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The Montana line of Hermes clones

Montana/Hermes typewriters

A Hermes Rocket (like the Baby) on the left, and a Montana on the right.

Rise of the clones

The Italian firm Montana SpA acquired a license to produce a clone of the Hermes Baby (anniversary model) in 1950.1 Production of the Montana line ran from 1950 through at least 1968, and encompassed three distinct models.

These models were sold variously as the Montana, Vornado, Carlton, Viking and Packard. Collector Will Davis has stated, “We know of examples of importers simply picking familiar but untrademarked names to apply to foreign-made typewriters for sale in the U.S.”2 This seems likely: Vornado is a brand of fans; Carlton is a brand of cigarette; and, Packard is one half of Hewlett-Packard. By applying familiar names, Montana gained instant “name recognition,” but only by loose association.

Montana’s plan appears to have been to limit costs by using an existing design, which enabled it to offer machines at moderately low prices. The company was based in Turin, Italy, but little more is known about it.

These portables were offered with either QWERTY or QWERTZ keyboards, and included either hard-shell covers (metal or plastic) or leatherette cases.

An evolving line

There were three iterations of the Montana portable:

  • A near clone of the Hermes Baby (1950-1959)
    • Montana
    • Montana Luxe
    • Montana Deluxe
    • Austoria3
  • A modified copy of the Hermes Baby, (1958-1962)
    • Montana
    • De Luxe
    • Morse
    • Viking
  • A greatly diminished copy of the Hermes Baby (1962-1968, est.)
    • Montana
    • Admiral
    • Carlton
    • Packard
    • Vornado

Other possible name variants include Supra and Montana 60 Super, but these have not been verified.4

First iteration, 1950-1959

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A near clone of the Hermes Baby.

The first Montana was a near clone of the Hermes Baby, sold under the marques: Montana, Montana Luxe, Montana Deluxe, and Astoria. It was offered sans ribbon selector with either a glossy or matte finish. QWERTY and QWERTZ keyboards have been observed. An academic paper places production of this iteration from 1950 to 1959.5 Despite searching, I have not found advertisements for this version.

Blogger Bill M describes restoring a Montana here, providing insights into its design.

Montana Luxe Red Typewriter

Red keys, QWERTZ. Not certain about the source of this photo, but Robert Messenger at oz.Typewriter.com had one in his collection (see here).

European Montana QWERTZ

A Luxe (faintly seen on paper table) with a matte finish. QWERTZ layout.

Another clone…

Montana Astoria

Manufactured by Società Meccanica Industriale (SIM), which later (it is speculated) became Montana. From Vilhelm Dromberg’s collection. Also listed at TypewriterDatabase.com — click here.

Second iteration, 1958-1962

The second version was sold variously as the Montana, De Luxe,6 Morse, and Viking. This iteration was a two-tone machine with some plastic elements (primarily the base). It was offered with either a hard-shell or leatherette case. Its components were modified from the original design — namely the ribbon vibrator is different — and it was offered with or without ribbon selector (placement of the ribbon selector varies too). Both QWERTY and QWERTZ keyboards have been observed. Production of this iteration ran from 1958 to 1962,7 and advertisements fall within this period.

Montana De Luxe Typewriter

Montana QWERTZ

Morse Montana Typewriter

Montana Middle Green

Montana Middle Green cover

Montana with manual

Someone in the typosphere has a manual for the Montana typewriter. If you do, please scan and send to netadams (at) gmail.

Advertisements:

Valley News (Van Nuys, California) Oct. 27, 1960

A leatherette zipper case? Interesting. Vikings of this style typically came with a snap-on case like the Hermes. Judging from the image, though, a leatherette zipper case was indeed offered. Ad placed by Builders Emporium. From the Valley News (Van Nuys, California) Oct. 27, 1960.

Beaver County Times, June 1, 1961 like Viking

The same machine was sold as the Montana Deluxe. “Deluxe” is imprinted on the case of my Viking. From the Beaver County Times (Beaver, PA), June 1, 1961.

The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Dec. 21, 1961

From The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Dec. 21, 1961.

The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Aug. 16, 1962

From The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Aug. 16, 1962.

Third iteration, 1962-1968 (est.)

Montana Admiral TypewriterThe final iteration of the Montana was sold under a bewildering array of brands including Admiral, Carlton, Montana, Packard, and Vornado. None were called deluxe, which is fitting as none were. This model was housed in a plastic body that snapped into place, and was offered with a leatherette case. It was priced at around $40.

Advertisements place this machine from around 1964 to 1968; however, if production of the middle version ceased in 1962, it is likely the third iteration emerged that year.

Commenting on quality of the last iteration, Will Davis noted, “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.”8

Still, judging from wear patters on existing machines, owners may have gotten good value from it. Some revitalized Montanas look quite nice.

Packard Portable Typewriter

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

Carlton typewriter on eBay

Formerly offered at eBay.

Montana like Packard

The styling of the logo is far more appealing on this machine than on the Packard. With dollar and pound symbols, possibly aimed at an international market.

Back Label Montana Italian

Back of above machine. Note that label is written in Italian. International market?

Advertisements:

White Front Ad The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) Oct. 1, 1964

This advertisement, placed by White Front, dates the third iteration to as early as 1964. From The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) Oct. 1, 1964.

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.

Packard, Remington 666

This is the latest advertisement including the Packard. From The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York – Dec 15, 1968. Notice also the advertisement for the Remington 666.

Collectibility

While unique, the Montana line is not rare, appearing frequently on eBay and Etsy. But neither are these machines very common. It is unknown how many were made, but production was likely moderate. Montanas sometimes command higher-than-average prices for their class — 1950s/1960s portables — but not always, especially as eBay has made them more common.

The older Montanas are better built, and thus more desirable (plus, they are older); the newer Montanas are less well built and they are not always found in good condition; they are less desirable. The red keys Montana would likely command a high price.

(Note: Apologies for generalizing, but I am reluctant to recommend prices, as the market for vintage typewriters is fluid.)

Another Montana


A Montana of an obviously earlier vintage has been sighted — see here. This machine may have been manufactured by the Turin-based company, or it may simply be the name of a model of typewriter from another company. The barest details are provided at Typewriters.ch — see here.

Acknowledgments

I am greatly indebted to Will Davis’ research on the Montana portable, as well as Georg Sommeregger’s research at Typewriters.ch. Other important sources include various digital archives of national newspapers.

If you can contribute an image, please e-mail at netadams @ gmail.

© 2014 – 2015, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. The Montana at Typewriters.ch (German language) []
  2. Comment offered Oct. 15, 2013, here. []
  3. Manufactured by SIM, which later (it is speculated) became Montana. []
  4. See The Montana at Typewriter.ch for these name variants. []
  5. Class Characteristics of Foreign Typewriters and Typefaces, by David A. Crown. []
  6. Montana is imprinted on the back of the machine []
  7. Class Characteristics of Foreign Typewriters and Typefaces, by David A. Crown. []
  8. Portable Typewriters, “Made in Italy” – link is dead. []
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