Machine Monday: Blickensderfer

blickno5

The Blickensderfer Typewriter (you have to love that name) was patented in 1891.  The Number 1 and Number 5 were released to the public at the World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago in 1893.  The Blickensderfer writers were the first truly portable typewriters.  The other draw to these machines was the price-tag: $35 (compared to $100 for Remington, Hammond and Yost machines).

The Blickensderfer abandoned the QWERTY keyboard, which was developed for mechanical reasons.  The layout avoided key jams.  The Blickensderfer keyboard layout was designed with the operator’s comfort in mind.  It was known as ‘The Scientific’ layout.  The DHIATENSOR bottom row allowed the typist to keep his/her hands on the home row much more than the QWERTY design.

Working-Aluminium-1914-Blickensderfer-Featherweight-Portable-Typewriter-w-_57

1910 saw the introduction of the Number 6 (or Featherweight).  This machine was cast in aluminum, making it significantly lighter than the cast iron of the Number 5.

1897_Blickensderfer_No._7_OM

The Number 7 was introduced in 1897, was listed as the deluxe version.  Larger than the Number 5, it was mounted to the oak board and had a wrap-around spacebar.  Less portable, but more sophisticated for offices.

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The amazing part of the Blickensderfer Company was its forward-looking scope.  1901 saw the introduction of the truly revolutionaty Blick Electric.  Manufactured from 1901-1919, the machine was a technological and engineering leap into the future.  Too far of a leap, the machine was a commercial failure.  Most businesses were not wired for electricity.  Electricity was used for lighting and most small businesses had no outlets for the machines.

blick9

The Number 9 was released in 1910 with only about 10,000 produced.  It was similar to the extremely successful Number 8, with some modifications.  The onset of World War I saw a sharp decline in sales.  Blickensderfer modified their production factories to produce munitions for the war effort.  After the war, the company was not able to return to the pre-war success it enjoyed.  One time, a competitive alternative to the big typewriter manufacturers, Blicks are now more of an interesting curiosity among collectors.

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