1898 - 1907
Visible Typewriters Co. &
Commercial Typewriter Co.
New York, NY
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 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 - the "Visible" moniker was not yet added - in 1896. Patent no.593,789 was awarded in November of 1897 by when 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 ads 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, 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 No.5." Original price of the Commercial: $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.5s have yet been found with both sets and, because not all of the early ads have them, it is unclear if any were actually produced with both sets.
Richard William Uhlig
There were probably less than 500 produced of the Commercial No.5. Known examples have a serial number range from 70 to 345. It is unknown why it has a No.5 designation since no Nos.1 - 4 are known. See my Commercial No.5 here.
The No.6 model was officially introduced in 1901. It had a slightly wider frame and a redesigned spacebar. The ribbon spool covers were updated and the "Ribbon Shifter," the button to the front-left of the spacebar, was eliminated. The No.5's paper fingers were updated with a paper holder like that of Keystone. A celluloid paper bale / rule was added. Also added was a pen holder over the left ribbon spool so the typist could draw a straight line to type on.
In 1903 a cheaper Model A was introduced at a price of just $35 which had less features than the top-of-the-line $50 No.6. However, by 1907, the price of the No.6 was slashed to just $25. The company must've surely ceased operations shortly thereafter because there is no advertising suggesting otherwise.
The serial number range for the No.6 and A Model run between about 22,000 and 25,500.
The original name of the company was the Visible Typewriters Company, incorporated in NJ. Both the offices and factory were located at 300 Broadway in NY until 1902 when the offices were relocated, the first of several such relocations. The actual factory, however, remained at the old address. The name was changed when the company was absorbed by the Commercial Typewriter Company sometime between October 1903 and May 1904 based on old ads and ephemera. The new office address was 257 - 259 Williams St. in NY. I theorize that the reorganization of the company and resulting name change may have been nothing more than some legal wrangling at a final attempt to save a failing company. When the company was officially listed as bankrupt on March 27, 1905, it was under its original name so maybe the new company was absolved of any legal accountability.
Need an instruction manual for your No.5 or No.6? Get them here...
Questions? Comments? Have a Commercial Visible or Fountain Typewriter for sale? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com or call +1 (860) 729-2252