“On the average typewriter,” reads a 1914 ad for the Monarch, “touch is an incidental thing. On the Monarch it is THE fundamental thing. The machine is literally built around the touch. The long levers, the creeping fulcrum, the straight line pull — all of these are factors in the Light Touch for which the Monarch is famous” (emphasis in the original).1 Put succinctly, “touch is everything.”
In reality, the Monarch was only an average typewriter, being neither remarkable nor unremarkable.2 It was a practical machine, achieving strong brand recognition, and its design endured for decades. Thus, the Monarch occupies an important place in typewriter history.
Origin of the typewriter
The Monarch Typewriter Company was founded in 1904 by the Union Typewriter Company,3 a gigantic trust that controlled several typewriter manufacturers, including Remington, Smith Premier, American Writing Machine (Caligraph/New Century), Yost, and Densmore.4 Each produced older-style, “invisible” typewriters well beyond consumers’ demand for such machines. Belatedly, Union Typewriter responded by establishing Monarch, which manufactured visible machines.
In 1905, Monarch was described as an entirely new company in the New York Times; no mention was made of its association with the trust.5 Yet, somehow, the Monarch came into its own, establishing itself as modestly competitive enterprise.
Writes Will Davis:
Production of this machine … ended in 1939, after almost 35 continuous years of production at three different locations and essentially under three different brand names — Monarch, Remington, and Smith Premier (emphasis mine).6
For collectors, this creates opportunities for nuance. Not only were these machines marketed under different names, but with different labels as well — the variations are nigh innumerable. Lately, I’ve acquired two: a Monarch Visible No. 1 and a Monarch Typewriter No. 3, with Remington branding. These machines serve as the inspiration for this blog entry.
(Note: Remington, which seems to have held sway at Union Typewriter, ultimately produced its own line of visible typewriters, independent of the Monarch. In 1908, Remington released the Standard No. 10, a visible machine modeled after previous Remington designs. See here for details on the development of this line of typewriters.)
Monarch Visible No. 1
The label on the base of this machine reads, “1 The Monarch Typewriter Company ./ Syracuse, N.Y. U.S.A.” — partial loss on the first “1,” total loss on the second. A curved label above the keys reads, “Monarch Visible,” indicating the typewriter’s most important feature: visible typing.7 The label on the paper table features the Monarch emblem and name.
The serial number on my unit is 15177. According to TypewriterDatabase.com, this dates my machine to 1907, but that range includes the No. 3 — does it also include the No. 1? It’s possible that Monarch continued to produce the No. 1 beyond subsequent models, but that is not abundantly apparent. Will Davis notes that the earliest machine he has found is Richard Polt’s No. 2 (ser. no. 437). However, such a low number cannot account for the first Monarchs, which surely numbered greater than 400. Perhaps the No. 1 and No. 2 had different numbering schemes?
My typewriter has a ribbon selector and tabulator, which seem to be optional features on early models. I’ve found one other No. 1, owned by Eban Otsby, with ribbon selector and tabulator (see here), and one without (see Wilfred A. Beeching’s Century of the Typewriter, image 8.119 in the appendix).8
Additionally, my unit was shipped with wood base and metal cover, though the emblem on the cover shows the Monarch No. 2. The image on the paper table is the No. 1. I do not know if the base and cover are original to my typewriter. The other cover I’ve seen shows a No. 2, as well.
The mark of a No. 1 is its 38-key layout; subsequent models offered 42 keys.
It appears the 38-key No. 1 came in basic and improved models, as did the 42-key No. 2. The emblem on the paper table of all models is the basic No. 1, so I’m guessing that model was the original.9
Monarch Visible No. 2
The second Monarch followed in 190510, including an expanded 42-key keyboard with many fraction symbols. It is otherwise substantially similar to the first model. Some No. 2s offer a tabulator and ribbon selector, others do not. This model was the last to represent the Monarch simply as Monarch. Subsequent branding would include Remington, and later Smith Premier.
The No. 2 was branded as the Monarch Visible and sometimes as the Monarch Typewriter. (Presumably, the term “visible” was less impressive to consumers at this juncture as nearly all machines were now visible.) The No. 2 is more common than the first model.
It was advertised extensively in newspapers beginning in 1906. This image (left) was published in the Philadelphia Record, Oct. 22, 1906 (see full ad here). It’s obviously hand-drawn, as was the case in many advertisements. These images are simple, though not always representative of the actual specimens.
In 1912, a factory rebuilt Monarch sold for $50 (see here).
A particularly interesting advertisement is found here in a New Zealand newspaper from 1906. It states that “each machine is fitted with a tabulator attachment.” Were these machines modified by the distributor? Or was the tabulator a newly built-in feature?
Finally, here is an image of a No. 2 with tabulator and ribbon selector from a 1909 advertisement (see here for full ad).
The tab key and ribbon selector were advertised as early as 1908 (see here). Since my No. 1 has a tabulator and ribbon selector, we can at least assume these features were offered as early as 1907.
Monarch Typewriter No. 3
Gradually, Union Typewriter rebranded Monarchs as Remingtons, adding “A Remington Typewriter Company” to the paper table, before ultimately stripping out the word “Monarch” entirely. The No. 3 is similar to the No. 1 in design, though with many subtle differences, including the structure of its base. Developers seem to have found little to change in the early years.
At this time, branding got convoluted: both Remington and Monarch were appealing names to consumers, and sometimes the brands were intermixed. Some No. 3s read, “The Monarch Typewriter Company,” while others read, “The Monarch Typewriter.” Gradually, Monarch was becoming less a corporate identity and more a brand. Meanwhile, the Remington name was featured more prominently.
One interesting specimen of a No. 3 is held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. Their machine is equipped with what seems to be an extended carriage. The serial number on that typewriter is 21134. See here.
This image (left) is from the Ottawa Citizen, July 1, 1911 (see full ad here). I’ve not seen any No. 3 with this labeling (see below for labeling variations), but the image is hand-drawn and perhaps not representative of any actual machine. One notes it lacks Remington branding entirely (the ribbon lever is on the wrong side, too). Another non-Remington No. 3 is found in this ad, though Monarch is listed as a “department” of the Remington Typewriter Company in the copy. Note also that the image appears to have been modified from earlier advertisements for the No. 2.
Monarch No. 3 typing sample —
Update (10/24/13): Michael Hoehne offers the following image of a Monarch 3, sans Remington labeling, which matches images found in advertisements —
Labeling variations, 1-3
Here is a summary of labeling variations for the models 1-3. I’ve documented nearly every example I could find on the Internet, offering pictures and links whenever possible. Serial numbers are provided when known.
Note: In some instances below, pressing “here” calls up a fancybox popup. To view those images from the original sources, right-click and select “open in new tab.” Then, you will be able to view images in more detail.
Monarch Visible No. 1, basic model —
Sans ribbon selector and tab key, the basic 38-key model features the words “1 The Monarch Typewriter Company. 1/ Syracuse, N.Y. U.S.A.” on the base (there is additional text on the first line, but that text is illegible in photos). The phrase “Monarch Visible” is absent on the curved face plate. The Monarch emblem and name are on the paper table (apparent in advertising, see here).
Monarch Visible No. 1, extra features —
Including ribbon selector and tab key, the basic 38-key model features the words “1 The Monarch Typewriter Company. 1/ Syracuse, N.Y. U.S.A.” on the base — this text is wider than on the basic model. The phrase “Monarch Visible” is present on the curved face plate. The Monarch emblem and name are on the paper table.
Monarch Visible No. 2, basic model —
Note that in the image above, the words “Monarch Visible” are not curved.
Another basic No. 2 (ser. no. 1561) is posted here. The text on the paper table, sans emblem, reads “Monarch.” The text on the base reads, “2 Monarch Visible 2.” There are no words on the face plate.
Still another labeling version is seen here, this is Richard Polt’s No. 2 (ser. no. 437). Notice that the text on the base of this machine is narrower than other No. 2s; it appears to feature three lines of text. Polt’s is also a basic machine.
Monarch Visible No. 2, extra features —
And yet another No. 2 (ser. no. 66988) is featured here. The words on the base read “2 The Monarch Typewriter 2/ Made in Syracuse, N.Y., U.S.A.” The words “Monarch Visible” is printed in curved text on the face plate. Notice that later No. 2s drop Monarch’s identity as a company. This machine includes ribbon selector and tab key.
This appears to be a No. 2 (with ribbon selector and tab key) —
This also appears to be a No. 2 (with ribbon selector and tab key); the words “Monarch Visible,” however, are absent —
Monarch Visible No. 3 —
The machine above appears to be a No. 3. Notice the base reads, “The Monarch Typewriter Company.” Either this is a No. 2, with Remington branding, or it is a No. 3 that retains Monarch’s corporate identity. The serial number plainly dates it as a No. 3, though.
No longer a “Monarch Visible,” this No. 3 is a “Monarch Typewriter” with Remington branding. A number of similar specimens are posted at Will Davis’ blog here.
One worth of highlighting, however, is this machine which gives first place to “Remington” on the paper table — see here. The serial number on this machine is M5 50451 and dates to 1915. Notice the numbering scheme has changed.
Update (10/23/13): Miguel Chávez writes about his Monarch No. 3 here. His lacks Remington labeling and features the words “Monarch Visible” in a straight line on the faceplate. Another, already mentioned, also lacks Remington labeling — see here or scroll up.
[ngg_images gallery_ids=”18″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_thumbnails”]
More photos can be found here: http://typewriter.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=47
A Monarch shipping crate can be found at Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/104510446/vintage-typewriter-crate-monarch-visible
- ETCetera offers this 1989 write-up on the Monarch here
- Will Davis’ two articles, mentioned above, are The Monarch Typewriter – a brief review & Monarch Visible: An addendum
- Alan Seaver offers a piece on visible typewriters here
© 2013, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
- From the Berkeley Daily Gazette, July 23, 1914, posted here. [↩]
- Will Davis offers a tepid review here. I’m not sure I’d want to write a novel on it, but it does seem a serviceable machine. [↩]
- Will Davis offers a timeline for this company’s history here. [↩]
- See Will Davis’s The Monarch Typewriter – a brief review. [↩]
- The article is archived here. [↩]
- See his article here. [↩]
- The earliest machines featured understrike typebar mechanisms, meaning the typist could not see what he or she was typing. [↩]
- No page number is present, but it falls several pages after 245. [↩]
- A similar No. 1 is featured in an ad found at Will Davis’ site here. [↩]
- TypewriterDatabase.com records 1905 as the date of introduction for the Monarch No. 2; I’ve seen advertisements only as early as 1906, but my survey is far from complete. [↩]