Tuesday, 30 August 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (CI)

On this day in 1939, Johannes Krüger, of Erfert in Germany, was issued with a US patent for his distinctive design for the frame of the beautiful Olympia Plana typewriter, which post-war was to be made by Optima in East Germany.
Krüger’s patent was, 10 years later, referenced by Olivetti designer Giuseppe Beccio when he came up with the frame for the famous Lexikon 80 desktop typewriter.
Beccio also referenced the 1937 design by John A. Zellers and Herbert E. Bridgwater for the Remington 5 portable we all know and love.
As well, Beccio referenced Lewis Cary Myer’s 1943 design for the equally familiar Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable – although in Myers’s drawings, there is a nice curving side panel which I have not seen on actual models.
The Myers design was also referenced by Frederic S. Grover, of Rochester, when he designed a 1947 IBM electric, along with a price tag marking machine from Thomas G. Turner, of Dayton, and one of Max Garbell’s “computer” (calculating) machines, this one from 1948.
Grover’s design was, in turn, referenced by the great Giuseppe Prezioso when he designed the Hermes Ambassador in 1950. Prezioso is best known for the 1935 Hermes Featherweight/Baby, a design which in essence survived through to Olivetti making the Lettera 82 in Brazil in the 1970s. So I am delighted that Swiss typewriter collector and historian Georg Sommeregger has finally ended my years of frustration by coming up with a Prezioso photograph. Thank you, Georg!
Prezioso also referenced a 1948 design from John C. Veltman and William O. Michelsen of St Louis. But this was assigned to the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company, and it is for a machine I don’t think I have ever seen. However, it looks remarkably like the 1950s Smith-Corona series, the basic frame for which was used for the 1957 electric.
Veltman and Michelsen referenced a 1939 design by Bernard J. Dowd and Henry J. Hart, of West Hartford, for what Dowd and Hart called a “mask” for this Royal KMM desktop typewriter.
As well, Veltman and Michelson referenced a 1942 design by Russell G. Thompson, of Elmira, New York, for Remington Rand. This is one Remington I cannot pin down: the tab bar behind the keyboard is the puzzle. Otherwise, it looks like this Remington Rand portable, with a touch of the bigger Noiseless thrown in:
When Marcello Nizzoli came to design the Diaspron 82 for Olivetti in 1959, he referenced Prezioso’s Hermes Ambassador, Beccio’s 1949 Lexikon 80 and the Olympia SG1 designed by Anton Demmel at Wilhelmshaven in 1953.
Demmel was a master designer for Olympia, and not just on frames. His work on 1950s Olympia designs is truly magnificent – ranging to the SF series, my own particular Olympia favourite. Look out for the September issue of ETCetera, in which Richard Polt looks at the Olympia SM from this era. Please contact Herman Price about an annual subscription - this magazine is absolutely fantastic value for money. Message me if you need details.
In the meantime, getting back to Demmel, who in turn referenced four designs, including the great 1935 Herbert Bridgwater frame for Remington’s much desired 3B.
Demmel also referenced the Underwood “trapdoor” desktop designed by William A. Dobson, of Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1937, and Russell Thompson’s 1940 design for the Remington Rand desktop.
And, to complete a sort of “mutual admiration society” circle, Demmel also referenced Prezioso’s Hermes Ambassador.
All of which we gives us yet another chance to look at some really gorgeous typewriters.


  1. Fascinating. How did you track all this stuff down? You have given us a glimpse into the very deliberate process of industrial design and into the thinking of some of its finest practitioners in the typewriter world. Your selection includes some of my favorites: Plana, Remington 5, SG1, Lexikon 80. I was under the misapprehension that Nizzoli had designed the Lexikon 80 -- I wasn't even aware of Giuseppe Beccio.

    As for the Diaspron .... the less said, the better.

  2. Thanks, Richard. It started with a date and the Plana design just popped up. Given the year, it took me a few minutes to work out which typewriter it was. Design patents, sadly, are a little more difficult to track, because of the letter in front of the numbering. But it just led from there, through references. I didn't know where it was going to end! Fortunately it eventually went full circle. I think Nizzoli did have something to do with the Lexikon 80, as Beccio did with the Lettera 22, although outside Italy the credit has been given individually in each case. Beccio seems to have worked a lot on calculators etc.
    I just serviced a Diaspron for a local lady, whose 14-year-old daughter wanted to learn to touch type on it. I thought it a bad choice, but it was working very nicely when it left here. I take you don't like them?

  3. What tipped me into the Plana were those holes in the front inside of the frame, each side of the spacebar. Until then, I was almost calling you for help again!

  4. I does help in the more modern (post 40s) era that designs are referenced. Referencing also helped with a later post, about the Simplex and Livermore typewriters. The 1863 Livermore patent was referenced in several 21st century patents for an alphanumerical font. I think it's fabulous that such things live on in this way.

  5. Hello,

    Thank you for referencing our work on the ELIA Frames Font. I'm the Andrew Chepaitis, you mention in your blog. I would note that I was unaware of the Livermore typewriters before I read your post today. I think the USPTO or my lawyer included a reference to Livermore as prior art, because it is a stylized font for a specific use case. But it wouldn't be accurate to say that Livermore influenced our work, or that we even knew about it. It can be said that Livermore was created prior to our work and for the purposes of patents, because it came before, the USPTO said that we couldn't patent an innovation that would have been obvious in light of Livermore.

    I hope this helps.

    On a personal note, right now I'm working next to a beautiful Royal typewriter that I have on my shelf as a thing of beauty.

    All the best,



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