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 would ever produce. Why, though, would countless typewriter geeks (that's a term of endearment) call the Flatbed a flop vexes me. This design was produced over the course of about a dozen years which yielded over 200,000 machines. For perspective, about 17,000 Lamberts were manufactured, less than 10% of all total Flatbeds, and the Lambert has been referred to as a marketable success.

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 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. Limited space meant business was operating at limited capacity, so 5-1/4 acres were purchased in the West End of Hartford, Connecticut where a new factory was to be erected. Production was transitioned completely out of Brooklyn in the winter of 1907/08 as the first wing of the new Hartford factory was completed. The time of mass producing the Flatbed was nigh.

Flatbeds are 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 an extended carriage. 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, again, simply No.5s with an 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.

It was in May of 1901 that E.B. Hess filed 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, E.B. 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+ pounds 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. 

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. T.F. Ryan's initial investment of $220,000 (nearly $5.5 million in today's money) was a drop in the bucket for the tobacco/coal/ insurance/transportation millionaire who was worth $155 million when he died (over $2 billion in today). That initial investment cane with stipulations, though: T.F. Ryan was to receive full financial control, E.B. Hess was to be vice-president and answering to T.F. Ryan's eldest son, Allen Aloysius Ryan (1880 - 1940), who would be president.

In 1907, almost as soon as the Flatbeds began entering the marketplace at $65 each. Remington and The Union Typewriter Company (a.k.a. The Typewriter Trust) waged a legal battle versus Royal. It wasn't just that the Flatbeds cost $35 less than The Trusts'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 because, 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. Unlike smaller companies, though, 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.

All the key players of Royal's early history are well documented except for Lewis Cary Myers. So what of Myers? We know he and E.B. Hess came from the Century Machine Company and founded Royal in 1904. Decades later Myers filed several patents for Royal as head of the design department but what of those middle years? Please contact me if you are a descendant of Myers or can fill in the blanks.

 

Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com

Royal "Flatbed"