One of Johannes Krüger's earliest Olympia
designs, the Simplex
Johannes Krüger is arguably the most under-acknowledged of the great typewriter design mechanics of the 20th century. His designs include those for some of the typewriters most cherished among collectors and users today - the early Olympia SM series models, 1 through to 5.
Yet these were mere footnotes on Krüger's typewriter curriculum vitae, which is just so incredibly impressive. It starts with the Stoewer four-bank portable in 1926, continues through that to the fabulous Rheinmetall, and extends on to the first Olympia portables from 1931, including the Simplex, the Progress, the Elite, the Filia and the Robust. And in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War II, Krüger's crowning achievement still lay ahead of him.
Krüger's four-bank Stoewer (1926), which grew into the Rheinmetall after Stoewer went out of business.
Georg Sommeregger Collection. See Georg's Stoewer story here.
But more on that later. I plan to attempt to redress the lack of recognition for Krüger by covering his vast range of typewriter designs in three parts, leading to his last and perhaps greatest typewriter. First, his early early years, from 1926-1936.
Krüger was born in 1898 in Stettin, now Szczecin, capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland, but from 1870 part of the German Empire. It became a Polish city in July 1945.
Krüger studied mechanical engineering and in 1915, aged 17, he began four years' service as a warship engineer. In peacetime he completed a two-year apprenticeship as a typewriter mechanic and in 1921 went to work for Stoewer in Stettin.
Stoewer began making typewriters in 1901 and was fortunate enough to obtain the services of German design genius Paul Grützmann (1871-1953). Krüger, in turn, was fortunate enough to learn his trade from Grützmann. In the mid-1920s, however, Stoewer got into financial difficulties, and in August 1930 its factory was shut down.
The end at Stoewer marked the beginning for the offshoot of its four-bank portable, the remarkable Rheinmetall, again with a detachable carriage. This striking model below is by now, I'm happy to say, headed in my direction, and will add to the many fine examples of Krüger's design work in my collection:
In 1926 Krüger's design for Stoewer was the first for a German four-bank, and it became the standard for almost all subsequent German portables of this size.
With the closure of the Stoewer factory, Krüger moved to Erfurt to join Olympia.
Ernst Martin in his Die Schreibmaschine und ihre Entwicklungsgeschichte (1949) tells us that at Erfurt Krüger's first design was the Olympia Klein, made in 1931 by Europa, as Olympia was then known. This became, in 1933, the Simplex.
But before then, in 1932, came a much more advanced model, one which was to set the design pattern for Olympia for the next 30 years or more - Krüger's Progress:
As well, Olympia released the Elite that same year:
And in 1935 came the Olympia Robust:
NEXT: The flight of Olympia workers from Soviet occupation to the West - to start a new era, but one still employing Krüger's designs.