1892 - 1897
A.B. Dick Company
Chicago, Illinois, US
Albert Blake Dick (1856 - 1934), founder and namesake of the A.B. Dick Company, licensed the Edison Mimeograph from Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1831) so he could distribute it through his office supply business. This licensing agreement was not lucrative for either party. The Edison was designed specifically to cut stencils out of wax paper for Edison's mimeograph machines. Aside from being a good stencil cutting machine, as a bonus, it was supposed to be a good typewriter, too. The problem was that the Edison was bad at both and a nightmare to operate. Its pedigree alone wasn't enough to make it a success.
Most Edison historians, biographers and collectors pay no mind to this typewriter, and rightfully so. The patent, which was filed in 1893 and issued in 1895 (patent no.545,403), tells us that the inventor was A.B. Dick, not Edison. There is absolutely no mention of Edison anywhere. His name on the typewriter is merely in reference to the mimeograph it is meant to support. In other words, it is a typewriter for the Edison mimeograph. This worked out for Edison because the typewriter was a commercial disaster. By disassociating himself from the typewriter he was left with a much better legacy. There is already a healthy debate about Edison and whether he borrowed too much from Tesla so there is no need to add this typewriter to the mix.
Albert B. Dick
Thomas A. Edison
The Edison typewriter was in part a failure because it was an index, upstrike machine when frontstrike typewriters with keyboards were already coming to market. It also failed because it typed just 30 words per minute while other typewriters were able to produce 80 or more (see advertisement below that actually points out the typewriter's lack of speed). And it failed because most other typewriters were already better at cutting stencils for mimeographs. Lastly, it failed because other typewriter manufacturers were pressuring retailers to either stop selling the Edison or they would pull their more established brands.
During the few short years that the Edison Mimeograph Typewriter was marketed there were at least 3 different models produced. There was the Edison No.1 model that typed 78 various characters. The No.2 model that had a wider carriage and could type 86 various characters. And, lastly, the No.3, which offered 88 various characters to satisfy French and German markets and anyone that had a need for special characters, like engineers or druggists. The price for a No.1 was advertised at $22 while the other two models were $25. There was also a modified version named Todd's Improved Mimeograph Typewriter for the Blind.
Click here to see an original Edison Mimeograph Typewriter letterhead.
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