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Sunday, 25 March 2012

ああ姉妹、どこアートなた The Brother Typewriter Story

A visitor called FleetCommand from Hungary found my post on “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Typewriter” and asked about the “when and where” of his Brother Deluxe 220.
This gave me the perfect excuse to complete my post on the history of Brother typewriters. And the most interesting thing I uncovered about Brother is that, by rights, the machines should be called “Sister” – in case you're wondering, the Japanese text in the heading is supposed to read, “Oh Sister, Where Art Thou?”. But something got lost in translation, as Bill Murray might say when in Tokyo. More on that later.
In the meantime, the “where” is easy: the Brother headquarters and factory were in Horita, Mizuho Ward, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where the story of Brother-Sister manual portable typewriters begins and ends.
Typewriters started being produced in the sewing and knitting machine factory there in 1961 for the US market (Webster chain store) and in 1966 a specialised typewriter plant was added at Horita, with production shifting to the new factory in 1967.
In 1986 Brother Industries opened a plant in Bartlett, Tennessee, where it manufactured 600,000 typewriters annually for the US market, and from 1989, Brother progressively transferred what had previously been Japanese production to China. But this was for electronic typewriters only: Brother had stopped making its own manual portable typewriters before then.
Any Brother manual portable typewriter you have was made in Nagoya. See below a description of Nayoga as a Brother (and Sister) city from Office Ladies-Factory Women: Life and Work at a Japanese Company by Jeannie Lo (1990).
As for the “when”, I can only quote Ryan Adney on his Remington Performer: “This Brother mechanism seems to live on in many variations and labels.” Oh so right, Magic Margin! But why single out the Performer Ryan received with such lukewarmness? Because it’s the same typewriter as my Brother Super Deluxe 1450, which, as my typecast below says, I bought on the spur of the moment, thinking to hung this tale on it.
I never knew there was such a thing as a Brother Super Deluxe 1450, or a Remington Performer, until this machine bobbed up on Australia eBay with a Buy It Now tag on it. But I’d be more than happy to bet the money I paid for this typewriter that there are still dozens of Brother manual typewriter models out there that I still haven’t yet laid my eyes on. The “little” gallery below are just some of the range that I have seen.
As FleetCommand says, his Brother Deluxe 220 (“in red, just like Vikram Shah's") also has the sticker "10 million Brother typewriters: 1961-1980". Ten million is a breathtaking number of typewriters, and within in that 10 million there would have to be at least 100 variations on a theme, probably many, many more.
I cannot put a figure on Ryan Adney's point about the number of brands and models, but I can tell you that a staggering 92 per cent of all Brother typewriters were made for export. A lot of these were, of course, relabelled, in the US (as Websters, Sears, Montgomery Wards, K-Mart, Wegefields, Remingtons etc) and Australia (Lemair-Helvetia, K-Mart etc).
And I would (with a reasonable degree of accuracy) estimate that of the 10 million made, at least 40 to 45 per cent were built to the same original Brother design, patented in the US in May 1962 by Akio Kondo, of Aichi. Kondo was working for Nihon Mishin Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha (it means Japan Sewing Machine Manufacturing Co Ltd) of Nagoya when he filed his patent application in December 1960. Earlier that year, the US Patent and Trademark Office had registered Brother as a trading name for Nihon Mishin Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha, of Nagoya, manufacturers of typewriters, sewing machines and knitting machines.
I believe Akio Kondo was the father of Shoichi Kondo (below, born 1958), a Japanese politician. Akio Kondo died on November 2, 2007.
So, FleetCommand, the upshot of all this is that I have to confess nobody – with the possible exception of Brother itself – knows exactly “when”, since nobody has attempted to keep track of the serial numbers for the massive total of Brother typewriters produced since 1973.
Up to that point, some sort of record had been maintained, starting with a guide to prefixes based on A to L for the months of the year (“A” for January to “L” for December) and numbers for the year starting with 4 for 1964, the first year the Brother typewriter was marketed in its own name. The numbers after that were 5 for 1965, 6 for 1966 etc through to 0 1970 and 3 for 1973).
The numbering for the years had obviously gone through a full 10-year cycle, 4 back to 3, by 1973, and I can’t say what Brother did after that. To repeat “A4” for 1964 and 1974 would have been confusing. Theoretically, the serial number for a January 1980 typewriter should start “A16 …” But I’m guessing that somewhere along the line the years must have been refigured, because the serial number on my Super Deluxe 1450 starts “J53 …”, and while I can image an October production date, I doubt very much if 64+53 adds up to 2017. My machine looks very “modern”, but not that modern! Maybe the “5” stands for 1975 or 1985? Is it possible the second digit represents the decade – in other words “A42” for January, 1974 and “A43” for January, 1984? Seems possible.
To check that theory, I looked at two other Brothers I have in the house at the moment, the all-black Deluxe 220 (H53 …) and a Echelon 79 (aka Deluxe 1350, an earlier version of the 1450 design) (D13…). And, yes, I could image the first being made in 1985 and the second in 1981 (although the 1350 first came out in 1972; is a nine-year production run likely?). Based on this notion, my Super Deluxe 1450 was made in October 1985 and that it was the 518838th Brother typewriter made that year. At that rate, 600,000 were being made a year, and from 1961-1980 that would add up to 12 million typewriters. Given that typewriter production would have scaled up considerably from 1961 (it represented a mere 12.77 per cent of total Brother products in 1965), I guess a figure of 10 million by 1980 would be about right.
Anyway, hopefully that’s a rough guide as to when your Brother was made, FleetCommand. Oh, and T stands for tab and TR for tab and repeat spacer.
The popular theory is that the mechanic Kanekichi Yasui (1881-1925) left the Atsuta military arsenal in 1908, converted a six-mat room in his home and founded a company which came to be called Brother - because Kanekichi’s business was taken over by his six sons and four sons-in-law.
In fact, only two of the brothers were involved at the birth of Brother. And when Masayoshi and Jitsuichi Yasui inherited their father's sewing machine business in 1925, they wanted to rename it Sister, as a way of paying homage to the women who were using sewing machines. However, it was pointed out to them that Sister was a little too close for comfort to Singer, which had been making sewing machines in the US since 1851.
Thus it became known as the Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Company. Masayoshi (born April 5, 1904, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya; died Nagoya, August 23, 1990, aged 86) had started helping his father at the age of nine, gaining valuable early knowledge about the selling and repairing of sewing machines and the making of spare parts for them. Masayoshi said he learnt about the technicalities of the sewing machine while “inheriting the soul of the father technician”.
At 17, Masayoshi began an apprenticeship in Osaka, at the time the centre for Japan’s sewing machine importation, assembly and distribution. Masayoshi determined to turn an import-based industry into an export-based industry, he just lacked production facilities and advanced processing technologies.
In 1928 Masayoshi developed and sold hydraulic presses and the Sho-san-shiki chain-stitch sewing machine for producing straw hats.
Meanwhile, Jitsuichi Yasui, Masayoshi’s younger brother, developed shuttle hooks, which are the main components of the sewing machine. In 1932 the Yasui brothers introduced the first sewing machine made entirely in Japan.
The next year the company built a new factory in Mizuho, Nagoya. The Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Company was liquidated on January 15, 1934, to enable its incorporation under the name Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company (in other words, Nihon Mishin Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha), which began to manufacture industrial sewing machines in 1936.
In 1941 Brother Sales Ltd was established to develop a sales network in Japan. In 1947, at the request of the Japanese Government, Brother exported 200 sewing machines to Shanghai, the first step in what would a decade later become its massive worldwide expansion.
In 1954, in an effort to increase sewing machine exports, Brother International Corporation was established as an exporting company. It set up a sales base in New York that year, and its first European sewing machine production plant in Ireland in 1958.
At that same time, the US sales company strongly and repeatedly recommended to Brother’s Nagoya HQ that it investigate the possibility of adding to its sewing and knitting machine lines the production of portable typewriters. The New York office emphasised that portable typewriters were in increasingly demand in the US, especially for the trade in cheaper machines in department stores. Webster was already selling Brother-made sewing machines, and the first deal to import Brother typewriters was made with Webster.
Brother took two full years to carefully develop a machine that was patently different from others on the market, and came up with Akio Kondo’s design in 1960. The first machines off the production line differed not one jot from Kondo's design, right down to the hooped wire paper rest.
It sold first in the US as a Webster in 1961. The Australian market soon opened up, with the Brother initially disguised as a Lemair for department store sales.
In 1962, coinciding with the early exports of portable typewriters,  Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company changed its name to Brother Industries Ltd.
Brother’s engineering team had developed what, by its own description, was a lower-cost typewriter which was comparable with the quality of the typewriters built by its competitors – companies with well-established brand names. Notably, these were Remingtons made in Britain, since Underwood was in its death throes (to re-emerge later as Olivettis), and Royals and Smith-Coronas had become too expensive to produce in the US. Given the challenge thrown down by Brother, Remington and Royal moved to Holland and SCM to Britain, all in the early 1960s and all with the idea of producing cheaper machines. For one thing, labour costs were lower than in the US.
What’s more, Brother believed the portable typewriter it could produce would prove to be more durable – and I suspect they have been ultimately proved right in that.
The impact of Brother typewriters was, to put it mildly, hugely telling on the entire industry. Litton Industries took over Royal in Holland and Imperial in Britain and, aware of the far lower cost of typewriter production in Japan, moved operations there. Meanwhile, SCM complained bitterly to the US Government that Brother was flooding the US market with cheap machines – so cheap SCM believed they were being sold below the cost of their production (a situation SCM itself had been forced to face in Britain by Woolworths' hard bargaining. See SCM Courier). But the Japanese company had been only too willing to admit that flooding the US market was Brother’s No 1 objective all along; and it achieved this was completely undercutting the opposition. By 1971, Brother was making typewriters in more than 20 languages and exporting them to 110 countries.
In 1974, SCM, which had become a division of Kleinschmidt (see Donald Murray) and had abandoned manual and electric standard office typewriters to concentrate on portable manual and compact electric typewriters, filed a complaint against Brother.
This began what SCM calls a “20-year imbroglio between itself and the Japanese competitor”. Specifically, SCM charged Brother with "dumping" portable typewriters, exporting the machines for sale in the US at prices below cost. Arguing that Brother was in violation of the Antidumping Act of 1921, SCM saw its sales decline in the face of what it deemed an unfair trade practice. In 1979, the US Government imposed an import fee on Brother's typewriters, and throughout the 1980s the courts modified these antidumping orders and import fees to include new products such as Brother electronic typewriters and word processors.
Driven to the wall by Woolworth's demands for cheaper typewriters, SCM cut its losses in 1981 after 21 years in West Bromwich in England, and then failed to make a go of it after buying Olivetti's Glasgow factory. When, in 1986, the London-based conglomerate, Hanson PLC, acquired SCM Corp, SCM left Britain and began manufacturing typewriters in Singapore for export to the US. At the same time, Brother Industries opened a plant in Bartlett, Tennessee, where it manufactured 600,000 typewriters annually for the US market. It was Brother's turn to file dumping complaints against SCM.
In February 1994, SCM and Brother Industries finally ended litigation over the dumping issue, admitting in a joint statement that it was better to direct energies toward the marketplace rather than the courtroom. The two companies asked the US Commerce Department to cease its investigations of typewriter dumping and revoke the added import taxes. All too late, though, I’m afraid.
In one last-ditched effort to keep portable manual typewriters competitive, Brother introduced in 1973 what was probably the final significant mechanical innovation to a machine which had begun life exactly 100 years earlier in Milwaukee.
This was the repeat spacing mechanism, developed in Japan in 1969 and patented in the US by Tomoyoshi Watanabe and Masao Jozuka for the Brother Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Brother Industries Co Ltd) of Nagoya.
A BAND OF BROTHERS
At least the ones I know
(There are 58 varities here, 20 of which use the original Kondo design.
and I'm sure I've only scratched the surface.
If anyone knows of any models I have missed, please let me know)

Original Webster
Jett Morton Collection
Brother Deluxe
Bradford
Ledeaux Collection
 Brother 100 (aka Montgomery Ward Signature 100)
Antares 130
Underwood 130
Brother 200 (aka Citation)
Brother 210
Brother 211
Brother 215
Brother Deluxe 220
Georg Sommeregger Collection
Brother Deluxe 233
Brother Deluxe 240T
Brother 300T
Montgomery Ward Signature 300
Montgomery Ward Signature 300T
K-Mart 300 Deluxe 12
Remington 333
Brother Deluxe 338
Brother Valiant 391
Brother Valiant 413
Brother Wide-7 423
Montgomery Ward Signature 440
Brother 440TR
Webster XL 500
Montgomery Ward Signature 513
Michael Clemens Collection
Wizard TrueType
Montgomery Ward Signature 510D
Brother Valiant 613
Brother Deluxe 650TR
Brother Deluxe 700-1
Brother Accord 10
Webster XL-747
Brother Deluxe 750TR
Brother Accord 12
Jett Morton Collection
Lemair Deluxe 760TR
Brother De Luxe 800
Lemair Deluxe 800
Richard Amery Collection
Brother Opus 885
Brother Opus 889
Brother Deluxe 1310
Lemair-Helvetia Deluxe 1310
Brother Echelon 89
Lemair-Helvetia
Continental
Brother Deluxe 889 (Activator)
Brother XL1010
Brother Young Elite (1)
Brother Young Elite (II)
Brother Charger 11
Sear Correction
Brother Correction 7
Brother Valiant
Brother Deluxe 1350
 Brother Echelon 79
Brother Deluxe 1450 (Remington Performer)
Brother Deluxe 1613






25 comments:

Szabolcs Molnár said...

Thank you for this comprehensive post about Brother :) Well, then probably my J03 Brother could have been made in October 1980. Maybe.

FleetCommand

shordzi said...

Brother, Brother, yeah! I just got one on my doorstep the other day - update follows. Excellent post of yours!!

Bill M said...

Thank you for this historical and information-packed post on Brother typewriters. I find your site the only source of information on many typewriters. It is because of your posts there are certain machines in my collection. One of those is a Montgomery Ward Escort 550 (Brother Accord 10) which I bought as a travel typewriter. It is a nice typewriter, but exhibits some of the cheapness of Brother products although it is a good typer. I like it. I will use it, but I do not know if I will use it for travel. It comes nowhere close to my Smith-Corona Skyriter in good feel and overall quality.

I do plan to add more Brothers to my collection. Overall they are nicer typewriters than the Nakajima typewriters.

I'll be posting more on the Brother and Skyriter on my blog in the future.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you yet again Bill for your kind words. The MW Escort 550 is one I should add in? Also Szabolcs and Shordzi (Georg). I think, yes, the red 220 you have would be October 1980, when that sticker would have been still valid. What model have you got, Georg? There's now 57 varities of this post and I'm certain more are to come.

notagain said...

I've given away numerous brothers. They just feel a bit heavy for serious writing. I sure can't complain about the construction though - strong materials and good fit and finish. Right now I have a Wizard Truetype. I've given away a Kmart 100, as well a Sears and a Brother-badged that were otherwise the same as the Kmart, and an Echelon.

Scott K said...

Truely well researched.

Well done!

I see a lot of these Brother machines popping up here on AU Ebay at the moment, and this history makes me appreciate them much more.

personally, I don't like the feel of these machines, or the plasticated look of them either. And whenever I think about the Brother machines, I remember them as the dogged units sitting on steel shelves in K-Mart, slowly being bashed to pieces by high-school kids stopping by.

Ledeaux said...

What a great piece of industrial history! Thanks. And now I have a better sense of context for the Brother "Bradford" machine I picked up at Goodwill a couple of years ago. (See the third pic at my blog http://bit.ly/nNgvRz.) I've yet to find any mention of the Bradford online, but I can see it is pretty close match to the Webster.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Ledeaux. Yes, that's a new one on me. It is one of the originals, along with the Webster and Brother De Luxe. Do you mind if I add in an image of it? That will make 58 varities. I think I'll stop at 60.

shordzi said...

Oh, mine is exactly the same (well, apart from the keyboard) as the "Brother 100".

Ledeaux said...

Thanks, Robert! You are very welcome to post the pic of the Bradford (aka "Little Nemo").

vikram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vikram said...

http://coolstuff4819.blogspot.com/2012/04/brother-deluxe-262tr-french-keyboard.html

Here I have a post about my Brother 262TR - a French keyboard typewriter with a repeat spacer, metal carriage frame, and tab button.

Mickey said...

I was looking for information on my two brother typwriters that I can't find anywhere and you don't even have them in the list. :/

I have a brother deluxe 1600 and a brother echelon 44. it's a nightmare to get information on these two.

amanda said...

Came across your site today - it's really interesting! I found a 210 mustard yellow Citation @ a local thrift store in pretty good shape. Getting ready to sell it, any recommendations on what you'd list it for? $50? (thanks!)

Ted said...

Have yet another variant, A Montgomery Ward Signature 440T, for your perusal (:

Anonymous said...

I have a Wizard truetype...wondered abut it as I liked the design AND it was made in Japan, in the day something the US scoffed at but now in hindsight , they really made fine ,fine products for us c 50's to 1970!!
Thank ou so much for this most interesting rundown...I had no idea this lil typewriter was so steeped in history!
Cherio
Bungalow Kev

Mark Adams said...

The Remington 666 is a rebranded Brother (identical to the Opus 895). I've written about it here: http://type-writer.org/?p=1149.

Robert Messenger said...

Thanks Mark, I have posted on it a number of times as well.

Mario said...

I am going to go off-topic a bit and ask all the Brother typewriter historians about the Brother electric pencil sharpener line.

My dad once had an Opus 660 electric pencil sharpener he received as a graduation present in 1968. It was teal blue in color. Does anyone remember when the company had made their first, and last, electric pencil sharpeners?

Unknown said...

I've got a Brother Deluxe 700 with serial number stars with M6. What year do you think it was made?

Ted said...

I may have cracked the problem of figuring out what decade your Brother JP-1 was made in. Based on stylistic differences:

Wire Loop paper rest & White keys = early-mid 60′s

Straight bar paper rest on spring & White keys = mid 60′s-early/mid 70′s

Usually no paper rest & Black keys = mid/late 70′s-early/mid 80′s

see my reasoning here:
http://munk.org/typecast/2014/06/02/thriftin-report-western-auto-typewriter-toyota-yarn-baller-and-ibm-balls/

Kaliope said...

I came here trying to find out more about a Wards/Brother typewriter I picked up for my 12 year old. I'm having trouble finding out much about a "Signature 500" model, the typewriter database starts with 700. I see reference to 440 and 511 but no 500.

Also our serial number doesn't have any letters? Perhaps we are looking in the wrong spot (under carriage on the left) but we only have a 7 digit number starting with a 5. So I'm a bit confused about how to date this thing.

Another oddity - typeface is cursive! I've seen no reference to different typefaces on Brother machines. Any light you could shed would be greatly appreciated! Thanks :)

Ted said...

Kaliope, your Signature 500 with serial number starting "5" is a 1965 Brother JP-3, the first of the Signature 5xx series and a very nice desk-sized portable with advanced features like a centrifugal tabulator brake. We've noted a few examples of Brother serial numbers lacking the letter-based Month code - not sure what it means, but invariably the first numerical digit of the serial number is the year code.

Joe V said...

Great article, Robert. I know I'm late to this party by a few years, but I just picked up a Webster XL-747 from a local thrift store. Blue in color, great condition, I really like the body style of this model.

wrongwaywriteway.com said...

Fantastic! I just posted my Wizard Automatic on the TWDB. This post on the BROTHER company is fascinating, thanks for putting the time in. Did not see where the 'Western Auto' moniker came into being, but I may have missed that info through my first read. Thanks again-- ~Tom~