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Royal Standard No.5 Typewriter

Royal "Flatbed"

1906 - 1914

Royal Typewriter Company

Brooklyn, New York, US

Hartford, Connecticut, US


As far as Royal typewriters go, this Royal Standard (a.k.a. the Flatbed) is as interesting a design as the company ever produced. They were made over the course of about a dozen years which yielded over 200,000 machines. For perspective, about 17,000 Lamberts were manufactured which is less than 10% of all Flatbeds.

Royal was incorporated on January 26, 1904 by two men: inventors Edward Bernard Hess (1857 - 1941) and Lewis Cary Myers (1867 - 1951). In 1905 the two men had a working prototype and the much needed financial support of a major investor. Magnate Thomas Fortune Ryan (1851 - 1928) was that investor. During the following year Royal was producing the Flatbed model concurrently with its top-of-the-line and short-lived Royal Grand from within the top two floors of a Brooklyn factory. Since limited space meant business was operating at limited capacity, 5-1/4 acres were purchased in the West End of Hartford, CT where a new factory was to be erected. Production transitioned completely out of Brooklyn in the winter of 1907/08 as the first wing of the new Hartford factory was completed. The era of mass production of the Flatbed was nigh.

Edward Bernard Hess

Edward Bernard Hess

Lewis Cary Myers

Lewis Cary Myers

Thomas Fortune Ryan

Thomas Fortune Ryan

Royal Typewriter Factory in Brooklyn, New York
Future Site of Royal Typewriter Factory in Hartford, Connecticut
Royal Standard Typewriter Patent

It was in May of 1901 that Hess filed for the first patent for what would eventually be the Flatbed (patent no.679,673). There would be several more patents to come since the inventor preferred to patent each individual mechanism as it was developed rather than as a single complete version. With the Flatbed, Hess ventured to produce a portable typewriter that was as functional as a large desktop model. Yes, the Flatbed was more portable than its 35 pound counterparts and significantly more functional that the ultra-lightweight Blicks, but at 20+ lbs. it was still a beast of a machine. It was actually the light touch of the keyboard that made it a success. The Flatbed's typebars would accelerate exponentially as the keys were depressed. 

Royal Flatbed Typewriter Postcard
Thomas Fortune Ryan
Allen Aloysius Ryan

Flatbeds were frontstrike, single-shift typewriters with four rows of keys. The very first examples were labeled with an 'R' on the sides. Later models spelled out the Royal name and had the No.1 stenciled on the front. Model Nos.2, 3 and 4 were simply No.1s with extended carriages. The No.5 first appeared in 1911 with the same flat design but with the addition of a tabulator, paper fingers, two color ribbon and a backspace key. Nos.6, 7, and 8s were No.5s with extended carriages. The flat design of these machines was an attempt at producing a visible writing experience for the typist without obstruction of the platen. The stepped panels are a superficial design element without any practical purpose. Though the keyboard looks awkward as a result of the stepped panels it is actually as comfortable as any other typewriter's.

There's no doubt that the Royal Typewriter Co. wouldn't have swelled into the juggernaut it was without the continued financial backing of Thomas Fortune Ryan. Ryan's initial investment of $220,000 (nearly $5.5 million in today's money) was a drop in the bucket to him. He was worth $155 million when he died (over $2 billion in today). That initial investment cane with stipulations, though: Ryan was to receive full financial control, Hess was relegated to be vice-president and answered to Ryan's eldest son, Allen Aloysius Ryan (1880 - 1940), who would be president.

Royal Standard Typewriter Rendering
Royal Standard Typewriter Ad
Royal Typewriter Co. v. Union Typewriter Co.
Royal Standard No.5 Typewriter

In 1907, almost as soon as the Flatbeds began entering the marketplace at $65 each, Remington and the Union Typewriter Co. (a.k.a. the Typewriter Trust) waged a legal battle against Royal. It wasn't just that the Flatbeds cost $35 less than The Trust's standard typewriters, but because Royal's marketing campaign exposed the actual cost of making a single typewriter to be just $28 or less. Royal's attempt to "educate the public" upset the Trust. Thus far, the Trust had within its union nearly all the important manufacturers (except for Hammond and Underwood) and had fixed the price to $100 per typewriter for almost 30 years. With its deep coffers the Trust ruined or absorbed many companies with baseless law suits and litigation if it felt threatened. However, Royal's president had "...the full financial support of his father, Thomas F. Ryan, and the latter's associates..." These associated included Solomon Robert Guggenheim (1861 - 1949), Philip Tell Dodge (1851 - 1931) and John Daniel Crimmins (1844 - 1917), among others. These were some of the richest, most powerful men in the world with which the Trust waged a losing war.

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