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The Packard typewriter (revisited)

Packard Portable Typewriter

Ugly, but probably a decent typer. Notice wear mark on space bar.

Branding confusion

In October, I purchased a Packard portable on eBay, having never heard of such a machine (see here). The only reference I could find to it was a mention at Opencuny.org, which stated that the machine was “made by Packard, before they were joined by Hewlett.” This is a fine account, except that Hewlett-Packard was formed in 1939, long before this Packard was manufactured. The typewriter’s styling and form place it in the 1960s.1

After I had blogged about the Packard, collector Richard Polt commented that it looked a lot like a late-model clone of the Hermes Baby, manufactured by Montana SpA of Turin, Italy. Indeed!

The Montana

According to Will Davis, Montana was launched in 1950 to produce “licensed-built copies of the early version of the Hermes Baby.”2 These machines were “perfect” copies, but, subsequently, the quality would decline.

In the 1960s, plastic was employed for construction of the body and distinct design changes were introduced. Marketed under several names, the Montana soon became another cheaply made portable. Writes Davis, “The (all plastic) body and zippered case are now very cheaply made, and it seems that machining tolerances are sloppy, making these machines poor relations to the units manufactured about fifteen years prior.”3

I can certainly attest that later Montanas are poorly made. The body of mine simply snaps into the base, and its components feel insubstantial. That said, judging from wear on the space bar, it seems it was a serviceable typer. Someone got good use out of it.

Branding and rebranding

But Packard? Davis commented on my original posting saying he knew “of examples of importers simply picking familiar but untrademarked names to apply to foreign-made typewriters for sale in the U.S.”4 That is likely the case. As it turns out, Montana marketed its machines under several familiar names, including Vornado, Carlton and Viking, in addition to Packard and Montana. Metallic labels are generally affixed to areas designed for generic branding.

Update, Jan. 25, 2014: I’ve found ads for this machine, which date it to 1967. See “Advertisements” at the bottom of the post.

A Carlton lately appeared on eBay:

Carlton typewriter on eBay

Offered on eBay. At $49 (starting bid) it is, in my opinion, overvalued.

Here is a Montana that is like the Packard in design:

Montana like Packard

The styling of the logo is far more appealing on this machine than on the Packard.

The names selected by Montana, including the company name itself, are cleverly chosen. Apart from “Made in Italy,” inscribed on the back of the typewriters, one would never suspect Italian ownership.

  • Viking has strong North American associations — think Minnesota Vikings.
  • Carlton is a common name for U.S. towns and cities. Several companies bear that mark.
  • Packard was once the name of an American automobile manufacturer. Also, the label on the Packard typewriter seems an obvious attempt to imitate HP’s modern styling.
  • Vornado is associated with fans (for obvious reasons). It is also the name of a realty company that has holdings in departments stores. Originally, Vornado manufactured kitchen appliances.

This last point is striking. In 1960, Vornado was a discount department store chain located in the East Coast.5 If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the Montana was sometimes branded for sale at Vornado stores. But that is only a guess. I haven’t been able to locate an advertisement for any of the branded machines of the Montana typewriter company.

To note, Two Guys acquired Vornado in 1960, and later Two Guys became Vornado Realty.6 The Packard, or Montana, or Vornado, or Carlton would have certainly been at home at a discount department store.

Here are some commercials for Two Guys:

And from the late 1970s:

And, now, strictly for the sake of nostalgia (with no relation to typewriters), another commercial:

Advertisements

Update, Jan. 25, 2014: I finally located advertisements for the Packard typewriter. All are from Community Jewelers in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, placed in The Pocono Record in 1967.

Packard Typewriter, Aug. 24, 1967 ad

The Pocono Record, Aug. 24, 1967 advertisement.

Packard Typewriter, June 15, 1967 ad

The Pocono Record, June 15, 1967 advertisement.

Packard Typewriter, June 29, 1967 ad

The Pocono Record, June 29, 1967 advertisement.

Packard Typewriter, May 18, 1967 ad

The Pocono Record, May 18, 1967 advertisement.

Further reading

Here is everything I could find about the Montana and associated brands:

Photo gallery

[ngg_images gallery_ids=”17″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_thumbnails”]

© 2013 – 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. Also, neither H nor P ever manufactured typewriters. []
  2. Portable Typewriters: “Made in Italy.”, by Will Davis, at Machines of Loving Grace. []
  3. ibid., Portable Typewriters: “Made in Italy.”, by Will Davis, at Machines of Loving Grace. []
  4. The Packard portable typewriter, Type-Writer.org, comment section. []
  5. See this mention in the Reading Eagle, 1965, and this here. []
  6. Two Guys, Wikipedia.org. []
{ 5 comments… add one }
  • T. Munk November 30, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Added “Carlton” and “Packard” as marques of Montana in the Database (:

    • Mark Adams December 1, 2013, 7:07 am

      Thanks. I’ve added my Packard to the database.

  • Steve K December 1, 2013, 6:58 am

    Today, it seems odd that they’d want to hide Italian ownership – surely better to use it as a selling point and be more exotic than “Carlton” and “Packard”.

    • Mark Adams December 1, 2013, 5:21 pm

      My thinking is that they wanted to achieve brand recognition quickly by associating their product with common company names. For budget machines, probably not a bad idea, as it required little advertising to accomplish.

  • Miguel Chávez December 1, 2013, 7:43 pm

    I would expect a typewriter bearing the name “Packard” to be at least made in metal and having a substantial feel and design…

    I’m also surprised about the use of the word “Packard” as a commercial trademark… after all, there were “other” companies using that name, ie Packard-Bell…

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