Rebuilt for Export

While it may not be obvious today, a major opportunity for the typewriter rebuilders lay in export sales.  The ‘overseas market’ allowed customers in other nations to buy the world-leading American makes at prices they could afford.  Many of the rebuilders did heavy export business for many years.

Dearborn Typ Export Office 1917

Here we see the Office of the Export Manager of the Dearborn Typewriter Company, located in the Rand McNally Building, Chicago in 1917.  The Export Manager, Mr. M. Ortiz Sr. is seated near the center of the photo.  While the original catalog is slightly damaged it is possible easily to make out the world map on the wall at the right of the photo.

The catalog’s front page includes the following interesting passages, which mention the overseas business:

“A Few Words Regarding Our House:

Our firm is one of the largest typewriter rebuilders in the United States, and surely the most important exporter in this country.  The fact that a machine has been rebuilt in our shop means that it is as good and efficient as when it left its original factory.  We take the machine, tear it down and replace all worn out parts with new ones.  In short, we build up a new machine, adjust it and make it as serviceable and good looking as brand new.  We put new rollers in these machines and when finished it is very difficult to distinguish them from brand new typewriters.

Our machines are examined and inspected three times before they leave our shops and for this reason we feel perfectly safe in fully guaranteeing them.

We have given particular attention to the reconstruction of typewriters for export and the fact that our business in this line has been, during 1915, 400% larger than that of the previous year, is a very good proof that we know how to serve our customers.”

The most significant reason for the company’s increase in exports was most probably the cutoff of German-made machines coming across the ocean due to the outbreak of war.  Whatever the cause though, Dearborn Typewriter was prepared to provide American makes (very likely re-keyed for other languages) at good prices right when they were needed the most.

One thought on “Rebuilt for Export

  1. That is a really neat old office. One of the things I’ve always been interested in is the old offices and factories. I’d love to have an old office building (if I could afford one and be able to profit from it). On the typewriter side; I’m surprised at so many early rebuilders. I’d think the mid 20th century or later would see more rebuilders, not to preserve typewriters, but to be an economical source for someone wanting a good typewriter. This would seem especially a good thing during the Great Depression since most people could not afford a new machine. Maybe there were not enough buyers to afford a rebuilt one either.


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