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Saturday 7 January 2012

The Gossen Tippa: The Mighty Mouse of Typewriters

Its Rise and Fall
From a German Gem to Japanese Junk:
5 Backward Steps in 25 Short Years
Paul Friedrich Karl Gossen (above, born Stargard, December 13, 1872), a businessman and electro-technology engineer, established Paul Gossen & Co K-G Fabrik elektrischer Messgeräte in Baiersdorff in 1919. The company moved to Erlangen early the next year.
There are references on other sites to Paul Gossen “working for [typewriter manufacturer] Ernst Voss after the war”. Gossen in fact had a much larger company of his own. And he died before the war ended.
Between 1939-45 his factories had been taken over to be used in the German war effort. When he died, in Nuremberg on June 30, 1942, aged 69, Gossen’s company was inherited by his widow Rosa and children Charlotte Klarner, Elisabeth Seiler and Hans Gossen, with the chief executive officers Hans Gossen (below) and Charlotte’s husband Dr Karl Klarner.
Chief designer and inventor was Erwin Pfaffenberger (born April 4, 1906), who had joined the company in 1924 as a trainee draughtsman. Klarner and Hans Gossen are in this photo taken at a launch of the Tippa:
In August 1945, the American military government allowed the Gossen company to return to its former business.
In 1939 Gossen had bought a former brush factory in the Gluckstrasse and it was in this building that in 1948 the company began planning typewriter production. The factory became known as Tippa-Werkes.
Production of the “office in a briefcase” started in 1950 and so successful was the Gossen Tippa portable typewriter that in October 1951, Gossen was churning out a typewriter every eight minutes.
The little "original" caught on fast, but in the mid-50s Gossen decided to abandon this very basic if effective design for something a little more stylish: the Pilot (also the Tippa B), with its Hermes Baby-like gull-winged ribbon covers. The "look" came at the cost of some of the original Tippa's typeability, however.
This gave the impression of a slightly larger machine, through a much broader "lipped" base, though it was not much higher, if at all. The sturdy and equally stylish Gossen case included compartments for stationery, the "necessaries" (see below) which allowed the company to promote the concept of an "office on a briefcase":
Perhaps the changes impacted on sales, as Gossen decided after just six years of making typewriters (about 100,000 in all) to once more concentrate on what it knew best. In the Autumn of 1956 the license for the Tippa was sold to Adler, although for a time it continued to be made by Gossen.
The new-look Adler Tippa won a design award in Milan in 1960 and another in Germany in 1962. It is a fine writing machine, too, and fully deserved the widespread popularity it enjoyed, rivalling the earlier Tippas.
In 1957 Grundig had taken over the Triumph typewriter brand in Nuremberg and in 1966 the Grundig-owned Triumph company took control of Adler. By the end of 1968, Triumph and Adler were fully merged and in January of the following year Litton Industries took over Triumph-Adler. That same year, Triumph-Adler, under Litton ownership, produced the bright, canary-coloured Tippa S in Holland.
Like its 1969 Olivetti rival the Valentine, the Tippa S is very pretty to look at, but as a typing machine it is a lemon, a real yellow dog. The SCM Super Ghia is superior in all regards to both.
The final step in the decline of the once-glorious Tippa was taken in Japan, where Litton took production of Adlers and Triumphs in the early 1970s. The Japanese Tippas were made by Nakajima. With supreme irony, these were branded the “Tippa De Luxe”. They aren't a patch on the original, "de luxe" or otherwise. Oh, how the once mighty mouse had fallen.
This beautiful example of an original Tippa, albeit without the silver keytops, sold for about $450 on US eBay not so long ago:
Here are Cameron's and Adwoa's Tippa Bs (Adwoa's is the Triumph):


shordzi said...

Thank you for refreshing my memory of Mighty Mouse!

maschinengeschrieben said...

Sorry, I do not agree your opinion on the 1968 (yellow) Tippa, maybe I own a very good or you a very bad model, but I consider mine as one of the best writing machines I own. It is only a bit noisy.

Crystal said...

Thanks for sharing! I don't know very much about the Tippa portables, so this post was nice to read. Love the flat, low-profile early model!

Duffy Moon said...

I have only the Adler version, and agree that it is a very fine machine. I now know which to avoid if getting a workable typer is the object (and, for me, it is).

(word verif = "fogypari", which makes me think your blog is poking fun of my age.)

Richard P said...

Enlightening, thank you. I have only the second version a Pilot).

Bill M said...

Very interesting post. I have another typewriter to add to my list.

Robert Messenger said...

Hey Bill, I'm getting a bit worried about your growing typewriter wish list. I hope no one in your family is going to blame me for this dream spending spree. Most of us have or have had significant others who, from time to time (some more frequently than others) have raised their eyebrows over typewriter purchases. Stories of this kind within the typewriter collecting community are legendary. I could write a book about it. In my case, that's why I have a post office box, to slyly receive my eBay purchases! What I need most of all in my dying days is to meet a lovely woman who loves typewriters as much as I do. We could marry our collections together, and then she could inherit mine. She might have to wait a little while yet, though.

Cameron said...

The Adler Tippa is indeed a beautiful machine, with an attractive typeface.

I'm amazed at the lessening of quality in the later machines, which is obvious in the photographs.

Rob Bowker said...

OK, purely on the strength of your praise for this marque, I just bought a 1960s Adler Tippa. If it is any good, I might take it kayaking sometime. Glad I remembered your post about the Tippa, thanks for the info! Question is, does it share even the tiniest amount of DNA with the Blick Universal? Probably not. I'm hoping it will serve, pro-tem, as substitute for a Kolibri or Splendide. And I really hope it works out better than the Corona-Empire, which I still haven't forgiven for letting me down once too often.

Robert Messenger said...

That's very good news, Rob, I think you will like it. I can't say I'm too surprised about the Corona Empire, which I've always considered no more than a "kit typewriter" and not very well assembled. There may well be a tiny trace of Blick Universal DNA left, via the Klein Adler 2 and the Favorit.

David said...

I just got a small tipa adler, a black one. the only downer is the fact that plastic was used instead of metal to form the outer body of the typewriter, i like it and it types nice and sure, the letter "s" seems to have too much "bounce" anyone have a clue what is causing this?

Robert Messenger said...

Hi David. Without seeing the machine, my guess would be a problem with the spring attached to the S typebar underneath the machine, possibly caught up in something, causing the spring not to retract smoothly. Maybe a replacement spring has been used and it is too tight. Have a look under the machine to see if all the rods, springs and connections are in line, or take the ribbon spool cover off and look down to make sure there are no obstructions in the area of the S typebar.

Anonymous said...
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Stefan said...

Hello, a Groma Kolibri had been chosen for the film "The Live Of Others", because the plot played in the GDR (East Germany) , but the Gossen typewriters were produced in FRG (West Germnany) in Erlangen. And normally you did not get products of West Germany in the GDR.
The other direction was possible instead.

oordon Ackerman said...

At the risk of appearing egoistical, I would direct you to my website, "The Reporting of Gordon Ackerman", best reached through It's not uploaded to Google yet. You will also find me on Wikipedia. The photo of the typewriter on my site is inaccurate and irrelevent. For all of my Time-Life work, for six years,in Europe and Africa, and for three books(four re-writes for each), I used a Triumph Tippa which I bought in Munich in 1956 - an utter jewel. It was sadly destroyed in a fire in Geneva in 1970. Thank you.

Gordon Ackerman said...

Not even spelling my own name correctly - it's GORDON ACKERMAN. See what happens when you're 80? Cheers. (By the way,I own a later model Tippa. Is there a market for those?)

Gordon Ackerman said...

I own GOSSEN photographic light-mters. Is this the same Gossen to which you refer on this site?

Gordon Ackerman said...

Anybody out there ever hear of the wonderful pre-WWII TORPEDO office machine? Best standard typwriter ever made, in my view. As re. the yellow Tippa mentioned above, I've only had five nervous breakdowns installing ribbons. Lucky me.......

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article!
I'm going to buy my first typewriter, and I'm undecided between an Olivetti Lettera 32 and an Adler Tippa (1960). Which one would you suggest me for reliability, durability and ease of typing?

Robert Messenger said...

By a 1960 Tippa I am presuming you mean an Adler or Triumph Tippa. In which case I'd probably opt for the Olivetti, by a short margin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your quick reply! I'll place my bid for the Olivetti, and if I won't win the auction, I'll try with the Tippa.

Anonymous said...

Nice retrospective of this machine, thank you! It gives me hope. I've just bought an Adler Tippa circa 1960 on Ebay and am hoping it arrives in the good working order the seller promised (when I add a new ribbon, that is). I didn't spend too much on it, which made me happy... but now my wish-list is growing much like other commenters' and that is a bit worrisome. The original Tippa looks delightful!

Tom Beauvais said...

I just bought a Tippa S made in 1969. It has a cursive typeface.
I don't particularly like all the plastic. It was a cheap buy at an antique mall
and I was not familiar with the brand. I bought at the same place an Olympia
SM3 (1959). The Olympia far outweighed the Tippa in material build and looks.

Tom Beauvais (TomA2Mich member on The Typewriter Database)
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Unknown said...

Hello, I live in the Netherlands and I have one of those yellow Tippa beauties.
I've got a question about the mechanics.. I really hope you can help me out.

Somehow the space key got stuck. Or the paper feed roll, or both. The roll won't move to the left or the right anymore. Not by hand and not with the space key. So when I try to type something I just type the letters all over each other in the same place.

Do you have any idea how I can fix this?
Thanks very much in advance.


Robert Messenger said...

You may have switched on the carriage lock by mistake. I can't recall exactly where the switch is on this model, but it will either be under the carriage itself (either side) or on the top left on the keyboard.

Nick Bodemer said...

I just bought a Royal Sahara, which is identical to the Tippa S. It has a lot of dust inside, and I was wondering how I would get the machine out of the base of its outer casing. Also, your blog is always amazing!

frank cioffi said...

I just took delivery on an Gossen Tippa, very early model (the dealer said 1949), and it types beautifully. Not sure how to describe the feel: it is snappy but at the same time responsive and rather delicate. For example, one has to get the feel of the spacebar to know when it has engaged fully and when it only half engaged, say. But what's especially unusual about the model is the ribbon rewind feature. There is a little knurled shaft protruding from the right rear of the case, down toward the base of the machine. Apparently when one types enough so that the ribbon has come to its end, one has to turn this little shaft so that the ribbon rewinds onto the left hand spool. Or is this something that should happen automatically, but simply does not on my old, but restored, machine? A small price to pay, methinks, for a wonderful piece of late 1940s technology.

Kawowski said...

I have what looks like a Pilot from 1955, although it has no Pilot script on the left hand cover. It would’ve been purchased in NYC and brought to Christchurch NZ in 1974 by photographer L. N. Shustak. He may have liked that Gossen was also a famous German light meter brand… I’m not sure if it was the same company. L. N. S. died in 2003 and I rescued the machine from some items destined for the tip about 2010.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Robert, for your love of typewriters, including your great affection for the "original" Gossen Tippa!

It was your review that inspired my search, and I found such an "original," in black, in nearly like-new condition, complete with its stylish metal case with that oh-so-cool springy handle, from an Etsy Seller in the Netherlands.

At home, I have a 1961 Alpina, in like-new condition, also sent from the Netherlands (what is it about the Netherlands and typewriters?), and also the result of your beaming review of the Alpina.

I also have an Erika 5, in original gold marble motif, but sent from Amsterdam this time.

So, this little Tippa will be for venturing beyond these walls, when the words find themselves within other walls, other lands.

Thank you for all you do, Robert.


James D'Ambrosio
Old Orchard Beach, Maine, USA (in case there's a Maine somewhere other than here)

Unknown said...

Hello Robert,

I received my "original" Gossen Tippa yesterday, and it's an amazing little typer, and I feel a kinship already much like with my Erika 5.

There are two controls that I can't seem to understand:

1) the red button on the upper left corner of the keypad;

2) on the left side of the machine, very near to the referenced red button in #1 is a silver knob that turns, with a #2 on one side and #1 on the other.

What do these two controls do, pray tell?


Unknown said...


I have several original Tippas.

I assume the red button is the same as the double arrow button on the Tippa = the margin release.

The silver knob on the left side adjusts the tension, or roughly how hard you have to hit the keys to get it work.

The question I has is - Does anyone know what the metal clips on either side of the Tippa mid way down are for?


Unknown said...

Do you know where I can get hold of a new ribbon for a Tippa typewriter?

D. said...

Received today a lovely Triumph Tippa (white) aged 1970, very similar to your yellow one (but not labelled as Tippa S, only "Tippa"). Tiny, lightweight, nice rounded small font, precise, a pleasure to use as a portable!

Patrick Jamieson said...

Hello Robert,

Thanks so much for your take on the various iterations of the Tippa. I have visited this post a number of times over the past few years, and--as I've got my hands on more Tippa models myself--my opinion of it has evolved from "written by a knowledgeable, cranky old man" to "written by a knowledgeable man who sees the decline in Tippa quality just as this cranky old man does."

My 1950 Gossen Tippa is my favorite ultra-portable, and it travels with me. I have a backup 1952 Gossen Tippa on its way to me, in the beautiful leather case. I also have a mid-1960s Alder Tippa 1 headed this way; I'll pound on it a bit before gifting it to my five-year-old granddaughter (who has asked me for a typewriter of her own). Finally, the cranky me briefly had a 1968 Alder Tippa S that I absolutely detested the feel of, and couldn't flip fast enough.

So, thanks again for sharing your congruent wisdom,


P.S.: I still have the Gossen Super Pilot light meter that in the 1970s was the second most important tool in my camera bag.

Patrick Jamieson said...

Hi again Robert,

I just wanted to let you I've posted a brief history of the Tippa at This post of yours served as a primary source for my piece, and is acknowledged as such. Comments/corrections are welcome.



Ville E said...

Thanks a lot for this page and the really good explanation of the history of the Tippas.
I have before been wondering why so many manufacturers made typewriters called Tippa.
I recently bought a Gossen Tippa Pilot (1955), which is a quite rare machine nowadays. It has the brown color, which perhaps isn't my favorite, but it is a fine machine indeed and the price was low.
For me the name "Tippa" is always a bit funny, because in my mother tongue Finnish that word means "a drop", like a drop of water.