Salter Standard No.5
1892 - 1900
George Salter & Company
West Bromwich, England, UK
The firm was officially named George Salter & Co. in 1825 though its roots can be traced back to as early as 1760 when it was producing springs and balances from a cottage in Bilston, England. There were several family members named George Salter that ran the company through its first 150+ years of business, but it was the last George Salter (1856 - 1917) that, in 1892, greenlit the production of England's first commercially produced typewriter. With its curved keyboard, The Salter Standard No.5 is simply exquisite.
The decision was made in 1770 to relocate and upgrade the factory from the old Bilston cottage to a factory at 144 High Street in West Bromwich, England. George Salter & Co. were very successful, and not solely because of typewriters, so in 1936 the firm expanded and erecting a five story building directly across the street. The new factory would be the tallest building in town. Unfortunately it was torn down in 2013. At some point the original factory was also demolished.
The inventor of the Salter typewriter was James Samuel Foley (1857 - 191?), who filed for its patent in 1892 (patent no.511,416). The typewriter's key features included a curved, three-row keyboard and a curved, front-dowstrike typebar arrangement. It had 28 keys that could produce up to 84 characters. Early No.5 models used a pad for inking while the later "Improved" No.5s used ribbon. Though his name isn't on the original patent, John Henry Birch (1855 - 191?) is listed in several typewriter books as being co-inventor of the Salter. I think that is questionable. The earliest typewriter related patent I've found with his name on it dates to 1900 (patent no.682,248).
National pride may have helped ensure the success of Salter. The image on the postcard is of John Bull, a fictional personification of British nationalism, declaring the values of "the Only Standard Typewriter Makers in Great Britain" while taking a jab at "Yankee" (American made) typewriters. But as the advertisement below dating to 1896 indicates, Salters were still dependent on American parts. Nationalism aside, they were some of the better built typewriters anywhere at the time
In 1900, the No.6 replaced the No.5 and the Salter's most striking feature, its curved keyboard, was eliminated. It is believed that the No.5 was the first to have been made by Salter, which is to say that there were no models 1 - 4, however, a 1907 article states that, "Succeeding models followed from the No.1 to the latest and most effective writing instrument in the No.7; but hitherto the best known forms of the Salter have been the Nos. 5 and 6..." So, did the writer of the article fabricate the earlier models or were they actually produced? If they were produced then where are they now?
The company also produced bathroom and baby scales, irons, potato chippers, pressure gauges, coin operated machines, etc...
After the No.6 came Nos.7 & 10, ca.1907 & 1910. They were overall very similar to each other but even further departures from the No.5. The Salter Visible came to market ca.1919. The Visible was the only typewriter that the company made with a four-row keyboard. All typewriter production ended in 1923.
Salter No.5s were marketed in direct competition with standard typewriters manufactured by the likes of Remington but priced "at about half or one-third." Salters were also rebranded for other markets. Such rebranded examples include the Rapide, Salter-Perfect, Royal-Express and Birch.
The company is still in business to this day. It survived acquisitions, mergers and splits. The name of the current company is Salter Housewares and you may still buy one of their scales at your local department store if like.