Bar-Lock

ca.​1889

Columbia Typewriter Mfg. Co.

New York, New York, US

Charles "Chas" Spiro (1850 - 1933) and his writing machines are well known to us in the typewriter nerds. Chas's career began as a watchmaker in his father's shop. It exposed him to the process of inventing, the importance of precision engineering and to design. At the age of 21, Chas took a year-long hiatus to tour cosmopolitan Europe which would prove influential in his later years. Upon his return Chas enrolled in Washington University where he acquired a law degree. It seemed that he finally settled on a life practicing law until the day he first set eyes on a clumsy Remington upstrike typewriter. Chas instantly felt that he could produce a better writing machine so he switched careers just once more. This time to a manufacturer of typewriters.

In 1887 Chas filed for three patents during for a downstrike typebar machine with a full (double) keyboard. At the bottom of the first patent's diagram (patent no.400,265), it clearly shows the typeBAR LOCKing pins, arranged in a crescent pattern, for which these typewriters were named. A later patent (patent no.447,438) has an excellent rendering of a machine very similar to the actual production model. Though Bar-Locks weren't the first writing machines Chas patented, nor the first he manufactured, they would prove to be his most successful.

Nowadays Bar-Locks are very easily recognizable by their imposing shields which house and protect the typebars behind. Early models, like the example on this page, were particularly ornate and cast of iron. I believe that Chas's trip to Europe was especially influential on his taste in art and design. It was at the same time he was abroad that the Art Nouveau movements of France, England and Germany were en vogue. The highly detailed shields of the earliest Bar-Locks were most likely an homage to the movements. Chas, also an accomplished violinist, seemed to embrace to humanities.

Model Nos.1 & 2 were produced concurrently though the No.1 may have been sold exclusively in European markets where the brand had a particularly strong presence. The No.1 had a large uppercase B in the center of its shield. As the brand progresses, the shields got less and less ornate. One model, the No.14, not only had a less ornate front shield but its full keyboard was replaced with a single-shift four-bank.

Questions? Comments? Have a Bar-Lock for sale? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com or call +1 (860) 729-2252