1892 - 1900

George Salter & Company

West Bromwich, England, UK

 

The firm was officially named George Salter & Company in 1825 but its roots can be traced all the way back to 1760 when it began making springs and balances from a cottage in Bilston, England. There were several family members named George Salter that ran the company through the 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 inventor of the Salter typewriter was James Samuel Foley (1857 - 191?), who filed for a patent in 1892 (patent no.511,416). Its key features included a curved, three-row keyboard and a curved, front-dowstrike typebar arrangement. The typewriter had 28 keys that could have typed up to 84 characters. Early Salter No.5 models used a pad for inking while the later Improved No.5s used ribbons. 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). 

I'm interested in Salter typewriters, possible prototypes or any of the rebranded models. Please feel free to contact me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com

Other items produced by the company included bathroom scales, baby scales, irons, potato chippers, pressure gauges, roller bearings, coin operated machines, etc... 

In 1770, the decision was made to relocate and upgrade the factory from the old Bilston cottage to a factory at 144 High Street in West Bromwich, England. George Salter & Company were very successful, and not solely because of typewriters, so in 1936 the firm expanded by 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.

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, these British made Salter typewriters were still dependent on American steel type. Nationalism aside, Salters were some of the better built typewriters anywhere during anytime.

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 model is actually the first to have been made by Salter, which is to say that there were no model Nos.1 - 4. However, a 1907 periodical 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 were they just prototypes? 

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 RapideSalter-Perfect, Royal-Express and Birch.

Salter Standard

No.5

After the No.6 came Nos.7 & 10, ca.1907 & 1910, which were overall very similar to each other but even further departures from the No.5. That should be expected of any company that's evolving. The Salter Visible came to market ca.1919, that's when ads started populating various periodicals. The Visible was the only typewriter that the company made with a four-row keyboard. The company ended all typewriter production in 1923.

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.