Some people collect baseball cards and others collect coins. Martin Howard, however, collects century-old typewriters. And boy is he good at it. The Toronto-based enthusiast has typewriters that looks like navigation instruments and typewriters that look like scales. But they all have one thing in common: They’re beautiful.
The Martin Howard Collection includes dozens of rare and historically significant typewriters. It’s the largest of its kind in Canada and continues to grow as its owner comes across new pieces. While the typewriters sometimes travel for exhibitions, you can always see the whole collection on Howard’s website, and if you really want to you can probably buy them. We’ve collected a few of our favourites for your browsing pleasure.
Crandall – New Model (1887)
This machine was built by one of the early typewriter pioneers who successfully sold one of the first commercial typewriters, the Crandall Model 1. The model above uses a cylinder about the size of a finger to type 84 different characters with only 28 keys.
Stenograph 1 – Third Form (1882)
The United Stenograph Company made this stenograph which might’ve been used by court reporters. For the sake of speed, several buttons would be pressed at once like a musical chord to represent syllables.
North’s Typewriter (1892)
This typewriter is unique for its type-bars that stand vertically above the paper and swing down when the keys are pressed.
The type-bars on this machine hang below the carriage and swing upwards when the keys are pressed. The slogan used in advertising: “Smallest and most comprehensive double-case finger-key Typewriter.”
Lambert 1 (1902)
Ideal for the one-finger typist, this machine works almost like a touchtone phone with the press of a key sending a disk with the characters on it down to the paper. The middle knob works as a space bar.
Keystone 1 (1899)
This Pennsylvania-built typewriter looks almost like a modern typewriter except the type-sector swings up from behind to mark the paper which rolls up from the bottom.
The Franklin (1892)
It’s funny how this typewriter actually evokes Ben Franklin — maybe it’s the Liberty Bell-shaped body. It came with the slogan: “Speed is Limited only by the speed of operator.”
Granville Automatic (1896)
This high-tech typewriter wins it’s “automatic” classification by having all of the controls right on the keyboard which affords the machine that lofty body. Inside it very much looks like a modern typewriter.
This thing is built like a truck. It was also the first machine to let writers see what they had typed, as they typed it. The Ford also claims to be “the first writing machine adopting aluminium.”
Like the Ford before it, the Daugherty sported a see-as-you-type design. This machine was later eclipsed by the famous Underwood which had many of the same features but just worked better.
The Chicago (1899)
Rather than type-bars, the Chicago used a metal cylinder that moved back and forth for the different characters. The machine above was known as the “decorated model.”
American Visible 1 (1901)
This budget friendly little guy is notable for not having any actual keys to press. Instead, the typist would slide the metal bar so that its notches lined up on one letter and then press the metal handle on the side down to engage the type-bar. It sold for just $US3.98 at Sears, Roebuck and Co.
According to Howard, “The Bennett is the smallest keyboard typewriter ever built, at about the size of a small box of chocolates.” How cute!