1893 - 1895
Gardner Writing Machine Co., Ltd
The image below dates to 1888. It is of a 25-year-old, British-born John Gardner (1863 - 1928) operating the curved, two-row keyboard of a Crandall typewriter. The influence of that Crandall on John and on his own typewriter, the Gardner, is quite evident in the use of a vertical type sleeve for print application, but that is the extent of the similarities. The Gardner truly was one of the more unique typewriters to have been produced commercially.
On May 27, 1889, the year after John posed with that Crandall, he was awarded a patent in Great Britain for the Gardner. And on November 24, 1891, US patent no.463,859 was awarded, but no company was yet established. It wasn't until December of 1893 that the Gardner Writing Machine Co., Ltd was on the books. Its main offices were located on Carr St. in Blackfriars, Manchester. The company's factory was at 19 Cross St., also in Manchester.
Type sleeve aside, the Gardner, specifically the keyboard, really had no equal. With just 13 keys on the 1st model, 14 later, each key was able to produce a staggering 6 unique characters. The user would have to manipulate the keyboard, spacebar and double-shift, often in unison with both hands, just to print a single characters, then do the same for each subsequent one. It was a truly overly-complicated and maddening system.
Though the Gardner was priced competitively at £8 8s., about $40, it did not sell well. On July 11, 1895, because the company held too much liability, it ceased operations. The Gardner British Typewriter Co., Ltd, which may have been the marketing arm of the business, also ceased that day. A French version, La Victorieuse, was offered briefly in 1893 by bicycle manufacturer Charles Terrot of Dijon.
The Gardner did manage to find other manufacturers, but in Germany, willing to take a chance with it. In Fulda, Fuldaer Schreibmaschinen-fabrik Carl Lipp was the 1st. The other, which took over in 1899, was Atilla Fahrrad Werke, AG of Dresden. It was rebranded as the Victoria for German markets and sold for 250 Marks. Ultimately the typewriter just too awkward of a design and too clumsy to operate. All production halted in 1900. Permanently.
On Richard Polt's website, collector Berthold Kerschbaumer provides the only insight that I've been able to locate on the various versions of this typewriter. He states that:
Gardner Model I: 13 keys
Gardner Model II: 14 keys
Victoria Model I: like Gardner Model II
Victoria Model II: 2 shift keys added to keyboard
I would add that the Victorieuse, is like the Gardner II. A rubber feed roller was used in lieu of the rear-mounted hammer beginning with the Victoria Model I. Shift keys may be found either at the left side or at the rear of the Victoria Model II keyboard but it is unclear which came first.
Have a Gardner, Victoria or Victorieuse Typewriter for sale? Please contact me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com or +1 (860) 729-2252