In June 1902, a Mr. C. T. Adams received by mail an extraordinary catalog and type sample set mailed to him by Typewriter Headquarters, of New York. Examination of these materials will push the boundaries of known rebuilt typewriters for historians and collectors, and will be of interest to all typewriter enthusiasts.
Typewriter Headquarters was among the very first firms set up to offer rebuilt typewriters on a basis larger than just the occasional machine. In 1892, “The National Stenographer” reported that Typewriter Headquarters in New York and an affiliated Typewriter Headquarters in Chicago would both be opened by firms partly owned by Enoch N. Miner, a teacher of shorthand who had set up his own school and initially sold rebuilt typewriters as a sort of adjunct. Miner told “Frank Harrison’s Shorthand Weekly” later:
“I believe that I was the first regular dealer in second hand typewriters in the world, having started regularly dealing in second-hand machines in New York City, in the summer of 1883, during which summer I advertised instruments for sale and made a business of the undertaking in connection with my teaching, of which you then knew.”
Miner also launched what became the leading early trade paper on typewriters, “The Phonographic World,” in 1885. In 1891 according to “The Shorthand Review,” Miner began to be accused of wild behavior and several physical assaults for which he was arrested at least twice, and rumors swirled in print that Typewriter Headquarters was actually owned by Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict (makers of the Remington typewriter.) By the time our 1902 letter and materials were sent, Typewriter Headquarters was under the proprietorship of one Eli H. Eldredge.
The small catalog mailed to Mr. Adams in 1902 states in part:
“We have every possible facility for rebuilding typewriters of every make to the very best advantage. Our parts are obtained direct from the various typewriter companies (with none of whom we are antagonistic) and being made at the same factories where the machines themselves are made are as perfectly adjustable to the instruments as were the parts comprising the machines originally. Our mechanics are, without exception, the most expert in their line, each having been educated at the factory of the machine he is now engaged with us in rebuilding.”
Further – “We deal in all makes of typewriters alike,” the catalog says, “making the same profit upon one that we do upon another. It is immaterial to us what machine you buy.”
Let’s take a look through the catalog. The pages of the catalog are valuable historically because they show and describe a number of models of early typewriter – information useful entirely by itself outside the sphere of rebuilding. It must be noted though that EVERY typewriter being offered is rebuilt; prices for these machines are not stated on these pages rebuilt but rather the maker’s price for brand new machines only. Actual prices of rebuilt machines were included on type sample slips that we’ll see shortly.
The “samples” referred to here are the type sample slips shown later.
The No. 3 Remington was similar to the No. 2 but had four more keys and wide carriage.
In looking at these pages, sent out in 1902 it should be recalled that the No. 2 Remington appeared as early as 1878 (according to Typewriter Topics’ voluminous history) while the mentioned No. 6, said to be “recently placed upon the market,” first sold in summer 1894.
A novel and unique form of advertising the actual machines for sale was included in the mailing, which is a set of type sample strips. It’s clear that machines were used to type samples on sheets of paper which were then cut into strips. The prices for various Remingtons are seen below on the strips. Note the significant savings over new retail.
Typewriter Headquarters of course advertised selling of all makes, and the range offered in the catalog and sample strips is fairly surprising. The Caligraph page is next:
Added into the mailing was the below “special offer” sheet advertising a batch of Caligraph machines that Typewriter Headquarters had obtained from one place:
The sheet above requires some commentary. First, while it is stated that “the entire stock of one of the largest Caligraph dealers in the United States” was bought, it should be emphasized that all the machines offered here are stated clearly to have been rebuilt. Second, all models here are fairly well outdated; the old models were withdrawn and replaced by the New Century before the printing of this catalog (this occurred in 1898 according to Mares.) In fact, the oldest offering on this page dates back to around the mid-1880’s time at which Typewriter Headquarters itself was launched. It seems obvious then that all of these models had been trade-ins to the mentioned dealer, or else were rental machines sent out by the dealer, and probably in cases both. The ability to purchase a standard typewriter, and in fact “The brand that won’t wear out,” as its makers advertised, for a mere $14 to $16 cannot be overstated in importance considering then-new machine prices over $90.
IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: Some surprising machines you’d never think were offered by a rebuilder, along with great illustrations. Sign up for email alerts!