Wellington Parker Kidder (1853 - 1924) was the inventor of this front-downstrike typewriter. He applied for its first patent in 1889 (patent, no.464,504) which was awarded in 1891 and assigned to the Tilton Manufacturing Company of Boston, Massachusetts. By 1891, however, Kidder had already moved on from the Franklin to his next project, the Wellington typewriter, one of the most influential designs in typewriter history. Kidder would later also invent The Noiseless typewriter and the ever-elusive Rochester typewriter. The Franklin Typewriter Company relinquished all manufacturing to Tilton upon Kidder's departure.
Back to the typewriters. Franklins were considered partial-visible typewriters which meant that the typist could see only part of their composition while typing (after they leaned over that tall, front shield). The Tilton company successfully marketed them with about 20,000 machines having been produced among the various models. Franklins were priced competitively between $60 to $75. Eventually the Victor Typewriter Company, which also produced the Victor index typewriter, took over the Franklin business from Tilton but stopped producing it shortly thereafter.
1891 - 1907
Franklin Typewriter Co.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Everyone remembers the first time they've marveled at a Franklin typewriter as it sat seductively in front of them. Why is that? Maybe it's the captivating curve of the three-row keyboard. Or maybe it's the shield that stands tall like a sentry protecting the typebars behind it. Or maybe it's the fantastic decal with Benjamin Franklin's likeness that's present on the paper table of some models. Whatever the reason, Franklin typewriters are a favorite for both fledgling and seasoned collectors.
Wellington Parker Kidder
The typewriter community as a whole has accepted that there were five various models produced:
Type I is easily distinguishable with the name "THE FRANKLIN" in all caps written on a banner that scrolls across the front shield.
Type II models read "The Franklin" in Old English font on the front shield.
Type III read "New Franklin" on the shield in Roman font. Also, the slogan "Perfection the Aim of Invention" appears on some paper tables.
Type IV are clearly labeled with Nos.7 or 8 (40 or 42 keys) under the keyboard. They read "Franklin" in script on their shields.
Type V are clearly labeled as Nos.9 or 10 (40 or 42 keys) under the keyboard. These are the only models with ribbon spools off to the sides rather than at the center of the platen.
I should note that there is known overlap of some minor features as one Franklin model was phased out and another phased in.
A straight-keyboard Franklin was in the works in 1906. The concept was scrapped once the Victor Typewriter Company took over operations, but wouldn't that be exciting to find tucked away in an attic somewhere!
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