|The four SMITH BROTHERS are well known for their involvement in typewriter history -- but some people still confuse the Smith Premier and Smith Corona brand names. Here is a brief historical perspective.|
|Prior to 1889, the Smith Brothers had been concerned only with the manufacture of firearms; however, in that year, production of a double-keyboard standard typewriter was begun by this firm based upon the designs of a consulting engineer under contract to the firm. The machine was quickly successful; this was the SMITH PREMIER. My Smith Premier No. 2 is seen at right. The 1903 factory is seen above.|
|The machine was actually so well received that the four brothers set up a new company, Smith Premier Typewriter Co., to build it. Shortly thereafter, in 1893, this company came under the umbrella of the Union Typewriter Company, which was a trust including Remington, Densmore, Yost and Caligraph -- and one which would not be legal today, considering the anti-trust laws. Business for all of them was booming, especially with the price fixing that the trust allowed.
Before the end of the century, though, the new Underwood machine appeared which offered visible writing. The Smith Brothers knew that this was eventually to be the way of the future, but were not permitted by the trust to produce a different machine that would have been directly competitive point-for-point with the Underwood. They then decided that the old business, and the trust itself, were dead ends, but that visible typewriters were not. They sold out their shares in the Smith Premier Typewriter Company and resigned.
|As we now know, the Smiths did not plan to leave the business -- they planned to go head to head not only with Underwood, but with all of the Union companies. They established a new company, L. C. Smith & Brothers Typewriters Inc., bought new land and built a brand new factory -- in the same city, Syracuse, New York, as the Smith Premier factory. By 1904, the new L. C. Smith & Bros. Standard was on the market, offering not only visible writing, but basket shift. The success of the machine was augured both by the soundness of the design and the experience of the Smith Brothers.
Of course, Union had not taken all of this lying down. The Union-affiliated Monarch Typewriter Company introduced a directly competitive visible writing basket shifted machine at about the same time as the L. C. Smith & Bros. machine appeared, and the Smith Premier, Remington and Yost appeared around 1908. All were different machines, but offered visible writing with front strike type bars.
|Union had responded in as timely a manner as possible, given the fact that the huge success of the Underwood was cutting into their sales. Further, the new Royal, Fox, and Victor machines were receiving some support (as was the L. C. Smith) -- and the old, trusty Oliver was still doing well for itself. Union could not afford to simply completely retool for visible machines at the same time that it wrote off excess manufacturing capacity, and so was cursed by its own cumbersome nature. The Smith Brothers had actually done what they wanted to in the first place, at the expense of, and not at the advantage of, Union.
Remington dissolved the Monarch concern by 1921 and absorbed Smith Premier nearly simultaneously, with the other firms already gone, so that eventually by 1922 only the Remington-pattern and Monarch-pattern machines were in production. Remington survived, but no longer held the prominence of position it once did, and never held again.
|During the 1920's, all of the manufacturers began to field portable typewriters for personal, travel or home use. By the middle of that decade, the portable typewriter held its own market, which was not to be ignored. The Smith brothers knew they had to compete, and did so in fabulous fashion by buying out that most successful domestic manufacturer of portable typewriters -- the Corona Typewriter Company -- in 1926.
The resulting firm, L. C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc. held a commanding position in the portable typewriter field, and prepared to launch new models. The success of the standards was already assured, as was the company's place in history. Only one further name change, to Smith-Corona Inc. remained to happen for us to get back to our original premise for this page. This happened in the early 1950's; the company remained active in typewriters until their final obsolescence and disappearance from the mainstream market.
|...and what of Smith Premier?
When we last mentioned this firm, the date was 1921; let's look at the period between when the Smith brothers left and that time.
The first significant change occurred in 1908, when Smith Premier introduced its No. 10, seen at left in an illustration from an official Smith Premier Typewriter Company publication. This machine was a visible writing, front strike machine, but oddly enough was also one that still retained the old full double-keyboard arrangement. This machine was essentially the mainstay of the company for all of the time from when it was introduced until 1921. Two sub-variants also appeared, later.
|The Smith Premier Simplex is seen at right. This model was introduced about 1914, and was stated to offer a great advantage in original cost for jobs where the full range of features of the No. 10 was not required.
Some of the changes included omission of the key-operated ribbon selector and replacement of it by a simple lever type; movement of the backspace key to the top left of the keyboard, and replacement of the margin release key with a lever on the carriage; deletion of the removable platen feature; a simplified line-space arrangement and mechanism; removal of the four key "line finder" on the right of the keyboard, and pehaps others. You'll note that the machine says "Simplex" on its paper table, and has no model number identification on the front frame.
|On the other hand, the Smith Premier Adding and Subtracting Machine had every feature of the No. 10, plus a full decimal tabulator and an adding/subtracting device, with possibility for inclusion of multiple totalizers. The extra equipment for this latter feature was designed and manufactured by the Wahl Adding Machine Company, Chicago.
As stated prior, the machines you see here essentially comprised all of what was available under the Smith Premier name from 1908 (although, I'm told, the upstrike continued in production for a short while after) until 1921. In 1921, the production of these Smith Premier machines was dropped, and the Monarch No. 4 was relabeled as the Smith Premier 30. The Monarch name disappeared, and Monarch itself was dissolved. This "new" Smith Premier continued with minor variations all the way until 1939, although later production per year was slight. However, any mechanical association with the machine originally built by the Smith Brothers ended with the upstrikes.
|by Will Davis|
|If we look at the details concerning "visible" machines, Union Typewriter and affiliates, and the Smith Brothers, more than a few ironies can be found.
---Even though Smith Premier was not allowed to produce a visible machine while the Smith brothers remained, Union had been filing patents for visible machines since mid-1900.
---There is patent information to indicate that Alexander Brown, who had designed the Smith Premier upstrike, also had a hand in designing the Smith Premier No. 10, with patents filed as early as 1902.
---The Smith brothers' new company attracted former Union engineer Carl Gabrielson to its fold; Gabrielson was more than slightly familiar with the design that would become the Monarch.
Did the Smiths know of the Monarch? Were they aware that this was a better design than the double-keyboard "visible" designed for Smith Premier? Did they in fact leave because they knew the Monarch was destined to be the machine with "house backing?" One wonders whether this kind of scenario were actually the case -- but at this late date, we may never know. However, history shows that the machine quickly developed for L. C. Smith & Bros. was point-for-point competitive with the longer-developed Monarch.
|SMITH PREMIER 10-A s/n 62296
David B. Davis collection
Here are some color, present-day pictures of a fine No. 10 Smith Premier machine. This model is often thought of as being peculiar in being both a full-keyboard and a frontstrike machine at once, but in fact is incorporates some further peculiarities; the ribbon spools are mounted side by side behind the carriage, the platen is immediately removable without interference, the margin rack and tab rack flip up over the carriage and in front of it to allow setting of stops, and the machine incorporates a button-operated ribbon selector. There is, in fact, very little that IS conventional about this machine. Its action is quite rapid enough, its touch light and overall it functions very well and does quite good work.
|courtesy Peter Weil|
|Here is a chart I've constructed to display some of the complicated relationships involved in this history. Note that the Smith Brothers form two different companies, and are linked directly to both. Note that Smith Premier Typewriter Co. is absorbed into Union Typewriter, as are (eventually) all the companies listed. Remington Typewriter Company is shown separately on the top as it actually had the majority stock control of Union, effectively a monopoly. Later on, Union begins to break up -- or rather the earlier separate companies are absorbed into Remington. The only mechanical design of machine to "get out" or be produced later outside of the sphere of Union / Remington control was that of the Pittsburg, whose production was taken up by Reliance (thus the broken arrow.) It is also obvious that the Smith Brothers later created a wholly new company, L.C. Smith & Bros. into which, later, Corona was merged forming L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc.|