1921 - 1922

The Modern Invention Corp.

New York, NY

Midwestern Tool Co.

Chicago, IL

When I first started collecting typewriters, one of the first books I bought was Thomas A. Russo's Mechanical Typewriters. Within its covers, on page 162, is where I was first exposed to it: The Namograph. And even though The Namograph was neither 100% mechanical nor a typewriter (it's more like an electric penwriter) I was still fascinated. I waited until an attractive, working example bubbled up to market and then made it mine.

The Namograph was invented by Henry Lasko. He applied for a patent in 1919 and it was issued to him in 1920 (patent no.1,354,408). By next year these were already being produced though the final product differed quite a bit from the original patent drawings. The company that first produced them was the newly formed Modern Invention Corporation. Their first offices were at 291 Broadway in New York with some sort of a factory in Yonkers. The company relocated to 1123 Broadway sometime in 1921.

The Namograph

I'm interested in acquiring more Namographs to compare the various versions. Information and ephemera is always welcome, too. Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com

Modern Inventions Corp. ran a fairly moderate advertising campaign in support of The Namograph from 1921 to 1922, but then the advertisements stopped. Personally, I just don't think this was a very successful product and the company was forced to liquidate. I speculate that Modern Inventions sold the remainder of their stock to an outfit in Chicago, the Midwestern Tool Co., which changed a few things and began selling The Namograph as their own but with little-to-no supporting ad campaign.

There are a couple significant differences between the Namographs that the two companies produced. The most obvious is the heating element that was directly behind the index was relocated to the left of it. Also, earlier Namographs were japanned while the Midwestern versions were finished in matte. 

Modern Inventions Corp. seems like an untrustworthy operation to me for two reason. First, their physical address was different on almost every advertisement. Within the two years that the company was in business its office at 1123 Broadway moved from room no.40, to no.404, no.405, no.406, no.407 and finally no.481. I may have even missed a few. Odd, yes? Second, their pricing strategy seems equally peculiar. In mid-1921 the Namograph's original advertised price was $65, which I feel was already high. Then, by mid-1922, the price shot up by more than 50% to a staggering $100. Modern Inventions Corporation offered no other product before, during or after The Namograph.

So what does The Namograph do? Well, it can engrave your name into most rubber, plastic or wood pencils, pens, toothbrushes, pipes, etc... Simply select any character from the index and press down on the top lever to impress, the carriage will advance as the lever returns up. The end result is a crude, italic-esque, all-caps impression. If the heating element were to be turned on then the characters would get seared in. Placing gold foil under the characters while the heating element is on would result in a gold typeface. The heating element takes about 15 minutes to fully warm up. The actual typing takes about 2 minutes. The entire machine weighs about 7-1/2 pound.