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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.

1887 1905 Miles Bartholomew 1st commercial shorthand typewriter cover.jpg (8139 bytes)

Stenograph 1884.jpg (24833 bytes)
An 1886 advertisement identified the seller as U.S. Stenograph Co., St. Louis, MO



1897_Anderson_Typewriter_SCIENTIFIC_AMERICAN_May_22_1897.jpg (41596 bytes)
Anderson Shorthand Typewriter,
Scientific American 1897

MBHT_Stenotype_sample.jpg (52481 bytes)
Sample of Stenotype Printing (MBHT)

Shorthand Typewriters
~ 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.

1899_Stenograph_Keyboard_BK.03.99.jpg (99494 bytes)Stenograph 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.

1899_Stenograph_Alphabet_BK.03.99.jpg (70990 bytes)This strip shows the combination of dashes representing each letter of the alphabet typed on a Stenograph, 1899

1899_Stenograph_Specimen_BK.03.99.jpg (39250 bytes)
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 word at 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)

1879_1882_Bartholomew_Stenograph_OMx.JPG (38819 bytes)



1896 Anderson Shorthand Typewriter.JPG (18435 bytes)
Anderson Shorthand Typewriter (later model similar to 1897 patent illustration)

MBHT_Stenotype.jpg (108647 bytes)
Stenotype (MBHT)

1894 Edison Mimeograph Typewriter AB Dick Chicago koln.jpg (24092 bytes)
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter
Photograph by Auction Team Köln, which sold this at auction.

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Edison Mimeograph Typewriter, images from 1896 catalog distributed in France

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 well. 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 dot) to 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.)

There were three models at $22-$25. The machine had a short commercial life because it was slow. 

This machine is also discussed in the Early Office Museum's exhibit on copying machines.


1894 Edison Mimeograph Typewriter detail OM.JPG (30118 bytes)
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter, detail

1894_Edison_Mimeograph_Typewriter_Carriage_Up_OM.jpg (44465 bytes)
Edison Mimeograph Typewriter with Carriage Raised

For spectacular photographs of another Edison Mimeograph 
Typewriter sold by Auction Team Köln, click here.

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Elliott & Hatch, 1899 ad

Elliott-Hatch_book_typewriter.JPG (53686 bytes)

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Elliott Hatch Book Typewriter, two photos. Courtesy of Ernie Jorgensen

Elliott-Fisher_Book_Typewriter_x_OM.JPG (24901 bytes)
Book Typewriter

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Underside of Elliott Fisher Book Typewriter

Book Typewriters
~ 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 $175.

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. 

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film  Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
Elliott-Fisher Book Typewriters being used to type address labels at the W. Atlee Burpee Co., seed dealers, Philadelphia, PA, 
by A. S. Siegel, 1943.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
ID: fsa 8d16080.  Repro. No: LC-USW3-022366-D and fsa 8d16078. Repro. No: LC-USW3-022364-D

Woman_using_Book_Typewriter_detail_OM.jpg (111931 bytes)
Woman Using a Book Typewriter to Type on a Large Bound Ledger

Book Typewriter NMAH SI OM may be Underwood.jpg (21127 bytes)
Book Typewriter

1901_Fisher_Billing_Machine_Fisher_Book-Typewriter_Co_Cleveland_OH_OM.jpg (274923 bytes)
Fisher Billing Typewriter, Fisher Book-Typewriter Co., Cleveland, OH, 1901 ad
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.  .

1906_Elliott-Fisher_Billing_Machine_OM.jpg (298949 bytes)
Elliott-Fisher Billing Machine, 1906 ad

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Elliott-Fisher Adding and Billing Machine, 1906 ad

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Elliott-Fisher Machine

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Elliott-Fisher Simplex Accounting Machine

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Elliott-Fisher Simplex Accounting Machine, 1925

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Elliott-Fisher Public Service Universal Accounting Machine

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Main Offices, Wiedermann's, Newport, KY, with two Elliott Fisher typewriters

Billing Typewriters
~ 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, p. 109.)

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. The number 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. 11 were located above the regular keyboard.

MBHT_1898_Remington_No._8_upstrike_with_10-key_Gorin_decimal_tabulator.jpg (129078 bytes)
MBHT_1911_Underwood_3_Billing_Machine.jpg (188582 bytes)
Underwood No. 3 Billing Machine, 1911 catalog (MBHT)

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Underwood Decimal Tabulator Attachment, 1911 catalog (MBHT)

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Underwood Billing Typewriter with Attachment for Use with Fan-Fold Paper (MBHT)

MBHT_Fox_No_24_Billing_Typewriter.jpg (165580 bytes)

Fox Billing Typewriter Model No. 24 with Full Decimal Tabulator (MBHT)

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Remington Billing Typewriter 1903 ad

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Remington No. 11 Vertical and Cross Addiing and Subtracting Typewriter with Five Totalizers (MBHT)

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Remington No. 11 with tabulator, front

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Remington No. 11 with tabulator, back

Remington_20_billing_typewriter_OM.JPG (61599 bytes)
Remington Standard No. 20 billing typewriter with key tabulator and palm tabulator


1904_Arithmograph_with_Fay-Sholes.jpg (76087 bytes)
Fay-Sholes Typewriter with Arithmograph, 1904

Combination Typewriter-Adding Machines

~Howieson ~ Elliot-Fisher ~ Remington ~ Smith Premier ~ Moon-Hopkins ~ Ellis ~ NCR ~ Underwood ~

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, 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.


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Howieson Calculating Machine, 1911 ad

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Howieson Calculating Machine with Underwood Standard Typewrite No. 5, 1911 ad

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Elliott-Fisher Billing and Adding Machine, 1905 ad
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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.

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Elliott-Fisher Universal Accounting Machines at Snellenburg department store, Philadelphia, 1923

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Underwood Elliott-Fisher Accounting Machine, c. 1930s. A line of totalizers is visible behind the typewriter.

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Remington No. 11 with Wahl Adding and Subtracting Attachment, 1909

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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 uses that 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.)

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Remington No. 11 Adding and Subtracting Typewriter, 1913 catalog

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Smith Premier No. 10-A Adding and Subtracting Typewriter with Wahl Totalizer (MBHT)

1927 Remington Model 23 Bookkeeping Machine OM.JPG (41050 bytes)
Remington No. 23 Bookkeeping Machine, 1927. "It writes, adds and subtracts, both vertically and cross--all in one operation," 1928 ad.

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Burroughs Typewriter Adding Machine, drawing, n.d.
Charles Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp. Collection, cb000197.

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Burroughs Typewriter Adding Machine, drawing, 1911
Charles 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.

Moon-Hopkins Billing 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 document.

1922_Burroughs_Moon-Hopkins_Billing_Machine_OM.jpg (542369 bytes)  1922_Burroughs_Moon-Hopkins_Billing_Machine_sample_invoice_OM.jpg (108283 bytes)
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.

According 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 1921.

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.

MBHT_Moon-Hopkins.jpg (135278 bytes) MBHT_Moon-Hopkins_x.jpg (182772 bytes) Two views of Moon-Hopkins Billing Machine (MBHT)

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Burroughs Moon-Hopkins Billing Machine, c. 1925.
Charles Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp. Collection, cb000109.
cb000224 French Burroughs Typewriter-Adder OM.JPG (38243 bytes)
French Burroughs Moon-Hopkins Typewriter-Adder.
Charles Babbage Institute, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Burroughs Corp. Collection, cb000224.1934_Equitable_Assurance_Co_NMAH_P._A._Juley__Son_Collection.jpg (39987 bytes)
Moon-Hopkins Billing Machines at the Equitable Assurance Co., 1934
National Museum of American History, PA Juley & Son Coll.

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Ellis Adding-Typewriter Model A, 1913 ad

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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 1909 Remington 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.

Ellis 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.  

NCR_Class_3000_Combination_Adding_and_Typewriting_Bookkeeping_Machine_Dayton_OH.jpg (156835 bytes) National Class 3000 Combination Adding and Typewriting Bookkeeping Machine

MBHT_National_Accounting_Machine_NCR.jpg (167520 bytes) National Accounting Machine, NCR, ad (MBHT)

Woman with bookkeeping machine OM.jpg (167520 bytes) Woman in Office with NCR National Accounting Machine, Burroughs adding machine, and checkwriter

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Ellis Bookkeeping Machine

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National Typewriter Bookkeeping Machine, NCR, 1935 ad

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NCR Accounting Machine, 1962 ad

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Underwood Arithmometre, French ad, 1910

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Underwood Standard Adding Machine No. 2, 1911 catalog (MBHT)

Underwood 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.

1911_Underwood_Computing_Machine_Model_B_w_No._5_typewriter.jpg (86381 bytes) Underwood Computing Machine Model B with Underwood No. 5 Typewriter, 1911 ad

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Underwood Standard Bookkeeping Machine No. 3-14

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Underwood Sundstrand Accounting Machine ad (MBHT)

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 Secretary with Bookkeeping Machine, mid-1900s
. .



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Underwood Automatic Typewriter Operator, 1911 ad and detail (MBHT). Presumably the Underwood is being driven by a Hooven Automatic Typewriter. 

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Hooven Automatic Typewriter, 1937 photo

Automatic Typewriters
~ 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.

The 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. 

"The normal 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.






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Two views of Hooven Automatic Typewriter (MBHT)

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Hooven Automatic Perforator, 1937 photo

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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.

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Auto-Typist Model 5020, American Automatic Typewriter Co,, Chicago, IL, 1951 image

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 the Auto-Typist.

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Inside the Auto-Typist is a machine that reads perforated paper rolls.

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The Auto-Typist controls the typewriter through a pneumatic system.

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Auto-Typist, 1947 ad (MBHT)

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Auto-Typist, 1951

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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.

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Robotyper and Instructions (MBHT)

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Woman operating four Robotypers, 1951

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Carlson Selector punch card Robotyper, 1951

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Friden Flexowriter


The Flexowriter used paper tape and was also used as an input-output device on computers in the 1950s.

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Friden Flexowriter Programmatic with detail of tape reader, 1959 (left image MBHT)


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Electric Vari-Typer, c. 1951 Model

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Electric Varityper. Drawer in front of keyboard contains a selection of type-shuttles

Composing Machines

Machines based 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).

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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 brands, states:

"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 Office Museum.

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Coxhead Vari-Typer Composing Machine (MBHT)

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Coxhead Vari-Typer Composing Machine, 1951 brochure (MBHT)

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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.
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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 thoughts.

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Japanese typewriter at the United States Office of War Information (OWI), 1943.  
Photo courtesy of the LIFE Photo Archive
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.

For a photograph of a Nippon Typewriter, see Thomas A. Russo, Mechanical Typewriters, p. 166.1947_Lin_Yutang_Chinese_Typewriter_detail.JPG (20341 bytes)
Chinese typewriter invented by Lin Yutang, 1947. For more  information, click here & here.Japanese_typewriter.jpg (26649 bytes)
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Chinese  typewriter

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Midget Braille and New York Point Writer, S. J. Seifried, Chicago, c. 1890.

Braille Typewriters

For information on braille typewriters and numerous photographs, click on the following link to the American Printing House for the Blind Callahan Museum.

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Left:  Typist using Braille typewriter, London, England, 1937. LIFE Photo Archive.
Right:  First Perkins Typewriter, 1948. LIFE Photo Archive. 

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Picht Braille Writer, Germany, c. 1900


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Code Machine
Encryption Machines .

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Columbia Music Typewriter, 1886 ad

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Melotyp Music Typewriter

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Vistomatic Musicwriter
Music Typewriters
~ 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)

The 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.]

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Keaton Music Typewriter

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Two Keaton Music Typewriter brochure images (MBHT)

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