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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

95-Year-Old Blickensderfer Types like it was made Yesterday

Not much of a typecast, I know. But, hey, it's very difficult typing on the DHIATENSOR keyboard, having used QWERTY for 54 years (and obviously then not all that well, even at the best of times).
And as for the typewriter itself - well, after not having been used for the part of the last 95 years, the Blickensderfer 9 was understandly a bit stiff in the joints, particularly the shift key and the typewheel. Indeed, I was having trouble getting anything out of the top bank of keys (noticeably the 'g'). The typewheel obviously needs a little adjustment, though probably nothing as serious as Rob Bowker's SM4.
Still, I'm sure you will agree the ink looks pretty fresh for a typewriter made in 1916 (I'm basing that date on the serial number of 186,266 and Paul Robert's book, written with Rob Blickensderfer, The Five Pound Secretary).
Paul's book says that about 10,000 Blick 9s were produced between mid-1910 and 1919, mostly from 1916 on, and the serial number 185,000 was reached at the end of 1915. By the by, it also says 74,000 Blick 5s were made, 63,000 Blick 7s, 20,000 Blick 8s, 11,000 Blick 6s and 13,000 Featherweights. So the 9 is a comparative rarity, considering the numbers of 5s and 7s made. Happily, I have the full set, as well as the Home - and other oddities, like the Blick Universal, Blick 90 and Rem-Blick.
Anyway, a collector in Belgium asked me some weeks ago if I had "a nice Blick 9" I wanted to sell. I said I had a nice Blick 9 - I bought it in an auction of the estate of a Chicago collector about five years ago - but it was not for sale. And since I wasn't prepared to sell it,I thought it only fair that I give it some use.
Thus, for something a little different in the way of a typecast, I dragged out the Blick 9 today, dusted it off, squirted a little WD40 on the ink pad - and hey, presto! You see the result above. Show me the laptop and computer printer that will produce such clear type in 95 years' time! (If you look closely enough, you can tell that, having tested the ink pad with my fingers, I left a smudge mark on the 'Z' key.)
The fancy typeface? My pick would be what the Blickensderfer Manufacturing Company sold as the Italic No 497 - "Code Word - Tractable", according to the company's catalogue (though the Blick 9 is not listed in the copy I have).

9 comments:

Ryan Adney said...

Robert, it must be Blickensderfer Week in the typosphere. That's fine with me I love them. I am just anxious with waiting for my machine to show up at the door.

Robert Messenger said...

Yes, Ryan, I noticed you were salivating over a Blick Electric, one Blick I DON'T have! I'm wondering, given Richard's comment, whether he now puts a Blick Electric ahead of a Sphinx on his wish-list. BTW, I've just posted on a line-justifying typewriter (or sorts!).

Robert Messenger said...

Does your comment about Blick Week in the Typosphere mean I now qualify as a Typospherian? Please say yes.

Richard P said...

Of course you're a typospherian, Robert.

I am impressed with how your ink roller came back to life. They worked out some wonderful ink formulas over a century ago. Your Blick 9 seems to be more type-worthy than my Blick 6.

notagain said...

Those are so pretty!

Ted said...

How could Mr. Messenger doubt that he is a Typospherian? He posts even more prolifically than I do, and his posts are actually informative! It's like the Pope wondering if he's Catholic... :D

Daniel Miller said...

I purchased a Blickensderfer #9. I cannot seem to find the serial number anywhere. There is a metal tag screwed in on left side top with numbers 00 123456. Does this make any sense?

Daniel Miller said...

I purchased a Blickensderfer #9. I cannot seem to find the serial number anywhere. There is a metal tag screwed in on left side top with numbers 00 123456. Does this make any sense?

Alex Volkov said...

I saw this ad from 1901.
https://books.google.com/books?id=gfEhAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA107&ots=Jw4DSFwBDZ&dq=inking%20blickensderfer&pg=PA107#v=onepage&q=inking%20blickensderfer&f=false

It ends with a question on durability, little the authors knew about how long these machines will last!