1902 - 1907
Coffman Mfg. Co.
St. Louis, MO
Dr. George Williamson Coffman (1859 - 1943), a physician practicing homeopathic medicine, was awarded patent no.702,706 in 1902 for this typewriter. Though Dr. Coffman lived in Garden City, KS when he applied for the patent in November of 1900, he eventually moved to St. Louis, MO where that typewriter was produced and where he spent the rest of his life.
The Coffman typewriter was originally advertised for just $3.90 but that price was quickly raised to $5 and never deviated again. It was produced by the Coffman Mfg. Co. of St. Louis, MO on a section of Spruce St. that is no longer present because Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Cardinals baseball team, has since been built over it. Sometime in 1905 the name of the typewriter was changed to the Popular for domestic markets and to La Populaire for foreign ones. They were both produced by the McCarthy-Coffman Mfg. Co., also of St. Louis but at 24 S..10th St. Click here to see an ad for La Populaire.
The Coffman was available in two distinct versions: with and without a platen. The example on this page is the platen version. The non-platen version printed directly onto a flat sheet of paper. At just 9-3/4" long, 2" wide and 2-1/2" tall and weighing less than 1-1/2 lbs., the machines were aptly marketed as the "Coffman Pocket Typewriter" and also as the "20th Century Practical Typewriter."
The Coffman was a linear index typewriter with a rubber strip type element capable of printing both upper- and lower-case letters. Characters were selected from a two-row index using an indicator with the right hand. Inking was by transfer from a pair of rollers. The platen was made of wood on the model that came with one. Escapement was automatic. There was no bell, line indicator, backspace or other such luxury.
Need an instruction manual for your Coffman? Get it here...
There are no mentions in newspapers, periodicals or advertisements about the Coffman or the Popular that I could source dated after 1907. It is possible that the typewriters were produced for a year or two more but doubtful. Ultimately, the typewriter was destined to fail. It was patented decades after index typewriters were at their zenith and in a time when Underwoods and Blicks had already been produced for several years.
Dr. Coffman went on to patent an even less successful writing machine in 1906. However, he was exponentially more successful in his personal medical practice, as a professor of physiology at the Missouri Homeopathic Medical Society, as a Sunday school superintendent and even as a published poet. You may read one of his poems here.