H. Langes Legetøj A/S
Junior. When it comes to typewriters that may be the most uninspired, ubiquitous moniker around, and so here we have yet another. This time that moniker graces a well-built circular index toy from Denmark, but contrary to what its name suggests, the machine is anything but commonplace.
This Junior was produced by H. Langes Legetøj A/S, a diecast toy maker. The company was formed by four men: Henning H. Langes, Alfred Nielsen, Kaj Christiansen and later E. Leager-Larsen. Langes was the financier and head of sales, Nielsen was the shop foreman, and Christiansen and Leager-Larsen were the toolmakers and designers. Ultimately, however, H.H. Langes was the employer and everyone else simply worked for him. The company began manufacturing out of a factory basement at no.19 Nyrnberggade in Amager (a suburb of Copenhagen) in 1945. A sales office was located at no.42B Vimmelskaftet, Copenhagen. Advertisements for H. Langes toys began circulating in the latter part of 1946.
History on the men that started the company is scant. What is known is interesting, yes, but ultimately much of it is irrelevant to typewriters. I’ll just mention that H.H. Langes, A. Nielsen and K. Christiansen knew each other while serving in a special department of the Copenhagen police force called the Krisepolitiet (Crisis Police). They were relieved of their duties almost immediately after WWII when their department was dissolved, but why they ventured to be toy makers is unclear. In contrast, E. Leager-Larsen had previously worked for another Danish toy maker, Tekno. He was most likely responsible for the development of most of the Langes Legetøj products, including this Junior.
When the Langes company began its advertising campaign it had intentionally and aggressively set its sights on competing diecast toy maker Tekno’s business. Tekno was the foremost toy maker in Denmark at the time. Langes ran full page advertisements for toy pistols, cars, cranes, tools, etc… and, in March of 1948, a typewriter. According to toy collectors, Langes did manufacture higher quality products compared to Tekno. Obviously, a former policeman's salary wouldn’t have been enough to fund the superior product line and aforementioned aggressive ad campaign that an upstart warring against the coffers of its most established and dominant competitor would need. Luckily, H.H. Langes met Grethe Gürtler (née G. Duvantier) in 1945. She had money and social status and most importantly, her sister, Alice, was married to former Prime Minister Erik Julius Christian Scavenius. H.H. Langes and G. Gürtler married in 1949.
Tekno ultimately took notice of the young toy company and smartly signed a 20 year contract with Langes in 1949. Under the contract, Langes was allowed to make toys for Tekno but not to sell them directly. All of the toys produced under the Langes/Tekno partnership were embossed underneath with the Tekno brand and labeled on top with the Langes name. It is important to note that this Junior typewriter does not have that Tekno embossing.
The Junior is almost completely made of metal other than a 6¼” wood platen, two cotton ink rollers and a pair of plastic platen knobs. It weighs about 2 lbs. 11 oz., stands about 2¼” tall and has about a 7¼” by 7¼” footprint. For a toy it is incredibly well built, even though the design is rather simple, with just 31 total parts. Assembly was done by either pinning or pressing pieces together, so taking the typewriter apart is virtually impossible without causing irreparable damage. The index and type are cast from one metal piece and deliver 66 characters at nine characters per inch. The type could be interchangeable, though I doubt any non-Danish versions were ever produced. To operate, the user would simply spin the index until the desired character is centered at the top and depress the spacebar. The entire carriage would then pivot forward about an inch and advance the spring-driven escapement by one increment upon returning back to its rest position. To return, you pivot the carriage forward and push right. The ink is delivered when the characters brush up against the rollers. That’s it. There is no bell, no return lever, no line space lever, no tab sets or margins… absolutely nothing else.
From the advertisement we can tell that the only deviations from the original design were the placement of the manufacturer’s logo, a larger index knob and an added index shield to protect the user from the inked characters. It would have been interesting to compare the typewriter to its original patent but unfortunately I could not locate this documentation. Known examples have either a black or red finish with a gold pinstripe.
By the mid-1950s, Langes produced diecast toy cars almost exclusively. Based on the limited advertising, the few of these Juniors that have surfaced and the fact that they are not embossed with the Tekno brand, it is probably safe to assume these typewriters were not produced beyond 1948.
As a businessman, H.H. Langes had a reputation of being untrustworthy and unscrupulous. He regularly broke contracts, failed to meet his tax obligations, and was often found on the wrong side of the law. In 1954 he divorced and in 1958 he sold his company to another competitor, The Kirk Group, but stayed on as a director. In 1962 he moved to Majorca in order to flee the law, right after Tekno bought what was left of H. Langes Legetøj A/S from The Kirk Group. The building where the factory once was at no.19 Nyrnberggade in Amager still stands.
I would like to thank toy collector Peter Frandsen who has researched Danish toys extensively, helped me translate the H. Langes Legetøj A/S history and allowed me to use his images of the inventors and advertisement.
I'm interested in locating the patent paperwork for this machine and any other ephemera as well as other typewriters (especially a red one). Email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com