Mystery typewriters (Part 1)

by | Aug 18, 2018 | mystery | 10 comments

For over 20 years, I’ve been saving photos of interesting typewriters that I see online. By now I have over 550 folders devoted to different makes, containing nearly 7000 photos. This collection is still far from including every model ever made, or every variant. I continue to add to these files, and often I learn from them.

One of my folders is titled “Mystery machines.” Here are some of the images in that collection, which have come from various sources over the years. Can anyone shed light on any of these intriguing typewriters?

First, this weird aluminum frame used to be part of the Milwaukee Public Museum collection. What could have fit in ito it?

Here is a plunger-style invention. It’s not clear how the keys connect to the type.

This beautiful index typewriter is (or was) in the collection of the Japy Museum in France. It reminds me of a Merritt.

The following photos show a typewheel machine that prints using a hammer striking from the back. The same principle is used in the Commercial Visible. I downloaded these pictures in 2005, but am embarrassed to admit I don’t remember where they came from.

Here’s a machine that was sold by Auction Team Breker in 2007. It was part of the fantastic collection of the Onondaga Historical Society. To my knowledge, it still has not been identified.


This handsome portable was featured on Robert Messenger’s blog. The photo is among the effects of Norman Mawle, founder of British Typewriters Ltd. Robert writes: “My first guess is that it is the prototype of a portable typewriter British (or Empire) Typewriters planned to make, perhaps late in the 1950s.”

Finally, the photo below recently showed up on eBay, and I have seen other photos of this device before. It seems to be based on a Selectric, yet uses a type disc (not a ball) that is inked by a large roller. It looks like it’s connected to a computer and is serving as a printer, but one could also use it for typewriting.

Next: some mystery machines in my own collection.


  1. Words are Winged

    These are certainly some interesting machines, and I look forward to seeing more. I can't imagine how many machines I've never seen that are in your 7,000+ picture catalog.

  2. Bill M

    That is a tremendous amount of typewriter photos. After seeing some of the mystery machines I look forward to seeing more of the 7000.

  3. Ted

    Wow, that's got to be a tremendous resource – 550 folders collected over 2 decades? Amazing!
    Oh, and I don't know what any of them are :D

  4. Ping A


  5. Anonymous

    ¿Guardar fotografías del universo de las máquinas de escribir es un reflejo de los que somos entusiastas? Yo he estado haciendo lo mismo. Cuando encuentre alguna imagen extraordinaria la compartiré contigo.

    ¡Viva la revolución!


  6. Rob MacKillop

    The first has a ghost-like quality, quite haunting.

    I hope you have secure cloud back up, Richard?!

  7. Martin Howard

    Thank you Richard for such an early morning thrill as I sit in front of my screen with a large coffee. I will look forward to part 2.

  8. Richard P

    Flavio Mantelli has identified the aluminum frame: it was intended for a Nickerson (a typewriter that would bring rapture to any collector).

  9. schrijfmachine

    The Breker machine looks like a later Jackson to me.

  10. SteveK

    I'm intrigued by that Heath-Robinson-like IBM teleprinter??? Hard to see how it could be better than a daisy wheel or cup – although it probably does allows for a greater number of printable characters and a greater typing width!


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