1903 -1932

Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG)

Berlin, Germany

Friedrich Heinrich Philipp Franz von Hefner-Alteneck (1845 - 1904) and Louis Sell share in the development and commercial success of the Mignon (patent no.914,272) while German-based AEG produced the typewriter. AEG was one of those giant umbrella corporations with subsidiaries that manufactured everything from hair dryers, to electric motors, to steam turbines and eventually typewriters.. When AEG began manufacturing typewriters it formed a new subsidiary company to distribute them, Union Schreibmaschine-Gesellschaft.

The success of the Mignon is truly vexing. It was developed at a time when frontstrike typewriter were becoming the norm. One would think that a company with as much insight in industrial design as AEG would have never green-lit a machine so peculiar at such a seemingly wrong time. So it is particularly interesting that, not only was the typewriter developed, but it was produced... a lot. Several hundred-thousand of these were manufactured between four different models over about 30 years. The Mignon was rebranded for sale in other countries, too, as the Heady, GeniaYu-Ess, Special and Plurotyp. In Czechoslovakia it was redesigned with the controls and index card on the opposite sides with the name Tip Tip.

The Mignon is obviously not a frontstrike typewriter. It's an index typewriter that utilizes a vertical typesleeve similar to that of a Crandall. The typesleeve reacts accordingly when the pointer is moved over the index card. Once the pointer is over a desired character the typist need only strike a single lever to print. This may all seem cumbersome though an experienced typist could work the machine as fast as a traditional typewriter.

Fact is, very few index typewriters were as well built as the Mignon and none at all were nearly as successful. But why? First, the Mignon is surefooted like a standard typewriter. Second, it has a full-size platen and a carriage escapement just like a standard typewriter. Third, it has a ribbon mechanism, like, you guessed it, a standard typewriter. Other index machines were unstable and almost too fragile to use, they had smaller platens, mechanically inferior escapements and messy inking systems.

Lots of Mignons were made so they aren't rare. Colored examples (like red) and ones with a bi-directional carriage are fun. The No.1 model is hardest to find and the one I covet most.

Mignon

Have a model No.1 or No.2 for sale? Or maybe an electrified prototype? Please mail me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com

Fun fact: Mignons were originally to be electric typewriters.