Introducing “On the Margin”

During the ‘Era of the Manual Typewriter’ (roughly from the 1880’s through to the 1960’s) an enormous number of typewriters was given second and even third lives through the process of factory rebuilding.  This process – which wasn’t always very thorough, and wasn’t always totally reputable – in most cases resulted in a “like new” typewriter.  In the times and places it didn’t, the reputation of rebuilt machines suffered.  However, in the times and places that rebuilding was done right, the effect on the buyer was potentially enormous, allowing two-for-one, three-for-one and even up to four or five-for-one purchasing when compared with brand new typewriters.

Naturally, because the profit obtained on these rebuilt machines was small, the rebuilt typewriter business (from the standpoint of the factory) was always a risk.  Also, not knowing the available volume or even models of machines that would become available meant that rebuilders had to make do with what came their way, unless they were able to secure arrangements that solidified supply.  Because of the limited profit, and limited sales opportunity compared with the mainstream, brand-new products of the major builders I’ve decided to name this blog “On the Margin.”  The typewriter reference is obvious and deliberate, and hopefully, memorable.  The blog address — rebuilttypewriters dot wordpress dot com — hopefully serves as a proper director to the effort.

In the coming months and, perhaps, years, this blog will show the rebuilt typewriter business from what we like to look at at nostalgically as the ‘classic era’ from every conceivable angle.  How the rebuilders worked, how the sales opportunities occurred, how the machines were sold and much more will be shown here through the display of items from my own personal collection which has taken many years and much effort to amass.  You’ll find out that the rebuilt typewriter is much more common, much more interesting and much more desirable than you might previously have thought, and you’ll also get the chance to see unusual artifacts and photos.

One of those photos is the header for this blog.  I will reproduce it here in full (uncropped) form.

Dearborn Typewriter Co. Insp Ship 1917

Here we see the Inspecting and Shipping Department of the Dearborn Typewriter Company as shown in that firm’s 1917 Catalog.  Dearborn was not one of the largest players in the rebuilt typewriter business, and this scene is typical of what might have been found in a smaller rebuilder dealing in volume.  The machines seen here have already been rebuilt, and are being given their final adjustments by the technicians before being crated up (see the right rear area.)  The man wearing the suit and discussing something with an apron-clad technician is Charles E. Gaerte, President of the Dearborn Typewriter Company.

I hope you enjoy the many images, tales and ideas yet to unfold on this, my latest typewriter related effort.  Please let me know if you do!

Will Davis

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