The Facit TP1 was, said the Herald-Times, “a fully-equipped office machine” and “a beautiful home typewriter”. It incorporated “Swedish steel, Swedish design [and] Swedish precision”. The asking price was a princely $109.50.
And indeed the Facit TP1 is a princely typewriter. It was designed by a Swedish royal prince and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, Sigvard Bernadotte.
The ad went on, “Viking grey colour, matt finish and elegant Swedish Modern design by Sigvard Bernadotte makes the new Facit Portable a proud possession in your home.”
Forty years later, “Mr Typewriter” Dan Puls was to say this model was “about as smooth of a machine as I have ever typed on. A real class act with all metal body and pica type style. Here we are talking something to write home about!”
A major reason for this smooth typing action was, as Will Davis pointed out on his Portable Typewriter Reference Site, “The P1 had been the first portable to incorporate the advanced tube-bearing carriage support developed several years prior for the standard machines.”
Three years ago the TP1 featured in an exhibition at Sofiero Park in Helsingborg, Sweden, which displayed “a wide range of Sigvard Bernadotte’s rich and multifaceted designer efforts … drawings, silver objects from Georg Jensen, typewriters from Facit, kitchen furniture from Formac, housewares from Moderna Kök and Rosti, and filmed material [from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer]”. The event was covered by Life magazine. The grand opening was chaired by the two Swedish princesses, Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland, and Princess Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland, both Bernadotte’s great nieces.
The Facit TP1, with its modern, streamlined and trademark Bernadotte design, was first manufactured in 1958.
Sigvard Oscar Fredrik Bernadotte was born at Drottningholms Castle in Ekerö on June 7, 1907. He was the second son of King Gustav VI Adolf by Gustav’s first wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught. From 1994 until he died in Stockholm, on February 4, 2002, aged 94, Bernadotte was the oldest living great-grandchild of Queen Victoria of Britain. He was Victoria’s longest-lived male descendant until being overtaken by his younger brother Carl on June 29 this year.
Bernadotte was also the Count of Wisborg and the Duke of Uppland, but he lost his title as a prince of Sweden and his place in the line of succession to the Swedish throne when, in London on March 8, 1934, he married a commoner, Erica Maria Patzek, of Wilmersdorf. They divorced in 1943.
Bernadotte is best remembered today as one of Sweden’s greatest industrial designers. His work also included furniture, kitchenwares for Husqvarna, flatware for Scandinavian airline SAS, bowls for Rosti Margrethe and radios for Bang & Olufsen. Bernadotte’s enduring designs appeared in functional objects, for which he adopted geometric shapes, leading a movement away from the long-standing natural, organic forms of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
After studies in political science and art history at the University of Uppsala, Bernadotte started his design education at Konstfackskolan (Arts and Crafts’ School) in Stockholm, at the time still called the Royal University College of Fine Arts. Bernadotte visited the United States after World War II and became impressed by the work of US industrial designers such as Henry Dreyfuss (who designed the 1945 Royal Quiet DeLuxe).
He had close ties with Denmark, where his younger sister, Ingrid Victoria Sofia Louise Margareta, was Queen (as the wife of King Frederick IX). Bernadotte’s second wife, Sonja Christensen Robbert, was a Danish fashion designer and artist. Starting in 1949 Bernadotte had a long design contract with Georg Jensen, for whom he designed mostly silverware. The quality of this work was recognised by the New York Metropolitan Museum, which holds a number of items in its Permanent Collection.
Bernadotte became associated with Acton Bjørn and set up a partnership with Bjørn in Copenhagen in 1950 (Bjørn designed the later, plastic Facit portables). Bernadotte was co-founder of the Swedish Industrial Designers Society and president of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. He was the first European member of the American Designer’s Institute.
One unusual off-shoot of Bernadotte’s Facit typewriter design became an architectural favourite, the Model 1400 Kungsholm door handle. Trude Grundmann had admired the lines of the typewriter and contracted Bernadotte to design the model.
Facit’s history dates back to 1889, when AB (“aktiebolag”, or “corporation”) Åtvidabergs Förenade Industrier, a furniture and office equipment manufacturer, was established in Åtvidaberg. The company was completely restructured from 1923, and the next year incorporated AB Facit, a firm started by Alex Wibel in Stockholm in 1918 to make Facit pinwheel calculators.
In 1938 the company expanded to take over Halda.
Halda was founded in Svängsta in 1887 by Henning Hammarlund to make pocket watches, and at the turn of the century added typewriters to its line. In 1920 Halda was liquidated and a new company, AB Halda Fabriker, took over making typewriters. AB Halda Fabriker went bankrupt in 1927 and in 1938 the Halda name was taken over by AB Åtvidabergs Industrier and converted to a subsidiary under the name Facit-Halda AB. Halda, however, remained as the typewriter brand in the Åtvidaberg Group until 1957, when it switched to AB Facit.
By 1961 the Facit corporation, under the popular leadership of Gunnar Ericsson, had 8000 employees, with subsidiaries in more than 100 countries. In Australia, the agent for Facit was Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited.
In 1970, Facit reached the peak of its growth, with more than 14,000 employees worldwide. The company was sold to Electrolux in 1973. In 1983 it was sold to Ericsson. Portable electric typewriters were still being made by Nakajima in Japan, but in 1995 Swedish typewriter production ceased, when the Svängsta factory was closed. AB Facit was finally terminated in 1998.