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Monday, 7 March 2011

Advertising Typewriters, NZ-style, 1887: The Most Wonderful and Ingenious Invention of Modern Times

Paul Robert on his Virtual Typewriter Museum website calls it an "odd little machine." Paul says the machine, the Universal Simplex, was "originally patented in the US in 1884 as the Herrington Simplex, a design by G.H. Herrington and D.G. Millison." He says the patent line on the example in his museum indicates that the machine was patented and made in Britain. "And if you look at the materials used (the machine is made of solid brass and wood) it is clear that it was not made as a cheap toy.

"But it is extremely clumsy. The operator had to turn the typewheel until the selected character showed up at the top, then push down the entire typewheel, then pull the mechanism one click forward and start all over again."

Yet to H.I.Jones & Son, of the beautiful coastal city of Wanganui (Maori for big bay or big harbour) in far-off New Zealand,  the Universal Simplex was "The most wonderful and ingenious invention of modern times". A big call, especially from normally modest and reserved Kiwis.

I am grateful to Te Papa for this entertaining advertisement. Te Papa is the national museum in Wellington (a must-see if you ever visit Down Under, though Te Papa's actual typewriter collection is protected from earthquakes by being stored in another building, and four floors underground - I kid you not!). Te Papa got the ad from the New Zealand National Library's Pages Past website. It appeared in the Wanganui Herald in November 1887.

The photos of the Universal Simplex here were taken by Uwe Breker:

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