1890 - 1894

Odell Type Writer Company

Chicago, IL, US

The Odell seen here is a No.2 though most Odells look similar. Nos.1B & 2 models were at one point advertised and sold concurrently. The No.1 was sold for $15 and only typed uppercase while the $20 No.2 typed both upper and lowercase. The design on the base of the No.1B was of primitively inspired dashes, zig-zags and dots with a gold finish. The No.2 had a more Art Nouveau design with significantly less gold finish. A true No.1 Odell has no round base but, rather, a slender body running parallel with the platen and a pair of seal-like feet extended outwards under both ends the carriage.

As odd as these typewriters seem, they had their benefits. First was the price. At 1/5 the cost of larger machines, Odells were more appealing to a broader demographic. Second was ease of use. "No previous knowledge of typewriting necessary," read a tagline that was used to make the Odell more appealing by painting the larger typewriters unnecessarily complex. Lastly, portability. They were small enough to take anywhere without hesitation.

Levi Judson Odell (1855 - 1919) was the inventor of these handsome typewriters. He first applied for a patent specifically for the No.1B model in 1888. That patent was later issued in October of 1890 (patent no.437,791). Yet, before Levi was even awarded that patent he had filed for another on March of 1890 which added a pivoting "finger-plate" to accommodate for upper/lowercase type. The later patent was issued in 1891 (patent no.457,840).

Odell No.2

Odells are referred to as linear index typewriters, which means they employ a type-rail that slides along the index. To use, one would move the indicator until it reaches the desired character along the index, pivot the finger-plate for uppercase if needed, then simply press on the lever next to the carriage. The type-rail will then lower and type the character while a spring loaded mechanism advances the carriage. The type-rail will then once again return to the rest position. A roller under the type-rail applies ink to the characters as they pass over it. Odell No.2's were capable of typing 78 different characters at a purported 60 words per minute.

Odells were first made in Lake Geneva, WI and he No.1 models are labeled as such. Soon after, the company relocated to Chicago, IL, which is where the No.2's were produced. Though a successful brand, Odells never found a permanent factory to call home. They were manufactured in at least a half dozen various locations. The image of the building on this pages was once the Odell factory located at 529 Main Street in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

See an original diagram of an Odell No.4 broken down by price-per-part here. It's really cool, I promise.

Have an Odell for sale? Maybe a photo of Levi Odell or one of the other factories? Comments? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com