Among seasoned typewriter collectors, the name “Harry A. Smith” has almost always been well known. His machines are the most-discussed rebuilds because of his occasional habit of replacing the original maker’s name with his own, and even his own emblem – and these relabeled machines are prized among collectors. Yet, he sold far more machines faithfully rebuilt and originally labeled.
Smith launched his company in 1911 after years of sales work in the office business, and quickly became a successful seller of rebuilt machines – largely by mail. He shed control of his original firm to focus on an attempt to build brand new typewriters at the start of the 1920’s, but when that company failed he soon found himself in the employ of L. C. Smith & Bros. in the Exchanged Machines department. It was not long after this employment that Smith took back control of his old firm, now the Smith Typewriter Sales Co., and put it in the employ of his new bosses to become an exclusive rebuilder of L. C. Smith machines alone.
No one could have remained in this business as long as Smith did without doing many things right, and now, thanks to a remarkable late 1924 brochure, we can read some of his philosophy. What’s more, the photo contained therein may be among the last published of Smith, who died January 11, 1925; the brochure has hand written on it “Rec’d 12/26/24.” By that date, Smith was already in the hospital (according to information provided by Alan Seaver.) He was 50 years old.
Above, Harry A. Smith is seen in his office at Smith Typewriter Sales. On the wall behind Smith is an illustration of the L. C. Smith & Bros. factory in Syracuse, New York; outside the window of his office can be seen the Chicago River.
The following is printed below the photo and attributed to Smith:
“SUCCESS in this business, as I see it, can only come in proportion to the amount of personal care and interest that is put into it. I personally open each letter that we receive. Your order or inquiry has my personal attention first, before going to the other departments; any order or inquiry that has anything out of the ordinary in it must be reported back to me for my personal assurance of proper attention. I have spent most of my business lifetime in the typewriter industry. I thoroughly understand the work and enjoy it.
The typewriter expert is necessarily a highly developed type of keenly sensitive mechanic. The nature of his work requires great concentration of his senses of sight, touch and sound. He works for hours under severe tension with every faculty alert, and it requires full understanding of such a man and his work to keep things running smoothly.
I know and fully appreciate the accuracy and precision required of my men and ‘ease things up’ by giving each man the work he likes and performs the best. In many cases I have made it more pleasant for the men, and more conducive to better work, by placing them in groups of four, each doing a specialized portion of assembling.
Our large, unusually well lighted workrooms are appreciated. The men have a real love for the perfect mechanism of the L. C. Smith, which enables them to do more and better work than on other makes.
I know good work and exact a definite but reasonable output per man. On the other hand, I know the worth of personal encouragement. Our practice is to give our men full praise and good pay for doing unusually good work. My men believe they are handling the best typewriter that is built. Their belief in, and respect for, the L. C. Smith comes from their intimate knowledge of the quality of the machine and the service it gives our customers.
Our care and interest continues after we have shipped your typewriter to you because it is our desire that every customer shall be more than satisfied in every respect.”