Edison

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 proved lucrative for both parties. The Edison was actually made 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 functions 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 1897 (patent no.545,403), tells us that the inventor was A.B. Dick, not Edison. There was absolutely no mention of Edison anywhere. The 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 works out for Edison because the typewriter was a commercial disaster. By disassociating himself from the typewriter he is left with a much better legacy. In fact, there is already a healthy debate about Edison and if he borrowed too much from Tesla so there is no need to add the typewriter into the mix. 

The typewriter was a failure because it was an index, upstrike machine when frontstrike typewriters with keyboards were already coming to market. It failed because it typed only 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). It failed because most other typewriters were already better at cutting out stencils for the mimeograph. Lastly, it failed because other typewriter manufacturers were pressuring retailers to either stop selling the Edison or thy would pull their more established brands.

Over the few short years that the Edison Mimeograph Typewriter was produced there were at least 3 different models offered for sale. There was the Edison No.1 model that typed 78 various characters. Then there was the No.2 model that had a wider carriage and could type 86 various characters. 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.

Maybe you have an Edison typewriter that you're tired of looking at. Or maybe you found one at an estate sale and need to find it a good home. Well, you're in luck! I'm your guy. Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com