1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9

1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9

Estimated value for complete unit in good condition, $200, retail, as of 2012.

Courtesy the Forney Museum of Transportation, 4303 Brighton Blvd., Denver, CO 80216 USA.
Some information is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php, and www.etsy.com.
Edited by David Barth 13 March 2013. Forney Museum photo by Dave Barth.

This typewriter is in the Forney Museum collection. Although office machines are not transporatation-related, they represent a collection of items that have been eclipsed by computers. Some computer companies evolved from office machine manufacturers such as IBM, Burroughs, and National Cash Register (NCR).

The designer of Oliver was the Canadian Methodist reverend Thomas Oliver (1852-1909). He began to develop his typewriter in 1888 and was awarded his first patent in 1891. The company began operating in 1895, and the Model 1 was introduced in 1896. The company began operating in 1895. The Oliver Typewriter Company was an American typewriter manufacturer headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The Oliver Typewriter was the first effective "visible print" typewriter, meaning text was visible to the typist as it was entered as opposed to "invisible" typewriters where the print was made lower on the platen, requiring the typist to turn the platen to see what had been typed.

Oliver typewriters were marketed heavily for home use, utilizing local distributors and sales on credit. Oliver produced more than one million machines between 1895 and 1928 and licensed its designs to several international firms.

Competitive pressure and financial troubles resulted in the company's liquidation in 1928. The company's assets were purchased by investors who formed The British Oliver Typewriter Company, which manufactured and licensed the machines until its own closure in the late 1950s. In Austria Oliver was made and marketed under the name Courier in 1903-1919. The last Oliver typewriter was produced in 1959.

The Oliver Typewriter Company had begun operating in 1895 in Iowa. In 1896, manufacturing moved from Iowa to Woodstock, Illinois, when the City of Woodstock donated a vacant factory once used by the Wheeler and Tappan Company on the condition that the Oliver Typewriter Company remain there at least five years. Its headquarters were on the ninth floor of a building on the corner of Clark and Randolph Street in Chicago.

Manufacturing was divided into six departments: type bar, carriage, assembly, tabulators and adjustment, inspection, and an aligning room. The company's headquarters moved to the Oliver Building, now a Chicago landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, when it was completed in 1907.

Starting in 1899, the company established sales networks by encouraging customers to become local distributors. This method of marketing relied on word of mouth and emphasized sales made directly to neighbors (door-to-door) and, after 1905, sales on credit.

In response to increased competition in the late 1910s, however, the company eliminated its network of local salesman and used the resulting savings in commissions to reduce the typewriter's $100 ($2,439.02 in 2012 dollars) price by half. Sales increased and, at its peak, the company's labor force of 875 was producing 375 machines daily.

In addition to its offices in Illinois, the company had branch offices in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Omaha, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle, all of which closed when Oliver shifted to mail order sales in March 1917. A minor recession in 1921-22 caused a large number of customers to default on their payments, resulting in the repossession of their typewriters. The company opted not to borrow money and, in 1926, the board of directors voted to liquidate the company. Only one employee, Chester Nelson, was retained to oversee the company's liquidation.

The general design of Oliver typewriters remained mostly unchanged throughout the company's history. The Olivers are "down strike" typewriters, meaning the typebars strike the platen (also known as the roller) from above, rather than from below ("up strike") or from the front ("front strike"). Unlike the "up strike" method, which prints text out of sight on the underside of the platen, the "down strike" is a "visible print" design, meaning the full page is visible to the typist as the text is being entered.

The relatively greater striking power of the "down strike" design led Olivers to be preferred for specialty uses such as stencil cutting or "manifolding" (copying using carbon paper). The "front strike" method, a competing "visible print" design, was patented around the same time (1889-91), but an effective cometitive machine, the Underwood No. 1, that did not interfere with the typist's line of sight, was not available until 1897, roughly three years after the introduction of the Oliver No. 1.

The Oliver's typebars are bent in a bow (forming an inverted "U" shape) and rest in "towers" on the sides of the typewriter. This design limited the machine to a three-row QWERTY keyboard as the typebars were stacked such that they grew progressively larger as more were added. The size and usability implications of adding additional keys and thus, more typebars, precluded the addition of a fourth keyboard row dedicated to numbers.

Although a four-row prototype was designed in 1922, it was shelved due to the company's financial troubles at that time. The No. 20, No. 21 and portable models produced by the British Oliver Typewriter Company had four-row keyboards.

Oliver typewriters were finished with olive green paint or nickel-plating and white or black keyboards, depending on customer preference. Beginning with model No. 3, machines were painted green except some variants to be exported to warm or damp regions, which were chrome-plated. The color was changed from green to black on the introduction of model No. 11. Oliver typewriters made for the British war effort were supplied with a "war finish".

United States models were manufactured in the company's factory in Woodstock, Illinois.

The following models were produced in the United States between 1894 and 1928:
ModelYears ProducedNumber
No. 11894-18965,000First model; completely nickel-plated; closed "O" in "Oliver" on name plates
No. 1 1/21896UnknownUnofficial designation; No. 2 with nickel plating and closed "O"
No. 21896-190130,000Improved paper feed; added handles; open "O")
Nos. 3/41902-1907148,000Larger size; color ribbon
Nos. 5/61907-1914311,000Backspacer added
Nos. 7/81914-191557,000Left margin release moved to right of keyboard
Nos. 9/101915-1922449,000Right and left shift keys; two-color ribbon
Nos. 11/121922-192835,000Last model produced in the United States; handles removed; black color

1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9
1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9
owned by the Forney Museum.

1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9
1920 Oliver Typewriter Model 9, stock photo.