1889 - 1903
National Typewriter Co.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
There were no less than three different version produced of this typewriter though their differences were minimal. The most obvious differences pertain to their spacebars. The No.1 model, which is also often referred to as No.1a, was produced with a single, short spacebar. The No.2 model, often referred to as the No.1b, was produced with a single, long spacebar. Nos.1 and 2 may both be reconciled with old ads. There is also one known anomaly, the one at the top and bottom of this page, that was produced with two small spacebars. The only other differentiating characteristics among them were cosmetic and minor, such as their ribbon width. Essentially, they're all almost the same machine.
Henry Herman Unz (1857 - 1905) is the National's credited visionary though its genesis belongs with Franz Xaver Wagner (1837 - 1907) who, in 1885, patented the typewriter's curved, three-row, double-shift keyboard (patent no.326,178). Unz would expand on Wagner's keyboard design and filing for several more patents. The culmination of his work was patent no.400,146 which best reflects the National typewriter as we know it today.
National typewriter production began in 1889 in Philadelphia, PA. The original factory was at 715 - 719 Arch St. but It was later relocated to the corner of Arch St. and 23rd St. At an advertised price of $60, Nationals were almost 40% less than other blindwriters on the market.
Nationals had a front-upstrike typebar arrangement that could produce 81 characters from 29 keys. They had a double-shift mechanism that pivoted both the keyboard and type segment back and forth. Furthermore, the keyboard and type segment could be removed quickly and easily to clean or adjust the machine by simply removing 3 small screws. The overall design of this typewriter was also quite compact. For perspective, Smith-Premier typewriters were about three times larger and heavier.
The National Typewriter Co. began transitioning out of 715 - 719 Arch St. in 1893. By 1896 all production and all sales were relocated to the building at the corner of 23rd and Arch St. In 1899, the National Typewriter Co. restructured and incorporated under the State of Delaware. And finally, in 1903, the company was completely dissolved but there's little evidence of any real production or marketing past 1899.
As early as March 11, 1886, Henry Unz may have felt the pressures from other market-dominant brands such as Remington, Densmore and Smith-Premier to produce a more then-traditional typewriter. That's when he submitted to the patent office just such a design that was awarded to him on April, 12 1892 and assigned to The National Typewriter Co. (patent no.472,836). It doesn't appear that Henry pursued it any further and instead focused on the National until the company folded. He died on February 3, 1905 of acute pulmonary tuberculosis so no other typewriter were ever developed by him.
In the fall of 2019 I was tipped off about an auction in Pennsylvania Amish Country that was selling a National typewriter. I drove 6 hours one way for a chance to bid on it but when I got there I found out that there were at least 3 other phone bidders eager to steal it from underneath me. Well, I wasn't going to make the long drive home with nothing to show for it so I raised my paddle and didn't lower it until I won. In the end I'm quite pleased to have acquired the only known National with 2 spacebars which hadn't previously been documented.
Click here to see an original graphic letterhead from the National company.