|The OLIVER is one of those machines which has been so thoroughly covered elsewhere (both in the literature and on the internet) that another historical rehash of known information would be excruciatingly redundant. However, we have been lucky to find an Oliver catalog from about 1908 or so, and will present some of the information and illustration from this interesting piece on this page. We feel that this coverage, coupled with our long-established Oliver photo gallery will not be redundant to previous work but additive.|
|(From the brochure.) "UP TO THE PRESENT MOMENT the makers of the Oliver Typewriter have been too deeply engrossed in the conduct of their gigantic enterprise to take even a backward glance. This catalogue offers a favorable time for a swift summary of the results secured in our comparably brief career.
In 1896 an obscure company began the manufacture of the Oliver Typewriter, a machine then entirely unknown, and totally different from typewriters then in use. The first Olivers were met with scorn and derision, not only by the Typewriter Trust, intrenched behind its capital of millions, but by the vast army of operators, to whom the words "visible writing" conveyed no hint of the revolution they were destined to create. But the discriminating employers were comparatively quick to see the manifest advantages offered even by the first crude Oliver. Almost from the beginning the Oliver record has been illuminated by conquest after conquest among the heaviest and most important corporations, not only of national, but of international, reputation and prestige. The manifest advantages of its visible writing, and other unique features, were recognized. Other employers began to investigate "The Little Giant," as the Oliver was quickly named by its adherents, and investigation usually resulted in adoption.
|The cumbersome and complicated blind typewriters have become obsolete. The world has moved and is moving. Office equipment, and machinery, generally, must keep pace with modern progress and inventive genius. The cry is for speed, efficiency, accuracy, durability; and The Little Giant, the all-conquering Oliver, has proven itself the one machine that responds to these demands. And thus the Oliver Typewriter -- that masterpiece of inventive genius and mechanical skill -- has an unequaled record of success, sales, and satisfaction. The Oliver Typewriter holds the keys to the typewriter situation. It embodies every essential of a perfect typewriter, and, as it will keep on in its growth in proportion to what has already been accomplished, it bids fair to become the universal typewriter of the world.
The Oliver Typewriter No. 5, which is now being placed on the market, is the "last word" in typewriters -- a Symphony in Steel. It is scientific in principle, flawless in construction, accurate in adjustment, splendidly efficient in operation. The Oliver should be known through and through. Typewriter information is not complete without that knowledge. Comparison of the Oliver with the other typewriters, confirms the unequaled claims of Oliver superiority in every particular. Where, a few years ago, thousands attested its merits, hundreds of thousands now raise their voices in praise of the Standard Visible Writer, the Oliver Typewriter, whose record has never been equalled."
|The "history" given above, and advertising rhetoric, is about exactly what one would suspect Oliver would write at the time. While it was true, in essence, that Oliver had begun manufacturing around the time of the very beginning spark of visible typewriting, it was also true that it had fallen technologically behind the Daugherty / Pittsburg from almost the beginning and then wholly and fully behind Underwood, L. C. Smith and the pantheon of Union Typewriter makes by the time this brochure was printed, or at least roughly thereabouts. Oliver's opening to the brochure as given above is the kind of material that an underdog would give -- but the Oliver did have a great deal of merit, mechanically, as we know and survived for quite a long time after the brochure was printed.
The brochure goes on to give a full mechanical description of the Oliver, with much more rhetoric about every given point of design. While a great deal of this is known, and some more of it is just hype, there are a number of interesting and relevant points and facts given in the rest of the brochure if it is interpreted properly. (At left, Oliver Typewriter Building, Chicago, Illinois ca. 1907-1908 from brochure.)
|At the time of this brochure, there was a great deal of debate still raging about what constituted a "Standard Typewriter." Our article on the Reliance Visible, done some time back, revealed that the makers of that machine gave, in their catalog, a number of distinct points or features that a machine had to have to be called "standard" - at least, in their view. Oliver Typewriter Company does just that in this brochure; they state very clearly that "The factors that determine the practical worth of a typewriter are - simplicity, durability, speed, great manifolding power, versatility, perfect alignment and visible writing." Each of these points is relevant, in one way or another, and the Oliver continued in production based in large part on its merits in these departments. Yes, the company knew both what it was up against and its own product, and the comparative qualities and made a number of points in the brochure. We will look at some of these, and some further illustrations.|
|Oh - just how did Oliver know so well what it was up against? Here is proof. The caption for this photo reads as follows:
MUSEUM, GENERAL OFFICES. Around the sides of this room are glass cases, in which practically every kind of typewriter ever made is represented. This is the only collection of this kind in the world. It is freely open to the public.
Oliver, then, very obviously compared its earlier machines with many makes and models and used this information of comparison in the development of newer models. In the way of simplicity, Oliver points out that the Oliver employed about five hundred parts as against 1500 to 3000 parts on other standard typewriters of the day. Oliver also supplied many sizes of interchangeable carriage, as well as a line ruling device, to allow for every size of paper and kind of marking with one basic machine.
|Speed, and durability of the Oliver machines were tested on the Excercisers. These belt-driven devices used tangs mounted on a direct-driven drum to operate levers which struck the keys of a typewriter under test. From the brochure: "Its speed capacity is tested at the Works by a mechanical operator, or exerciser, which operates the keys faster than fingers can move, or the eye can see, while, at the same time, the wearing parts are brought down to their proper bearings, and any possible flaw in workmanship or material is developed." In that last sentence, by "developed," they mean exposed - in other words, the machines would work out of alignment or fail at this point if flawed prior to testing.|
|Oliver's claim for its unique U-shaped type bars was the combination of permanent, perfect alignment and absolutely unexcelled manifolding power. The brochure shows various earlier type bars (of upstrike machines, and interestingly the Underwood, although none is identified by name) and the Oliver type bar, and notes that the tool-steel bar and type, the double bearing and tool-steel axle all ensure alignment without the need for mechanical interference at the print point by alignment fork or any other such contrivance. "The Oliver Typewriter, therefore, has all of the advantages claimed for forced alignment, without the metallic contact, the consequent strain on the construction, and the disarrangement of the mechanism with its attendant noise, confusion, embarassment and delay. It is absolutely impossible to lock two or more bars on the Oliver Typewriter. Try it! It won't hurt the machine."
Also, due to the downward blow, the power of the machine being assisted by gravity, the Oliver was claimed to be the best manifolding typewriter in the world (and in point of fact, many agreed.) One very interesting passage from the brochure on this topic, which is of special interest to those who study advertising: "Here it may be well to call attention to the fact that it has become almost a universal practice of typewriter manufacturers to claim, for their particular machine, every advantage known to the trade, advertising it as the equal of any in every respect, etc., the term, "the heaviest manifolder," being used on occasions in connection with machines whose manifolding qualities are notoriously weak. If there is one thing a typewriter should do, and do well, it is manifolding -- for the man who, as a rule, has no particular use for many copies of the same document, some day will need them, and, when that day comes, he will want them in a hurry. It is a false economy to invest in that which does only fairly well. The claims for the Oliver can be substantiated. As a manifolder it surpasses all."
|At left, a work of art performed entirely on an Oliver Typewriter. By Miss Edith Hamilton, Boston, Massachusetts. One of two pieces done on the Oliver in this brochure.
Below, the Oliver was said to be "Ideal for Instruction." Oliver Typewriter School.
|Many other claims were made for the Oliver in this catalog (or brochure) both in terms of general Oliver design and in terms of features that were actually new on the No. 5 Oliver just introduced. As we now know, about a million machines were made and sold overall, and Oliver went on for a number of years beyond the printing of this piece. The established durability of the Oliver was one of its key selling points, even by this time - although later, in order to keep selling, the price was lowered below the $100.00 charged at this time for the standard 10-inch carriage No. 5, and even later Oliver dispensed with its entire sales organization, going over to sales agents. Still, as we look at this brochure, Oliver had a rough and competitive beginning behind it (with no few successes, I might add) and a number of high points ahead, making the brochure a fascinating snapshot even for a firm so well-documented as Oliver.|
|Oliver No. 5 Standard|
|Oliver Typewriter Works, Woodstock, Illinois, USA about 1908|