Universal Simplex Typewriter

1887 - 1888

Universal Simplex Type-Writer, Limited

London, England, U.K.

"'The simplest and cheapest type-writer in the market.' -Times." That was a pseudo-review published in several U.K. papers between 1887 and 1888. I write pseudo because this review, and others, was most likely concocted by the typewriter company itself. It was also one of the more honest reviews of a typewriter ever, pseudo or not, because the Universal Simplex was actually simple in construction and in use. At £10s 6d (roughly $2.99 in 1890), it was very, very cheap, too.

This Simplex was constructed completely of brass mounted to an oak base with an India rubber typewheel and a fabric ink roller. It measured just 11" long by 2" wide by 4" tall and it weighed less than 1 lb. in its entirety. To type, the user would select a character by spinning the typewheel to the desired character using the rear knob and then pushing the knob down to print on a flat sheet of paper. To advance the carriage, the user would have to manually advance the carriage by one increment with the lever next to the gear-toothed rack. The characters were inked as they passed under the ink roller.

In the U.K., this typewriter was covered by Royal Letters Patent no.14,700, issued November 13, 1886. This was nothing more than a patent to cover the design in the U.K. because the original patentee-inventors were George Humphrey Herrington and David G. Millison of Wichita, Kansas. U.S. patent no.299.785 was issued to them in 1884 under which they produced The Herrington typewriter. Though thus far there is no known link between the Herrington and Universal Simplex, the similarities are glaring. 

From the company's prospectus, we know that the Universal Simplex Type-Writer, Limited, which was located at 56 Victoria St. in London, distributed the typewriter throughout the U.K. and Ireland via established "Booksellers, Drapers Fancy Dealers, Ironmongers, Sewing Machine Dealers, Stationers." The prospectus also states that "The Company does not propose to directly enter into the manufacture of these Machines." One has to wonder if the actual manufacturer was the same that was producing the Herrington.

The Universal Type-Writer, Limited entered into contract to sell its typewriters on March 25, 1887. The company had expectations of 150,000 typewriter being sold in the next 12 months. These expectations were undoubtedly deliberately false in order to attract naive investors. The last advertisement I found from the company was published in The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post on August 7, 1888. There's a very strong probability that the company ceased to be shortly thereafter.

Questions? Comments? Have a Universal Simplex or Herrington that you would like to sell? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com