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Oliver No.1 Typewriter

It is believed that inventor Thomas Oliver (1852 - 1909) ventured to produce a writing machine so the sermons he composed were more legible. So, after developing a working model, the next step was to find investors. He found these investors in Iowa which was where his home was at the time (Oliver was Canadian born). The investors were instrumental with helping establish the Oliver but eventually they sold their share to a Chicago businessman. As a result, the fledgling company was relocated to Illinois.

Oliver Typewriter Factory
Oliver Typewriter Factory


1895 - 1928

Oliver Typewriter Co.

Chicago, Il, US


Olivers were first produced in 1894 in the U.S., and for the next 30+ years, until a British company bought the brand in 1928. During that first forty years, while it was a U.S. company, and even for a few decades as a British company, the Oliver's iconic form was basically unchanged. And even though the first patent for the Oliver (patent no.450,107) was filed in 1890, the design still required more refining. Not until patent no.528,484 was issued in 1892 did it begin to reflect the Olivers we recognize today. The typewriter that was created would arguably be the most recognizable in history.

Reverend Thomas Oliver

Oliver typewriters were developed with a three-row keyboard and an easily identifiable pair of erect spires that housed the inverted u-shaped typebars. The typebar arrangement made the Oliver a partially visible typewriter. Since it would be years before Underwoods and Royals were available, which were fully visible typewriters, the Oliver was thus quite innovative at the time. Again, on the Oliver, visibility of the composition was partial and limited to just a few inches in the center of the platen making.

Ironically, the design that made the brand so successful would eventually also be its undoing. Single-shift, four-row keyboards eventually became the standard and in order to add a fourth row of keys on an Oliver the manufacturers would have to add more key levers and more u-shaped typebars. That would translate to even taller spires and more added weight to an already very heavy machine. There were attempts to make a more conventional Oliver while under British ownership but these efforts fell short.

  • Oliver No.1 - Nickle plated frame with handles on the side. Handles were flush with the surface (see top image). Very thin base. Oliver name plates mounted to profiles.

  • Oliver No.2 - The handles were raised and the typewriter was labeled as a No.2 on the paper table. Available in olive green or nickel plated. Thicker base than the No.1. Oliver name plates mounted to profiles.

  • Oliver No.3 - Labeled as a No.3 below keyboard. Olive green finish becomes the standard. The base is thicker than the No.2. Oliver name plates mounted to profiles.

  • Oliver No.4 - Identical to the No.3 but made for foreign markets. Oliver name plates mounted to profiles.

  • Oliver No.5 - The frame is noticeably different from the previous models and fully enclosed. The Oliver name plates at the profiles have been eliminated from here on.

  • Oliver No.6 - Identical to the No.5 model but made for foreign markets.

  • Oliver No.7 - Larger frame than the previous models with a thicker and wider base.

  • Oliver No.8 - Identical to the No.7 model but made for foreign markets.

  • Oliver No.9 - By far the most common Oliver. It is nearly identical to the No.7.

  • Oliver No.10 - Identical to the No.9 model but made for foreign markets.

  • Oliver No.L10 - Identical to Nos.9 & 10 but with a nickel plated finish.

  • Oliver No.11 - The olive green was replaced with a black enamel & gold pinstripes. The base has two cutouts on the sides for handling which eliminated the handles.

  • Oliver No.12 - Identical to the No.11 model but made for foreign markets.

  • Oliver No.L12 - Identical to Nos.9 & 10 models but with a  nickel plated.

Some Olivers, primarily model Nos.2 & 3, were rebranded for foreign markets. They had the same distinctive form but their nameplates read Courier, Stolzenberg, Jwic, Fiver, or Revilo. There may be others that I'm unaware of as of yet. The No.2 was also rebranded as the Woodstock for Sears & Roebuck and its nameplates read Woodstock. Lastly, some Olivers were produced in Canada which are contemporarily named the Canadian Oliver.

Click here to see an original Oliver No.1 letterhead.

Need an instruction manual. Get it here...


I'm interested in buying an Oliver No.1 or the Woodstock-Oliver. Please mail me at or call +1 860 729 2252

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