Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

The Oliver No. 5
April 4, 2012, 10:49 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre | Tags: , ,


The Oliver No.5

The typewriter used in Ghost-Writer , the Oliver No. 5, was made by the Oliver Typewriter Company between the years 1907 and 1914, and would have been the kind of typewriter used at the time the plot takes place. Despite producing 12 different models from 1895 to 1928, the design of their typewriters remained largely the same. The typebars strike the roller from above making them “down strike” typewriters as opposed to “up strike” and “front strike” machines. The “up strike” print text on the underside of the roller which prevents the typist from seeing what they are typing. This made Oliver typewriters the first usable “visible print” typewriters, meaning typists could see what they were typing whilst typing it. “Front strike” typewriters were also a method of “visible print” but an effective version did not hit the market until three years after the Oliver No. 1 had already been in production.

Originally the typewriters were, depending on the desires of the customer, painted olive green or plated with nickel. However with the release of the model No.3 all the typewriters were painted green except for special shipments to warm or damp areas which were plated with chrome and thus our model is green. The No. 5 also represents the addition of the backspace key which allowed typists to insert accents above letters or “overstrike”.

Thomas Oliver was the founder of the Oliver Typewriter Company. Originally from Woodstock, Ontario he moved to Monticello, Iowa to serve as a Methodist minister. In attempting to produce more legible sermons he began work on his first typewriter using tin can strips. After attaining a patent in 1891 and four years of development he left eh ministry and moved to Iowa where investors provided him with $15,000 of capital ($419,000 by today’s standards). Delavan Smith would later purchase the company but Oliver remained heavily invested financially and creatively until his death in 1909.

The company liquidated in 1926 as a result of a recession several years earlier and was sold in 1928 to the investors of the British Oliver Typewriter Company. They soon switched to a German 4-row design until the outbreak of World War II when the British government began placing large orders for the 3-rowed No. 15 model. Afterwards the production of the 4-rowed machines resumed and Olver began licensing its name to several different manufacturing companies. These attempts were ultimately fruitless and production of Oliver typewriter ended in 1959.

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