Going public (Part 3)

by | Mar 5, 2013 | exhibit | 10 comments

Installment no. 3 of my public display at the Xavier University library:

Hammond no. 1 (USA, ca. 1889): This typewriter invented by James B. Hammond uses an interchangeable swinging sector and a hammer that hits the paper from behind. This model 1 is largely encased in wood. The machine was available either with a two-row, curved “Ideal” keyboard or with a three-row QWERTY keyboard.

Hammond Folding Multiplex (USA, 1923): While Hammond was never the leader among typewriter manufacturers, the company had a solid customer base. This portable Hammond can hold two type shuttles at once. Its keyboard folds up for compactness when it is put in its carrying case.

Varityper (USA, ca. 1937): This successor to the Hammond is an electric typewriter that uses a carbon-paper ribbon. More elaborate Varityper models were capable of justifying the right margin and typing proportionally (assigning different widths to different characters). Varitypers built on the Hammond system were made into the 1970s, and were often used by small publishers to lay out text for photo offset printing. One Arizona printer is still using Varitypers today.

Emerson (USA, ca. 1910): The Emerson uses a unique system, with typebars swinging in toward the center from the sides. Made in Woodstock, Illinois, it was modestly successful.

Underwood no. 5 (USA, 1925): The Underwood is the most influential design in typewriter history; many manufacturers imitated this system, which uses typebars that strike the front of the platen, a four-row QWERTY keyboard with single shift, and an ink ribbon. The no. 5, with over three million machines made from 1900 to 1933, is the most famous Underwood model.

Underwood Portable (USA, 1929): In 1919 Underwood introduced a three-row portable typewriter that embodied the company’s high standards of quality. This example with green marble paint is among the last made before this model was replaced by a larger, four-row design.

Woodstock Electrite (USA, ca. 1925): The Woodstock, successor to the Emerson, used an Underwood-style design and was quite successful. The Electrite model used a spinning metal shaft to propel typebars to the platen; shift and carriage return were still manually controlled. This model sold in small numbers, and electric typewriters were not adopted widely until the 1950s.


  1. Bill M

    Nice display and interesting history on the machines Richard.

    This is the first I ever heard of an Emerson typewriter. I thought Oliver was the only company that had type bars swing in from the sides.

  2. schrijfmachine

    Nice display again. I specially like the Hammonds. Do you refer to your site anywhere near this display? It would be nice to show the page where you put pictures of the restauration proces of the Hammond 1.

  3. Richard P

    Good question. There is a sign (visible behind the Hammond no. 1) that says:

    In February and March, the Library is displaying a rotating selection from the typewriter collection of Professor Richard Polt of the Department of Philosophy. Dr. Polt owns over 270 typewriters. He created the Xavier-hosted website The Classic Typewriter Page in 1995, and edited a magazine for typewriter collectors from 2006 to 2012.

    I'm sure some readers here haven't seen the page about restoring the Hammond. It can be found here.

  4. notagain

    That's a nice display, I wish I could see it up close. There's an Emerson 3 on shopgoodwill right now.

  5. Ton S.

    Nice, thanks for the update on the exhibit.

  6. Ted

    Have you been getting many comments about the exhibit over the past few weeks? They've really set you up with a wonderful display area. How many more iterations have you got planned?

  7. Peter

    Nice to see Fred Woodworth and his Varityper get a spot in the lineup!

  8. Richard P

    Other faculty have mentioned the exhibit favorably, and have asked some questions about where I get them, etc. I also hear anecdotally that some students pause in wonder. Of course, it depends on the individual; to some people, it's as if these objects didn't exist.

  9. Richard P

    Yes indeed, that's a reference to Fred (who says he will be glad to contribute something to my Typewriter Insurgency book project).

  10. Peter

    That is wonderful news. I'm sure he will make a valuable contribution. A recent and ongoing correspondence with him has taught me he has a unique and important outlook on the state of written communication in the digital age.


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