of England, the Eastern Telegraph Co., and Messrs. Dever Brothers, Ltd.) used nine times as many Bar-Locks as all other makes combined.  Beach also states that the British war office and admiralty used over 400 Bar-Locks.  The photo to the right shows a number of Bar-Locks in an English office.

1893 Franklin ad $60 OM.JPG (58486 bytes)Other downstrike typewriters were the Horton Typewriter (1886) and Salter Typewriter (1892). The earlier of the two Horton models weighs 19 lb. The 1892 Franklin weighs 11.5 lb.

Bar-Lock View as Seen When Writing OM.jpg (56225 bytes)
Illustration from Bar-Lock Ad with the caption "View as Seen When Writing." However, this view is directly down on the machine. 

New Franklin front OM.jpg (22148 bytes)
New Franklin, 1890s

New_Franklin_No._5_typewriter_top.jpg (144869 bytes)
New Franklin, 1890s, showing ribbon spools were positioned above the platen 

Williams No. 1 Ad OM.jpg (83918 bytes)
Williams No. 1. Notice that only two lines of type are visible.

Williams No. 2 side OM.JPG (17202 bytes)
Williams No. 2, 1897

Typewriters with Grasshopper Movements
~ Williams ~

On the Williams Typewriter (1891), half the type-bars are located in a semicircle fanning out in front of the platen and half are in a similar semicircle behind the platen. The type-bars hop or leap toward the platen, striking from above, as the photograph to the right demonstrates.

The Williams type-heads rest on ink pads, so there is no ribbon. When a fresh sheet of paper is put in the typewriter, it is rolled into the paper basket formed by metal bands under the type-bars in front of the platen. (See images to the left.) As the typing proceeds, the paper rolls over the platen into the paper basket behind the platen. The machine was advertised with the claim "visible writing," but the operator was able to read only two lines without turning the platen.

A 1896 Williams advertisement claimed the company had sold 25 typewriters to the US Agricultural Department, and an 1897 advertisement claimed the company had sold 200 typewriters to "one large house." An 1898 ad claimed that "22 of Uncle Sam's Warships have been supplied with Williams Typewriters."

Another machine with a grasshopper movement is the Maskelyne Typewriter (1890s). All its type-bars are located in front of the platen.

Williams No. 2 detail OM.jpg (17839 bytes)
Williams No. 2, 1897

Maskelyne OM.jpg (61140 bytes)
Maskelyne Typewriter

1891_Rapid_ad_OM.JPG (27175 bytes)
Rapid, 1891 ad

1892 1902 Empire right northoid OM.JPG (10928 bytes)

1896 Ford Typewriter ad OM.jpg (29665 bytes)
Ford, 1896 ad

Typewriters with Thrust Movements
~ Wellington/Empire ~ Ford ~

On a thrust machine, the type-bars dart forward and strike the platen from the front, like ram rods, without a swinging or hopping motion. Examples of thrust typewriters are the Rapid Typewriter (1888), Wellington Typewriter (1892), Ford Typewriter (1895), and Granville Automatic Typewriter (1896). The Wellington was sold in Canada and Europe under the Empire Typewriter name, and also in Europe under the Adler Typewriter name. The Ford Typewriter was the first typewriter to use aluminum. However, it did not work well and failed commercially.

The principal selling point of thrust action typewriters was that they were relatively quiet.  Adler (p. 83) observes that thrust action typewriters did not perform well in cutting duplicating stencils, a fact that presumably limited their use in offices. However, the Wellington seems eventually to have resolved this problem.  An 1898 ad claimed that over 60 Wellington machines were used by Canadian Pacific Railways, and a 1900 Wellington ad claimed that this $60 machine "has taken the place of $100 machines in some of the largest corporations." 

Empire Top Removed OM.jpg (246970 bytes)
Empire with top removed to reveal type-bars

Ford_typewriter_top_OM.jpg (47110 bytes)
Ford detail



Norths_typewriter_OM.JPG (33127 bytes)
North's Typewriter

Backstrike Typewriters
~ North's ~ Brooks ~

On four short-lived machines, the Fitch Typewriter (1888), Waverly Typewriter (1889), Brooks Typewriter (1891), and North’s Typewriter (1892), the type-bars were positioned overlooking the carriage from behind, in contrast to downstrike machines, on which the type-bars overlooked the carriage from the front. The backstrike design was intended to make work more visible to the operator. To keep the paper out of the way of the type-bars, the paper moved from a basket in front of the platen to another basket behind the platen, as on a Williams typewriter. Because of this arrangement, the operator could see only a couple of lines of typing without rewinding the platen. The Fitch, Waverly, and Brooks weigh 11 lb., 18.5 lb., and 17 lb., respectively.

1891_Brooks_Typewriter.JPG (171291 bytes)
Brooks Typewriter, 1891
1895_Brooks_Typewriter_ad_OM.JPG (41329 bytes)
Brooks Typewriter, 1895

Original Prices for Downstrike, Grasshopper, Thrust, and Backstrike Typewriters

With the exception of the Bar-Lock and Williams, these typewriters were sold at prices lower than those on the standard upstrike typewriters of the day.

Typewriter Year Price
. Downstrike .
Bar-Lock No. 2
No. 3 (wide carriage)
No. 7
No. 9
1893-96, 1901-03
Williams No. 1, 2, 4 1908 $95
. Thrust .
Rapid c. 1890 $70
Ford (iron)
Ford (aluminum)
Wellington & Wellington No. 2 1897-1901, 1906 $60
Fitch c. 1890 $50

Darryl Rehr, Antique Typewriters, 1997, refers to the "Brooks Typewriter of 1895."  1895 was the date of the first patent award to Brooks for this type of typewriter.  An earlier version of the Brooks Typewriter existed by 1891; it is pictured in Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia 1890, 1891, p. 812.
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