1881 - 1898
Hall Type-Write Co. & National Type-Writer Co.
Brooklyn, New York, US
Salem, Massachusetts, US
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Inventor Thomas Hall (1834 - 1911) claimed he had invented a typewriter as early as 1867 though circumstances prevented him from further developing it. As a result, it wasn't until the 1881 that the index typewriter on this page was first finally introduced (patent no.238,387). The Hall consisted of "hardly one-tenth the parts" of its competition, which made it a very portable 7lbs. and measured just 14" by 7-1/2" by 2" within its case. Halls hold the distinction of being the first index typewriter to have been successfully produced commercially. As odd as it may seem today, in an era when keyboards were a strange new technology, the Hall filled a need.
Halls are divided into three models more-or-less based on where they were manufactured. A nameplate can be found on the top of each model and on the front of their cases indicating these very designations. The first Hall, the New York Hall, was produced in Brooklyn, NY by the Hall Type-Writer Company, ca.1881. It was the only model that had a nickel plated top plate (the two later models both had steel top plates). The second Hall, the Salem Hall, was produced in Salem, MA and was made by the Hall Type-Writer Company, ca.1887. The last of these models was produced in Boston, MA by the National Type-Writer Company, ca.1889. With Halls, more so than with most other typewriters, the case is integral to its functionality.
Available accessories for the Halls included an attachment and pointer for a secondary legend (as seen on the example at the top of this page) and rubber type plates with various typefaces which were made to be easily interchangeable. The cases were available in a bevy of finishes such as "...ebonized, mahogany, rosewood, bird's-eye maple, sealskin, leather, etc..."
All Halls work in roughly the same manner. The user would move the pointer with one hand to the desired character then press down on the pointer to print. Within the typewriter, under the top plate, rests the rubber type. I've found that a user could use a Hall with just one had, the right, whereas most other typewriters, index or otherwise, require both.
Typing on an index typewriter was well received within the industry's early years for a couple key reasons. The first was value. Halls, at just $40, cost less than half of a Remington standard typewriter did. Some very inferior index typewriters cost as little as $1. The second reason was ease of use because society as a whole hadn't quite learned how to maneuver the keyboard, a new innovation at the time.
Index typewriters eventually fell out of favor because, as society began to master the keyboard, they were rendered too slow and too cumbersome. For example, a typist using a keyboard, like that of Remington, could be expected to produce about 65 words per minute, or more. The Hall was limited to just 35 words per minute, max, no matter the skill level of the typist.
Thomas Hall made one last attempt to improve upon the design of the Hall when, in 1891, he created the Century. Unfortunately for Thomas it was a huge failure.
See an original graphic letterhead of the Hall typewriter and an accompanying type sample here...