Old and oh so classy typewriters
  • A string instrument called the ukelin
  • A black toy company called Olmec
  • " />
    Auction Finds

    An odd-looking typewriter called Oliver

    The contraption sitting in front of me on a table in the back lot of the auction house was obviously a typewriter. It had the customary keys, but its typebars were aligned along two sides like towers.

    Rust and dirt had set up home long ago on all of its parts, and it was showing both age and neglect. I’d never seen one like it before, and I’d come across plenty of Underwoods and Royals at auction. The name on this one was Oliver, No. 9, made in Chicago.

    Curious, I went searching to see what I could find out about old Oliver.

    Oliver no. 9 typewriter

    The typebars on an early 20th century Oliver No. 9 typewriter.

    Olivers were distinguishable by their U-shaped typebars extended over the platen (or roller, for those of us who remember typing on typewriters). The Oliver No. 1 was the first “visible writer” that allowed the typist to see the words as they were typed. The No. 9 was among the most common of the Olivers, made from around 1915 to 1922.

    Here’s a “clean” No. 9, and here’s a demonstration of how the typebars work in a down-strike motion (rather than striking upward from below the platen).

    Typewriters were alluded to as far back as the 18th century, but the most efficient was made in Milwaukee in 1874. It had a QWERTY keyboard, typed only in capital letters, and had an up-stroke motion that hid the type as the keys hit the platen, thus a “blind writer.” The typist had to lift the carriage to see what was typed.

    Oliver typewriter No. 9

    A full view of the Oliver typewriter No. 9 sold at auction.

    The Oliver changed all that. It was invented by a Methodist minister named Rev. Thomas Oliver who was born in Canada in 1852 and moved to Iowa in 1888. His machine was said to have been made of strips from tin cans and rubber, and he patented it in 1891. He was said to have used it to legibly write his sermons.

    With his new invention, Oliver sought out investors, finding them first in Iowa and then in Chicago where a businessman bought out his partners. The Oliver Typewriter Co. was incorporated in Chicago in 1895. Oliver retained major control of the company, whose headquarters still stands and was designated a landmark in 1984.

    The first Oliver was manufactured in 1894, followed by machines of like design. It was nickel-plated, while subsequent typewriters were either in the same material or painted olive green (beneath the grime and dirt, the one at auction was green). It had three rows of octagonal keys in either black or white, and later models, seemingly starting with No. 2, had small handles on both sides, possibly for carrying.

    Oliver typewriter No. 9

    Two angles showing the typebars on the Oliver typewriter No. 9.

    The typewriter was marketed heavily to the home user, and the company enlisted local distributors to sell door to door, followed by sales on credit in 1905. At one point, the company dropped its salesmen and agents, and reduced the price of the machines. It had offices all over the country, and closed some when it went mail-order in 1917. Over the years, various models of the Oliver were manufactured by other companies under different names through licensing.

    The Oliver company sold more than a million typewriters before a British company bought the rights to the brand in 1928 (Oliver had died in 1909). The typewriter was discontinued in the 1950s. Here are some 1950s Oliver machines.

    Based on what I found on the web, Oliver typewriters seem to be pretty easy to find. Several U.S. and international sites were selling them, and the prices were pretty varied. The No. 1, obviously, is rare, with only 500 (or 5,000, depending on who you ask) said to have been made.

    On eBay, I found No. 9’s that were sold for $33 (as rusty as the one at auction) to $425 (in clean condition). A seller on one retail site was asking $750 for a clean one.

    Oliver typewriter No. 9

    The octagonal keys on the Oliver typewriter No. 9.

    Tagged as: ,

    Leave a Response

    Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

    bbc galapagos las islas que cambiaron el mundogalapagos cruise reviewsbest cruise ships galapagos islandsbest family galapagos cruisebest time to go to galapagos and machu picchubest time to go to peru and galapagosbiotech bedrijf galapagosbiotechnologiebedrijf galapagosbudget galapagos boat toursbudget galapagos cruise pricescaracteristicas de las islas galapagos antiguascaracteristicas de las islas galapagos flora y faunacaracteristicas de las islas galapagos mas antiguascaracteristicas islas antiguas galapagoscaracteristicas islas mas antiguas galapagoscelebrity cruise galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruise lines galapagos islandscelebrity cruises galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruises galapagos reviewscelebrity cruises galapagos xpeditioncelebrity xpedition galapagos 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos cancelledcelebrity xpedition galapagos cruisecelebrity xpedition galapagos cruise 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos excursionscelebrity xpedition galapagos machu picchucelebrity xpedition galapagos price