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Sunday, 8 June 2014

When an Imperial Good Companion Portable Typewriter Looks Like a Model T But Isn't One

These was a time, up until a couple of years ago, when I was silly enough to think that if an Imperial Good Companion looked like a Model T, it was a Model T, even if it wasn't labelled as such. At some point I eventually twigged that "T" stood for tabulator. My mind must have been diverted by the thought of Model T Fords.
A 1950 Imperial Good Companion Model T
A 1952 Imperial Good Companion
There is, of course, no such thing as an Imperial Good Companion labelled a Model 2. The Typewriter Age Guide, however, insists on referring to the No 1 and to the No 2 model. The first Imperial Good Companion to have a model number on it was the No 3, the first segment-shifted IGC.
Presumably the Age Guide's justification was the use of the figure 2 as a code in front of the letter, or letters, in the Model T's serial numbers. That's fair enough - it might have got a bit confusing otherwise; a Model T produced in 1941 would have been a "TT", for example, and one in 1956 a "TJT". (Any Good Companion, as opposed to a Good Companion Model T, or Models 3-7, has no number in front of the letter or letters.)
An Imperial Good Companion "Model T lookalike", the one that isn't a Model T but is just a plain Good Companion, came into my possession with the "booty" of 25 typewriters I received the weekend before last (along with two Good Companion Model 7s). It is the eighth of those 25 typewriters that I have had the chance to take a close look at. 
I did service one of these "lookalikes" once, but at that time didn't take the opportunity to look more closely at the differences between it and a Model T, or to put the two alongside one another. I guess there was resistance in my head to thinking of a machine labelled just an Imperial Good Companion as being anything other than the beautiful original model, the 1930s IGC. Sydney IGC collector Richard Amery kept telling me Good Companions were still being made into the 1950s, but when he said "Good Companion", I couldn't picture anything but the shiny black model.
Given this, it seems odd to me that, with the additions made to the Model T and maintained on the Model 3, the on-going plain ol' Good Companion would appear to have become the cut-price version.
The Model T above, serial number 2HC894, was made in 1950. The Good Companion beside it, serial number HV501, was made in 1952. On both machines the serial number is under the left side ribbon spool. On earlier models, the serial number is on the front right, under the spacebar. On later models, the serial numbers are under the machine, near the bell.
OK, so having now compared the two, I can see many differences from the Model T. Like the original IGC, the one above has no left side platen knob, no paper plate guide and, of course, no tabulator.
The arrow (above) is a tab clear switch.
Here is the original IGC:
And the original Model T:
I can't say when this Model T lookalike version of the IGC was first produced, but I can say that the first Model T, in 1938, was different from the post-war Model T seen above. For one thing, the tabulation device changed from an out-moded one on the first Model Ts, a design dating back to 1919, to a more up-to-date and conventional one.
This is the tabulation device used on the first Model T. The shiny black model seen above, serial number 2G185, was made in 1939. This device was based on a 1919 design by Eric Pilblad and Arthur Tomlinson to go on one of Hidalgo Moya's very first Imperial "portables", the Model D
This is the more conventional system introduced to the post-war Model Ts:
Here is the original Model T:
There are also many variations to the non-Model T Good Companions, which continued to be made up to 1957, when finally succeeded by the Model 4 and the segment-shifted Model 5. At the same time as Imperial introduced the Model T in 1938, this shiny grey model (serial number BR121) was launched:
A much more noticeable design change to the IGC line emerged in 1951, with the wonderful segment-shifted No 3:
This machine, serial number 3V312, was made in 1956.


Nick Beland said...

The Imperial I got when in the UK is very much like the stripped down one you have, except it is called, strangely enough, "The Good Companion 1". It has the later grey paint and plastic keys, and you can see a picture of it here:

I'll be doing a post on it after I finish cleaning it up and adjusting it.

Rob Bowker said...

The more I think about Nick's new Good Companion, especially having just read your post, is that the '1' on the ribbon cover is really a slightly defaced/worn '4'. Plastic keys but otherwise very like a Model T without a tabulator.

craig rudge said...

I've recently come across a good companion (not model t) but can't work out the serial number. Its under the left ribbon spool marked JC 943 but i can't find any serial numbers with the 'JC' at the start. Its a grey imperial the good companion (as written on the front) any light on this would be much appreciated.

craig rudge said...

I've recently come across a good companion (not model t) but can't work out the serial number. Its under the left ribbon spool marked JC 943 but i can't find any serial numbers with the 'JC' at the start. Its a grey imperial the good companion (as written on the front) any light on this would be much appreciated.

Robert Messenger said...

The year of manufacture is 1956. There's no mystery about "JC" - the sequence went from IZ at the end of 1955 to JM at the end of 1956, so JC dates it to about March 1956.

craig rudge said...

Thank you so much. I must have been reading the serial list wrong. Thank you for sharing the knowledge. Its much appreciated.

Robert Messenger said...

No worries. For future reference, IGCs started with the code B in 1932, reached S and switched to AD in 1935, reached CZ in 1939 then went DA, DQ, ED, EL, EY, FF, FO, FU, GC, GL, GV, HF, HP, IB, IN and IZ for each subsequent year (to 1955). The last two years were JM (1956) and JY (1957). In 1956, each second letter (after J) from JA to JM roughly represents one month.

Adam Morris said...

My model is a serial number starting with EN, not listed in your codes, presumably dates it somewhere 43- 44?

Robert Messenger said...

1944. These are not MY codes, but Imperial's. The Age Guide doesn't list every single letter combination because it assumes owners can work it out for themselves.

Aaron said...

I've just bought a model T for a graphic design project but can't seem to get it working. I've got a few other typewriters but this one has stumped me. Can anyone help if I email them the issue?
Thank you

Robert Messenger said...

What exactly is the problem? Does the carriage move when you press the space bar? Can you move it using the carriage release levers?

Kate said...

Hello, I own a Good Companion 3, it is the same as the bottom picture shown in the blog post, however mine has all grey keys... It doesn't have the typical green keys on the sides... Does anyone know why this may be? Have they been replaced at some point? Although they do appear to match perfectly with the other keys... Any info would be great! Thanks!

Alan Kilpatrick said...

Hi - I have the opportunity to buy an Imperial Model T in beautiful condition - I have never used one and was just wondering what the typing action was like on it as I am keen to actually use it - I tried an underwood universal and like the typing action of that and I tried an olympia splendid and really didnt like the typing action on that - are you able to give me more info before I choose to buy or not? thanks so much, Alan