1898 - 1907
Visible Typewriters Co. &
Commercial Typewriter Co.
New York, New York
The Commercial Visible has been described as one of the sexiest and most feminine typewriters ever produced because of its thin-waisted, hourglass figure. The person responsible for its design was Richard William Uhlig (1860 - 1937). Though Uhlig would eventually become one of the most plenteous of typewriter inventors, this Commercial Visible was his first. And even though it may not be the rarest, it is arguably his most stunning.
Uhlig first applied for a patent for the Commercial Visible in 1896. Patent no.593,789 would be awarded in November of 1897 and, by 1897, some production models were already available to the public. Yet more patents were awarded to Uhlig for the typewriter as he perfected it in the coming years. Obviously, based on the original 1897 patent drawing, significant differences were implemented from concept to production model. The most notable of these differences were the keyboard and ribbon orientation.
Some of the first examples of these typewriters showed up in advertisements dated to late 1898. At that time they were sold as "The Fountain No.1 Typewriter," priced at $35, and named with its "sole agent" in mind which was the Siegel Cooper Co., a multistory department store located on 6th Ave. in New York. Located within the store was a grand water fountain which was part of the company's slogan, "Meet Me at the Fountain." Collector Peter Wiel has documented proof that at about the same time that The Fountain was advertised, so too was its counterpart, the "Commercial Visible No.5." Original price of the Commercial Visible: $40.
Note that the illustration of the No.5 on this page has a set of CAP/FIG keys on the left and right sides of the keyboard. No No.5's have yet been found with both sets and, because not all of the early ads have both sets, it is unclear if any were actually produced with both.
The No.6 model was officially introduced in 1906. It had a slightly wider front frame and longer spacebar from its predecessor. The Margin Release key was moved from the front of the typewriter to the right side of the keyboard and the paper bale was also altered. Furthermore, a pen holder was added over the left ribbon spool so the typist could draw a straight line to type on if he or she wanted to. A celluloid rule over the paper table was also added.
The original name of the company was the Visible Typewriters Company, incorporated in New Jersey. Both the offices and factory were located at 300 Broadway in N.Y. until 1902 which was when the offices were relocated, for the first of several times, though the factory remained at the old address. The name remained until the company and tooling were received by the Commercial Typewriter Company sometime between October 1903 and May 1904 based on old ads and ephemera. The new offices address was 257 - 259 Williams St. in NY. I believe the selling of the company and name change may have been nothing more than a final attempt at saving a failing company from bankruptcy because, when the company was officially listed as bankrupt on March 27, 1905, it was under its original name.
In 1903 a Model A was introduced with a sale price of $35. With less features than the No.6, which was priced for $50, the Model A was the cheaper alternative. By 1907 the price had been slashed to just $25 for the No.6 and the company must have surely ceased operations shortly thereafter because there is no advertising suggesting otherwise.
Need an instruction manual for your No.5? Get here...
Questions? Comments? Have a Commercial Visible or Fountain that you would like to sell? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com