Oliver type writer, 1895 production type
In 1888, Oliver began to develop his first typing machine made from strips of tin. After years of development, he had developed a prototype model, composed of 500 parts. I don’t know why the good businessmen of Ontario didn’t invest in the machine. But if Rev Oliver was going to realise his dream, he felt he had to move to Epworth Iowa, continue his work with the Methodist church and look for investors.
He married Mary Ann Eddy, a Canadian, and had two children, but I cannot find what happened to her. The second wife was also a Canadian who moved withRev Oliver after he decided he would be more successful south of the border. The children of the second marriage were born in the USA where he resigned his ministry and threw himself full time into inventing.
Conventional typewriters then had the type arms laying on a bed in a well in the bottom of the machine. When the key was struck, the arm rose up in an arc and hit the page on the platen above it, before falling back into place. Why not, Oliver proposed, mount the arms in twin towers, above the platen, on either side of the typewriter. Thus his arms would utilise gravity by falling from the towers when struck, down on the platen.
I don’t know if he specifically wanted the user to see what he/she was typing – perhaps it was just serendipitous. But having the type-bars swing down to the platen from the two type-bar towers allowed for "visible typing". In addition, Oliver mounted the type face in the middle, creating a sturdier machine.
1904 advertisement for Oliver Typewriter (called the visible writer)
The Oliver Typewriter Co. was incorporated in 1895 and immediately begun operating in the USA, with its tiny administrative headquarters in Chicago. Then in 1907 the company took the first five floors of the Oliver Building which was build in North Dearborn Street, Chicago.
Soon the manufacturing sector of the business moved from Iowa to a factory in Woodstock, Illinois on a 12 acre lot next to the Union Pacific railroad. This was the real home of The Oliver Typewriter Company. Employee recreational activities included a company band and baseball team. Oliver built a bandstand for the Oliver Typewriter Band in Woodstock's Square in 1908.
Not only was the design clever, but so was the method of sales - the company established sales networks by encouraging customers to become local distributors. Although I have seen paid advertisments in newspapers and magazines, it seemed that world of mouth advertising was cheaper and more effective.
Thomas Oliver died in 1909 so he didn't see his company's sales go gangbusters. When the company was at its peak, some 400 typewriters were produced daily and sold. The Oliver Typewriter Co. employed 875 workers in the Woodstock factory alone, and there were branch offices across the USA including Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Only when they changed sales tactics to a mail-order scheme in 1917 were the branch offices closed.
Competition and a recession in 1921-1922 caused many customers to default on their payments. In 1926 the board decided to liquidate, so the American plant closed and the company moved to the UK, becoming the British Oliver Company.
The Rev Thomas Oliver (1852-1909)
Sometimes I find information in amazing sources eg the Canadian Boer War Museum. The Oliver Typewriter had a slow start in the early 1890s but became popular just as the Boer War was reaching its worst era in 1900-1901. During the war this would have been the typewriter used to send messages or to type up news stories. The Canadian Boer War Museum was keen to add the machine to its collections, in order to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia.