Blickensderfer

1892 - 1919

Blickensderfer Manufacturing Co.

Stamford, Connecticut,  US

 

George Canfield Blickensderfer (1815 - 1917) was a traveling salesman in an era when quality typewriters were either much too heavy to lug around or truly portable typewriters were far too inferior. Blickensderfer recognized this void within the marketplace and entered the business of writing machine as early as 1886. He filed for a patent early next year (patent no.410,662), though there is no evidence that this machine was ever produced. Let's call this one the Pre-No.1 model.

The next two models, Nos.1 & 3, were produced, or at least prototyped, which we know because they appeared in old ads alongside the No.5 model. With the No.1 George Blickensderfer created an incredible machine that, had it been mass produced, would have been more sophisticated than anything else on the market for quite some time. The No.3 was a scaled-down, more ornate version of the No.1 and the No.5 was scaled down yet further.

In 1893 Blickensderfer took Nos.1 & 5 to the World's Colombian Expo in Chicago. He had high hopes for the No.1 model but it was the modest No.5 that stole the show, not just from the N.1, but also from all the other typewriters at the exhibition. After a successful exhibition, orders came from domestic and foreign investors. By 1895 a factory was set up in Stamford. CT as well as distribution network in Canada, France, U.K. and later Germany, Russia and Poland. It would not be uncommon to find Blicks with other country's or company's names stamped into the nameplate, too. Foreign business was absolutely instrumental in the growth of the Blickensdrefer Company. Interestingly, it would be that dependence on the those foreign markets that would also contribute to the unraveling to the company.

So why all the interest at the Expo? Blickensderfer's genius typewheel is why (patent no.432,296). Like the larger Hammonds and Crandalls, the Blicks employed a single-element type mechanism. Users could efficiently and inexpensively change the language or typeface of the typewriter by simply swapping out the typewheel as opposed to buying an entirely new writing machine. Unlike those Hammonds and Crandalls, the Blick was also small and lightweight... a portable.

George Blickensderfer always seemed to be ahead of his time. In 1900 he patented an electric typewriter (patent no.656,085) which was just the second ever to be produced in 1902. The public was not ready for an electric typewriter, and would not be ready for another 50 years. His No.6 model didn't come to market until after the No.8 model because aluminum casting technology hadn't quite yet been perfected, so George pioneered that typewriter technology, too. Blickensderfer's keyboard layout was equally innovative, referred to as a Scientific keyboard. It was a better layout, especially for Blicks, but by 1892 most people had accepted the universal QWERTY keyboard. Blicks were, thus, offered with a choice between the two layouts.

By 1910 sales began to dwindle and, since Blickensderfer depended heavily on foreign markets, a ban on trade with some countries following the start of WWI further crippled the business. The company produced government contracted munitions during WWI to compensate but typewriter sales would never fully rebound.

 

The models offered by Blickensderfer in the order they appeared on the market are as follows:

  • No.1 (none found yet)

  • No.3 (none found yet)

  • No.5

  • No.4 (uppercase only/telegraph use)

  • No.7

  • Blickensderfer Electric

  • No.8

  • No.6

  • No.9

  • Blick Ninety (conventional frontstrike typewriter)

 

After George Blickensderfer's death the company was sold, in 1919, to the Roberts Typewriter Company and again, in 1926, to the Remington Typewriter Company. Roberts produced a Roberts Ninety which was a nearly identical to the Blick Ninety. The Ninety models were conventional frontsrike typewriters. George Blickensderfer had very little to do with it when it was first being developed by inventor Lyman R. Roberts (1867 - 1921).

 

Remington attempted to revive the original typewheel equipped Blicks with a Rem-Blick model. It was nothing more than a rebranded No.5. Ultimately Remington permanatly shut down Blickensderfer production in 1928.​

 

A few other typewriters that are in some way tied (some very loosely tied) to the Blickensderfer include the NocoBlick, Blickensderfer No.5 Teletyper, Blick-Bar, Niagara and Blick Universal.

 

Have an interesting Blick for sale? Email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com or call +1 (860) 729-2252