Rely upon it
The Reliance Visible typewriter is a heavy machine with a rough finish. Introduced in 1915
or 1916, it was sold — and perhaps owned — by Montgomery Ward. A fairly extensive history of this machine can be found here at Machines of Loving Grace and also here at Will Davis’ weblog. Herman Price describes the family of typewriters from which the Reliance descends here.
There are two versions of the Reliance. One is described as the “old style,” which closely matches its predecessor, the Pittsburg Visible; the other is the “new style,” which is the type in my collection.
The Pittsburg Visible was manufactured by the Pittsburg Visible Typewriter Company.1 Somehow, Reliance (or Montgomery Ward) acquired the rights to the Pittsburg, and marketed it as an inexpensive alternative to more widely sold machines. Priced at $48.50, the “old style” machine was about half the cost of other typewriters.2 The “new style” machine was more expensive (sturdier too?) and sold for $65 in 1915 (see ad below).
Potential customers could try the machine during a free 30-day free trial, a common practice in those days.
Unknown is whether Reliance sold the old and new style machines concurrently or successively. I will note that advertising suggests the “old style” sold first, and then the “new style.” I also note that the “old style” is still the old style, as it copies the Pittsburg.
One distinctive feature of the Reliance was that the typebasket could be swapped out (see below). Various typefaces could be acquired for $30. This was a clever idea, but practical? How many of typefaces did Reliance/Montgomery Ward ever sell?
My machine has an exceptionally low serial number — 426-5 — which is stamped twice on the underside of the machine (front and back). Most serial numbers I have viewed are in the five-digit range. Herman Price at his website describes my type of machine as having a “new style” design, though that doesn’t help me to date it.3 Mine might be a very early version of the Reliance Visible, or a very early version of the revised machine.
Revision: I’ve not located a serial number on the frame of my machine, but I did locate one on the interchangeable typebasket: 51982. Absent a number on the frame too, I can’t match the basket to the machine.
Regarding serial numbers on Reliance’s predessor, Herman Price writes, “The Pittsburg serial numbers may be located inside the machine or on the top left frame behind the ribbon. The typebasket has its own number. It would only match the machine number if it is the original typebasket from point of sale. One selling feature of the machine was the interchangeable typebasket.”4 There is no serial number in any of those places on the frame of my Reliance, but I’ll keep looking.
The numbers 426-5 are stamped twice on the frame, but it has been suggested (see comments below) that these might be numbers that appear on the casting of all Reliances.
Update: This is so. I’ve located another machine on eBay in England that has this mark.
Typing sample & typecast
Davis Typewriter Works: Reliance Visible “typecasting” — typing samples from the early 1900s (be sure to read the comments too)
My machine has a rough, matte finish. It is made of heavy, cast iron material. Some other machines I’ve seen have a glossy finish, such as this one from the Milwaukee Public Museum. I also gleaned these two photos of a machine identical to mine (but labeled Reliance Premier) from eBay.co.uk —
And here is my machine —
As seen at TypewriterDatabase.com.
© 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.