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Sunday 30 October 2011

Facit TP1 portable – The Prince of Typewriters

In its issue of Thursday, April 20, 1961, the Gaylord, Michigan, weekly tabloid The Otsego County Herald-Times ran a house ad in which it, and “Facit Man”, introduced the Facit “deluxe heavy duty portable”.
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 Herald-Times, which was marketing the TP1 in Michigan, said, “Whether you're a touch-typist or a one-finger artist, you will type better, faster and more comfortably on the Facit Portable. What's more you'll find its nimble action less tiring for a day's work.”
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.


Adwoa said...

Nice to see you posting again, Robert! I have heard great things about the Facit TP-1, and your report confirms that they are all true. I have passed on a couple previously because I find the appearance rather pedestrian and the color just so drab... I suppose "Viking grey" is another way of looking at it! Gives it some mystique...

The typing shield is also unusual; this is the first time I am seeing one, and it is great that your Facit came with it still intact. I have seen many instances of the colored ribbon caps used as a teaching aid, but never a shield.

I learned many new things from this post (as usual) like Facit taking over Halda near the end. It would make sense for the two Swedish typewriter manufacturers to merge at a time when all the others were consolidating operations too.

Richard P said...

Well done, Robert! Good to have you back in business. This is all very illuminating.

I have the impression that the Halda portable was the mechanical basis for the TP1, but don't have a TP1 to explore this in detail. Now I really must get one!

The keyboard shield is amazing. Do you have one?

shordzi said...

Transmission of thought! Was just typing on my Facit yesterday, thinking of Graf Bernadotte, and what an accomplished machine it is. Also thinking of Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann, who use the Facit portable for a while.

shordzi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin A. Rice, Jr. said...

A great article! I love my Facit, which was given to me by one of the janitorial staff at the university. She found it cleaning out the house of a deceased Uncle. I was only too happy to snatch it up. Yes, great machine!!!

Rob Bowker said...

Just watch the price of Facits rocket after this post! Heard of them, but now want one. Your example, with all the paraphernalia, looks like a museum quality example. Good cleaning job and it is in the right hands. Great to see you posting. Love the cat! Adding some hairs for the next generation to clean out?

w/v: cackle (it is Hallowe'en, after all)

Ted said...

Welcome back, Robert - it's good to see you posting wonderful articles again! (:

The Facit is a machine I've heard about a lot on the periphery, but have never met one in person, and didn't know much about. Thanks to you I now know much more and am sorta wanting one. What a beautiful example you have!

Cameron said...

Robert, my sincere thanks for posting again -- your entries are unfailingly interesting and informative.

I had heard the Facit name mentioned before, but didn't know its history until now. What a great find!

The typeface is very crisp and clear. It looks like a very solid, dependable typewriter.

I would not expect any less from Scandinavia.

Bill M said...

Great post Robert. I found one of these with an 'I must have that' kind of typeface. Doing some research I found your post. Now the TP-1 is on its way to my house. Thanks for all your superb posts.

Blossom inch said...

Hi! Robert
I was at our local vintage market here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia last week where those sellers sells antique stuff and some craft. I found the same typewriter FACIT but I did not take a second look as I don't know this brand as it is not very popular to me. After reading your post, I might go back to the man and asked him again. Because last week, I asked him how much you are selling she said RM90 - which is about USD29.32 cents around that.

Thanks for sharing this info, really helpful!

Richard P said...

Today I finally got a Facit TP1. Very impressive. I went back, of course, and read your enlightening article. I'm happy to say that my machine has all the trimmings, including the paper keyboard shield. Great typewriter!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Richard. So pleased to hear you have one of these models now. I am sure you will enjoy typing with it.For so long flying under radar, now the Facit is starting to be fully appreciated far and wide.

Unknown said...

My dad just gave me his TP1. It's well used, yet in great condition.

Adrian, Falmouth, Cornwall said...

Finally got round to repairs (minor) and cleaning my Facit T1 [wide carriage]. It is a beautiful thing and the copy it produces is much the clearest of any of my typewriters.

Scott Wild said...

Great post!
You wouldn't still happen to have that TP1 would you? I ask because I bought one recently and my carriage return lever has been repaired with some wire. I was hoping a TP1 owner could help me out and post a picture of what the base of their carriage return lever looks like.
I've taken a picture of mine here:
See how it's be repaired with wire?

Well, I would be very greatful if anyone could help by emailing a similar picture of their machine. My email is: scottgwild @


Vikram said...

Hello Robert!
Six years later I finally have a near-mint condition TP1 in my collection!
I totally agree - it is truly a prince among typewriters :) Possibly the best one in my collection.

Liz Blake said...

I just got one in an old "enporium" in Tasmania! Princely price of $50. I tried it and so smooth, it was clearly the one. Complete with covered box. Now I need to find out how to clean it and get the appropriate ribbons, as I'm dead keen to use it!

Kelly Kovach said...

I just found one online, but it is missing the cover plate and I'm quite dissuaded by that. If anyone is looking for parts, it's only $5 I wish I had the space to hold on to it.

Alex said...


my daughter just received a Facit TP1 from her grandparents. I am wondering where I would find a ribbon for this typewriter, or what ribbons would be compatible with this model. Would be grateful if anyone has advice. - alex