On August 15, 1885, the Axial Type-Writer Co. was incorporated in Portland, ME. In January of 1886, inventor Joseph W. Peck of Waltham, MA, a mail agent for the B&A Railroad, applied for the Axial’s 2nd patent. It was issued to Peck in December, 1886 but assigned to another man, James H. Waite of Orange, MA, a banker by trade as well as an investor in land and water development.
Waite was issued the Axial’s 3rd patent in February of 1887. It was for a more refined typewriter which included the addition of ribbon spool cavities.
The March, 1887 issue of the Cosmopolitan Shorthander and April, 1887 issue of the Mentor describe the Axial as a plunger-style index typewriter with a revolving disk of characters priced at $25.
The next month, May, the Shorthander issued a correction: price will be $40
In October of 1887, Waite was issued the 4th and final patent for the Axial which significantly resembled the final product. The patent was assigned to the Axial Type-Writer Co. of Portland.
After that, there was nothing. No ads, stories, blurbs, patents or any other historical documentation that I could source. Then, at the end of 1901, the State of Maine permanently excused the Axial company from filing taxes. The State was cleaning its books of long-defunct corporations. I sincerely doubt if the Axial company was at all active after 1887.
Axial Type Writer Co.
Portland, ME, US
The Axial is an index blindwriter capable of producing 72 characters from its daisywheel type element including upper and lowercase letters. A small, nickel-plated lever at the very top of the machine is used to select the case. In front of the legend there is an elongated u-shaped, vulcanized rubber spacebar. In the middle of the spacebar is a small square used to plunge the daisywheel towards the rubber platen in order to print. There is a steel feed roller found at the front and rear of the platen. The carriage is advanced automatically by a leather strap attached to a mainspring found at the inside of the typewriter’s bell. There is a carriage release lever located behind the right ribbon spool cavity. Inking is by a narrow ribbon despite the presence of wide spools.
Only Michael Adler mentions the Axial in his books. In his 1973 book, The Writing Machine, a History of the Typewriter, Adler assumed correctly that both of Waite’s patents were for a typewriter from the Axial company of Portland, ME, but assumed incorrectly that they were for two separate models. Both patents were for just one machine. Adler repeats all this in his 1997 book, Antique Typewriters, from Creed to QWERTY.
The typewriter itself has two patent dates stenciled on its top plate. One reconciles with Waite’s October, 1887 patent but the other, the October 7, 1884 one, is more peculiar. On that date there were just two U.S. patents issued for a “type-writing machine.” I resolve that patent no.306,295, issued to Charles E Tilton of Worcester, MA for the Tilton typewriter, is the one in question. Charles’s firm, Tilton Mfg..Co., at the time, was located in Portland, ME as was the Axial company so there’s that connection. But there’s more...
In typewriter literature, the Victor index typewriter of 1889 is often cited as having been the 1st typewriter to be produced with a daisywheel type element. The Axial predates that distinction by at least 2 years. More importantly, the Victor typewriter’s patent was assigned to the Tilton Mfg. Co. of Portland, ME. Though it’s all conjecture, the evidence strongly suggests that the Axial was the direct predecessor to the Victor and that Charles Tilton’s time in Portland, ME was the tie that binds.
So what is the connection between these 3 men? It turns out that the Tilton family was very industrious and manufacturing wasn’t their only source of income. The Tiltons were also involved in the railroad industry, like Peck, and in water development, like Waite. It is not unfathomable to think that the three men got to know each other professionally and that Peck was the original inventor, that Waite had the necessary capital and that Tilton had manufacturing resources.
What exactly is the Axial? A production model? Patent model? Salesman’s sample? The typewriter doesn’t have a serial number so it probably wasn’t a production model, but it’s possible. It was made a little late to be a patent model, though that’s also not completely implausible. Peter Weil, typewriter historian, thinks the Axial may have been a demonstration model used to attract investors. I’m inclined to agree, though, no matter what it actually is, is fine with me.