1919 - 1922
The Gourland Typewriter Mfg. Co.
New York, NY, US
In 1919, Michael Jacob Gourland (1879 - 19??) and his investors incorporated The Gourland Typewriter Manufacturing Company to place into production a frontstrike, four-row typewriter that was small enough to be considered a portable yet feature-heavy like a standard. They contracted inventor Charles Spiro to bring this endeavor to fruition. Spiro, an already celebrated typewriter visionary. invented the Columbia and Bar-Lock typewriters in decades prior. Several of the Gourland's patents were the work of Spiro.
The Gourland was mostly ordinary. It had four rows of keys which typed 84 characters. It weighed just 9-1/2 lbs and it was made from just 625 total parts. Again, all ordinary. Not ordinary was its flip-up carriage. This feature was common to blindwriters but the Gourland wasn't that. It was a fully visible typewriter. So why the flip-up carriage? Maybe for easy access of the escapement for techs?
An ad for the Gourland stated that it was "Non-Folding, Non-Collapsible. Therefore Stronger and more Durable." The statement was probably a swipe at the market-dominant Corona 3 folding typewriter and a move on its business. Gourlands had a "fixed" retail price of $75.
As mentioned, The Gourland Typewriter Mfg. Co. was incorporated in 1919 in NY. Stocks were offered to raise capital and ads were circulated to get out the word. The ad mentioned that a "contract has been entered into for the manufacture of 50,000 machines during the first year" and that those 50,000 machines were to be delivered in May of 1920. Well, either the company was fibbing in order to bolster its stock or a catastrophe struck the fledgling business. Nowhere near 50,000 machines were ever produced which is evident by the relatively few that have been found today. The stocks were offered by Clark Williams & Co. Mr. Clark Williams, very conveniently, also happened to be the Vice President for the Gourland company.
Previously published research speculated that the Alexander typewriter was a rebranded version of the Gourland. Personally I think it was the other way around. Inventor Jesse Alexander filed for a patent for a the Alexander in 1912 which was issued to him in 1916 (patent no.1,203,836). That predates the Gourland which looks very similar to the illustration from the Alexander patent. Also, the Gourland factory was located at 35 Ormond Place in Brooklyn, exactly where Jesse's was. Lastly, the initial stock offer for the Gourland quoted verbatim some of the language used in the Alexander patent. A known name variant of the Gourland is Wright's Speedwriter.
I should note here that there is at least one known name variant of the Gourland also call the Alexander. Its serial number place it towards the end of the Gourland production run. It looks exactly like a Gourland, just with a different name, and not like the original Alexander machine.
I was unable to find records of when or why the company was dissolved, though, in 1922, the Gourland company was sued by Stanley Works over labor disputes, so maybe it ceased production shortly thereafter. It seems like the Gourland typewriter disappeared from the scene just as quickly as it burst on.
Michael Gourland was a Russian lawyer with ties to the Soviet government. In fact, he was in the US at the request of the Soviets to oversee a "major" purchase in 1916. His original visit was to be short but his government extended it with yet another project. Gourland was not dismayed. Aside from executing those projects, he also took the opportunity "...to be able to give to Russia her first typewriter, the Gourland." As patriotic as his sentiment was, it was misinformed. Russia had already produced a typewriter. With very little mechanical know-how, if any, about how to effectively and efficiently produce a typewriter, it was an unrealistic venture for Michael Gourland to take on. However, he could have taken on such a massive challenge, in less than three years as Michael had, if there was already an existing typewriter expand on.. This further reassures my theory that Gourland typewriters were actually Alexander's, just updated.
Michael Jacob Gourland