This Simplex Universal was constructed completely of brass with an India rubber typewheel and a fabric ink roller. All of which was mounted to an oak base. The typewriter 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 spin the typewheel to the desired character using the rear knob and then push down on the knob to print on a flat-laying sheet of paper. The characters were inked as they passed under the ink roller atop. Advancing the carriage was done manually one increment at a time using the lever next to the gear-toothed rack.
The Herrington Typewriter
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 about the Universal Simplex between 1887 and 1888. I write pseudo because this review and others like it were 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 simple in construction and in use. And at just £10s 6d (roughly $2.99 in 1890), it was very, very cheap, too.
In the UK, 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 UK because the original patentee-inventors were George Humphrey Herrington and David G. Millison of Wichita, Kansas. US 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 produced 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 advertisements I found from the company were 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.