Machine Monday: Hamilton Automatic

Often referred to as the Hamilton Automatic, the Automatic Typewriter was patented by Emery M. Hamilton of New York in 1887 and placed on the market in 1888.  It was manufactured almost entirely of brass and was remarkably small, measuring only 11″ wide x 8″ deep x 4″ tall.  Inside its diminutive chassis are tiny typebars approximately 1.5″ long along with a circular inkpad inking system.  The spacebar is located above the top row of the keyboard with its name, AUTOMATIC, engraved in it.   It was equipped with 48 keys and typed in capital letters only.  Numbers were located on the right side of the keyboard, similar to a ten key numerical keyboard on many modern computer keyboards.

Other noteworthy features include a faceted platen (a round roller with flat spots uniformly spaced around the entire roller) to aid in printing characters evenly.  It also included variable spacing, meaning its carriage advanced further for wider characters and less for narrow characters.  Most typewriters of this era used mono spacing, meaning each character occupied the same amount of space across the writing line.  This advanced design was intended to produce work that resembled printed material.


Competition was fierce in the early years of the typewriter industry and sales of the Automatic did not materialize as planned.  The Automatic was withdrawn from the market in 1891 when stockholders of the company refused to invest further and the factory was closed leaving approximately three hundred of the machines ever produced, making it one of the most collectible machines on the market (good luck finding one in halfway decent shape).

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