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Monday, 8 April 2013

Imperial Portable Typewriters 1908-1978: Part I – Before the Good Companion


This model is the first Imperial four-bank portable typewriter. It was manufactured in Leicester in 1930 and is an exact duplicate of the first version of the Torpedo Modell 14 of 1928. This machine was sold by the Imperial Typewriter Sales Company of 22 Martin Place, Sydney. Its serial number of S-14-1261 gives away its true origin.
Today we start the long-promised series on Imperial portable typewriters. The sequence of Imperial portables tends to confuse typewriter collectors, and one aim of this series is to outline some of the differences in the various models. For example, the original shiny black Good Companion has no model number or letter, but the name “Good Companion”, with no model number or letter, appears on later designs, including the machines more familiar to us as the boxy Model T and Model 3 (there is no Model 2; the Model T is the second model Good Companion). “Good Companion” also appears on shiny grey machines in the original shape as well as the boxy shape, although the Model T is common in a crinkle black. A metallic green became almost standard after World War II, but later  Good Companions (they go up to Model 7) came in a variety of colours.
Yet another variation of the IGC set to confuse us.
Further confusion has been caused by Imperial’s early association with Torpedo in Frankfurt, Germany. It has long been thought that the original Good Companion of 1932 was based on a Torpedo design. This is only partly true, as the first Good Companion is a later English development of the original Torpedo Modell 14, an exact duplicate of which was made by the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester as the first Imperial four-bank portable in 1930. This very same model also appeared as the Regent, a Torpedo export tradename.
Richard Amery's Regent is exactly the same as the first model Imperial four-bank portable of 1930 and the first 1928 version of the Torpedo Modell 14.
It can be easily distinguished from later Imperial and Torpedo portables because it is based on the first Remington portables and has a completely flat top plate rising to a collar, almost identical to the Remington (the front lip at 1¼ inches extends deeper in behind the keyboard than the Remington, at less than 1 inch; the collar around the typebasket is, at ¾ of an inch, slightly steeper and higher at its highest centre point on the Remington than the Torpedo/Imperial, at a little more than ½ an inch. On the Torpedo/Imperial, that front lip also rises almost straight into a slightly flattened centre part of the collar, with no small flat area under the brand name decal).
An additional clue comes in the serial number of the first Imperial four-bank portable, which starts with S-14, as in Modell 14. The serial number on this machine is S-14-1261. Good Companions start with the codes A, B and C.
The Imperial "Mead" in Beeching's book.
The second version of the Torpedo Modell 14, dating from 1930
Wilf Beeching, in his Century of the Typewriter, would have us believe the first Imperial four-bank portable was a 1928 model called the Mead. In fact, the Mead, which did indeed precede the first Good Companion, is an exact duplicate of the much-loved 1930 second version of the Torpedo Modell 14, a variation which has a completely different, bulbous top plate and no collar. These machines have no letter code with the serial number. The original Good Companion has a very slightly more rounded top plate with collar, but again is very like the Remington. The first Good Companion, coincidentally, emerged the year Remington took over Torpedo (1932).
All the Torpedo-Imperial machines mentioned above are carriage-shifted, with identical segments and typebaskets. But the carriage levers differ considerably. The first Torpedo Modell 14-Imperial four-bank has a 1½ inch-high lever with a large, round thumb indent that pushes inward to turn the platen. The second Torpedo Modell 14-Mead has a ½ inch lever with a small thumb indent which pushes backwards. It also has a different style of shift-lock key and colour selector switch, and in some cases a tab key. The first Good Companion has a swivel-jointed lever with a distinct upper curve – it also pushes inwards. The early Remingtons have a thin, 2½ inch-high lever with a slightly bulbous top which pulls forward.
There are other more obvious differences with the Good Companion, such as the distinctive chrome knobs on top of the ribbon spools and the small handles on each side of the machine. These can have the tendency to throw one off the Torpedo-Remington scent.
This series will concentrate on Imperial’s four-bank portables, first introduced in 1930, but we cannot ignore the earlier Hidalgo Moya-designed downstrike three-banks, which were designated as portables by Imperial. These machines are indeed small and light, but with their large metal and later wooden cases they are, like the Blickensderfer in its oak case, hardly easy to carry about.
Note reference in this 1916 Typewriter Topics advertisement to Imperial "not [being] a 'Naturalised' Newcomer from Germany ..."
 First, a brief look at the history of the company, based in Leicester in the East Midlands of England from 1908-1973. This outline leads up to Imperial’s introduction of four-bank portables in 1930:
This signed June 1921 US passport application photograph is the last known image of Hidalgo Moya, then aged just 57. He was clearly very ill at the time, after two debilitating strokes. The photo was taken with his English-born wife Sophia Lillian Moya (née Chattaway), then aged 38, daughter Georgia Mary Lillian Moya, 10, and son John Hidalgo (“Jack” or “Jacko”) Moya, aged 1.
Moya was born in Marthasville, Missouri, on September 9, 1863, the son of Mexican-born John Moya. For almost 40 years, from 1881, he lived in England, where he had been sent as a representative of E.Remington & Sons, which that year had regained control of marketing the “Type Writer” from Fairbanks & Co.
For health reasons, in early 1920 Moya moved with his family to Pasadena, California, but in May that year, just after the birth of Jack, and once again a year later, he suffered strokes which left him partially paralysed down one side. He wanted to return to England because, according to his doctor, “his business affairs [the Imperial Typewriter Company] were not going as favourably as they would if he were present”, causing him much stress. At that time, Moya considered himself to be once more a typewriter inventor working for Imperial, albeit without a controlling interest in the company. In 1914 Moya had listed himself as a violin maker.
Typewriter Topics, June 1920
Moya died in Bournemouth, Hampshire, in late 1927, aged 63. Sophia died in Bournemouth in 1964 and Jack in Hastings in 1994. Georgia died in Warwickshire in February 1991, aged 80.
Moya’s 1915 US passport application photo.
The much younger Moya. Typewriter woes have obviously wearied him.
Moya and his father-in-law, wealthy Leicester bootmaker John Gordon Chattaway (1854-1936) founded the Imperial Typewriter Company on June 22, 1908. It was an expansion of the Moya Typewriter Company, established in Leicester in 1902.
In its first year of operation, Imperial introduced the Model A (the image above is from Herman Price’s Collection at the Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum, Fairmount, West Virginia).  This basic downstrike machine was succeeded in 1915 by the Model B, with a changeable typebasket and keyboard and shift keys on both sides of the keyboard. There is an aluminium version of this, the Model C. In 1919 Imperial produced Moya’s last machine, the Model D, which has a square keyboard.
In 1911 Moya had been joined in Imperial’s mechanical engineering and design team by Swedish-born Eric Julius Pilblad (1880-1963) and Yorkshire-born Arthur Tomlinson (1876-1950). Pilblad took over from Moya as general manager.
Eric J.Pilblad
Arthur Tomlinson
The year 1911 had already marked a change in leadership at Imperial, with Moya and Chattaway exchanging control for added investment from Leicester businessmen Joseph Wallis Goddard (1852-1927) and Goddard’s brother-in-law William Arthur Evans (1865-1942). Moya became Imperial’s sales manager, Evans the board chairman, and a new, much larger factory was built at North Evington.
In 1927 Imperial began making conventional standard-sized typewriters (the first being the Model 50).
William Arthur Evans
At this same time, a significant event which was to impact greatly on the Imperial Typewriter Company occurred in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The great Büdingen-born typewriter designer Carl Winterling (1885-) had been joined at Weilwerke AG, makers of Torpedo typewriters, by Englishman Herbert Etheridge to develop the grounding-breaking Torpedo Model 6. Torpedo had in 1921 been restructured and became a public company.
Carl Winterling
Etheridge was born the son of a glasscutter in Armley outside Leeds in England in February 1884. By 1901, aged just 17 and living with his family in Burley, Leeds, Etheridge was already working as a typewriter mechanic for  Remington in Headingley.
In 1908 William James Richardson (1863-1949) established the Bar-Lock Typewriter Company in London and Etheridge moved south to work for him. In 1914 Richardson bought out all the patents, trademarks and tools of Charles Spiro’s Columbia Typewriter Manufacturing Company and employed Etheridge to come up with a number of improvements for the Bar-Lock. In 1916 Etheridge went to the US to work for Kidder-Oswald Manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio. He returned to England after the war, when Richardson moved operations from a plant in Prices Street, London, to a newly-built factory in Nottingham. There Richardson used Etheridge’s “inventive skill” to develop an all-British frontstrike Bar-Lock.
When Richardson sold the Nottingham project to Ernest Jardine in 1925, to take over the Oliver Typewriter Company and concentrate on Italian-designed Oliver portables, Etheridge parted company with him and moved to Weilwerke in Frankfurt, to work with Winterling on Torpedos.
Modell 14 engraving from Ernst Martin's book.
In 1924 Torpedo decided to produce a four-bank portable typewriter. It was based very much on the Remington portable but was a simplified version called the Modell 12. As Torpedo looked for export revenue, links were made through Etheridge with Imperial.  The Modell 12 was sold for a short time in England as the Unitype and the Regent.
In 1928 Torpedo brought out a much-improved Modell 14, adopting guidelines laid down by the German Industrial Standards Committee and incorporating far smoother typebar and carriage movement. A re-shaped version of this model (making it look much less like the Remingtons of the time) appeared in 1930.
Etheridge continued to work for Torpedo under Remington ownership, but in the late 1930s he left Germany to work for Imperial in Leicester. When he died there, on January 25, 1940, a month short of his 56th birthday, the widowed Etheridge left his entire estate of £2127 and 17 shillings to Arthur Bott Pateman (1886-1972). Pateman, Tomlinson and Claude Wellington Robert Brumhill (1892-1951) were Imperial’s longest-serving mechanical engineers and designers and Pateman finished up as company chairman.
TOMORROW: The first Good Companion, the Model T and the Models 3 and 4.

5 comments:

Richard P said...

This post will be a handy reference for many for a long time. Looking forward to more installments.

I'll have to compare my Cyrillic Torpedo 14 (thanks for enlightening me on the model number) to Remington portables to see the inspiration.

Jason H. said...

Does anyone have any ideas on how to adjust the upper and lower case to align on a late 1930s Portable Imperial Good Companion? I can't seem to figure it out. The carriage does appear to sit about 1/4" higher up with the shift released than on my other Imperial portables of the same vintage. Any suggestions would be brilliant!!

Jason H. said...

Does anyone have any ideas on how to adjust the upper and lower case to align on a late 1930s Portable Imperial Good Companion? I can't seem to figure it out. The carriage does appear to sit about 1/4" higher up with the shift released than on my other Imperial portables of the same vintage. Any suggestions would be brilliant!!

Jason H. said...

Does anyone have any ideas on how to adjust the upper and lower case to align on a late 1930s Portable Imperial Good Companion? I can't seem to figure it out. The carriage does appear to sit about 1/4" higher up with the shift released than on my other Imperial portables of the same vintage. Any suggestions would be brilliant!!

Erica said...

Could you please tell me if the Imperial Good Companion No. 1 (Serial No. CA 877) actually comes with metal spools or not? And also where the best place would be to buy a new ribbon for one. Thanks.