Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Oliver Typewriter Co

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1929. British Industries Fair catalogue.
1899. The Oliver Typewriter.
Oliver No 1. Produced from 1894. Exhibit At Beck Isle Museum.
Oliver No 5. Exhibit at the Museum of Bath at Work‎.
Oliver No 5.
1917. Oliver No 15. Exhibit at the Musee Automobile de Vendee.
Oliver No 9.
Oliver No 9.
British Oliver.

of 75 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4. Telephone: Central 7086 (6 lines). Cables: "Visibility, Cent, London". (1929)

of Victory Works, 80 Gloucester Road, Croydon, Surrey. Telephone: Thornton Heath, 4291 (4 lines). Cables: "Britoliver, Croydon". (1947)

1852 Thomas Oliver was born in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, on 1 August. Having become interested in religion, he moved to Monticello, Iowa, after the death of his mother, to serve as a Methodist minister. During that time he designed and developed his first typewriter, made from strips of tin cans, as a means of producing more legible sermons.

1891 He was awarded his first typewriter patent, on 7 April. Oliver resigned his ministry and moved to Epworth, Iowa, where he found investors willing to provide capital, and leased a building in which to manufacture his machines.

While visiting Chicago to promote the machine, Oliver encountered businessman Delavan Smith, who became interested in the typewriter and bought the stock held by the Iowa investors. Oliver was given a 65% interest in the company and retained to continue development of the typewriter, at an annual salary of $3,000.

1895 The Oliver Typewriter Co had begun operating with its headquarters on the ninth floor of a building in Chicago.

1896 Manufacturing moved from Iowa to Woodstock, Illinois, when the City donated a vacant factory on the condition that the Oliver Typewriter Company remain there at least five years. Manufacturing was divided into six departments: type bar, carriage, assembly, tabulators and adjustment, inspection, and an aligning room. The company's headquarters moved to the Oliver Building when it was completed in 1907.

1899 The company established sales networks by encouraging customers to become local distributors. This method of marketing relied on word of mouth and emphasized sales made directly door-to-door and, after 1905, sales on credit.

1909 Oliver died suddenly of heart disease on 9 February, aged 56.

1910s In response to increased competition the company eliminated its network of local salesman and used the resulting savings in commissions to reduce the typewriter's $100 price by half. Sales increased and, at its peak, the company's labour force of 875 was producing 375 machines daily.

In addition to its offices in Illinois, the company had branch offices in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Omaha, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle, all of which closed when Oliver shifted to mail order sales in March 1917.

1921/22 A minor recession caused a large number of customers to default on their payments, resulting in the repossession of their typewriters.

1926 The company opted not to borrow money and the board of directors voted to liquidate the company. Only one employee, Chester Nelson, was retained to oversee the company's liquidation.

In 1928, the Oliver Typewriter Co was sold to investors who formed the British Oliver Typewriter Co in Croydon, England.

1929 As Oliver Typewriter (Sales) Co - British Industries Fair Advert for 'The British Oliver' Typewriter. Manufacturers of the All-British Oliver Typewriter. Special Features: Simplicity, combined with strength, durability, reliability and efficiency; interchangeable carriages; various styles of type. (Stationery Section - Stand No. R.139) [1]

1931 Production of Oliver’s original, three-rowed keyboard design was discontinued when the company began to produce a re-branded model of the “Fortuna” typewriter, a four-rowed German design.

1935 The company began to produce the Halda-Norden standard typewriter, another licensed design (Model No. 20). The company, however, had to retool its machines and return to the original Oliver design when the British government placed large orders for the three-rowed model at the outbreak of World War II.

c1947 Production of the No. 20 resumed, at which time the company began to license the Oliver name to several European manufacturing companies. The standard desktop machine was eventually discontinued in favor of portable models; the company began to sell a German design, the Siemag Standard, as the Oliver standard.

1947 As Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Co Ltd - Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of the "Oliver" Standard and Portable Typewriters. [2]

1958 Oliver purchased the Byron Typewriter Co, previously the Bar-Lock Typewriter Co, of Nottingham. The licensing ventures were ultimately unsuccessful, and the company's machine tools were transferred to a factory in Germany.

1959 Production of all Oliver typewriters ended in May.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Advert 163; and p128
  2. 1947 British Industries Fair p205