|FOX VISIBLE (Jim Dax Collection)
Jim sends us this shot of his very early Fox Visible, which has serial number 0297 16297. The coding of the number seems to indicate that this is only the 297th 'visible' made by Fox; sharp-eyed collectors will already have noted the lack of a button on the left side of the front frame.
Fox Typewriter Company, which was located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, originally began with upstrike machines in 1898, and these seem to have continued through 1914. The company introduced this visible machine in 1906, and production in various models lasted until the company was liquidated in 1921. The company did well enough for itself, although it was never an industry leader.
The Fox Visible is notable for its staggered type-bar bearing arrangement and for having type bars of two different lengths.
|Here's an interesting aside for fans of Fox machines. As you may know, Fox produced a small portable with collapsible carriage called the Fox Baby, which supposedly was withdrawn following lengthy lawsuits for patent infringement which were filed by L. C. Smith & Corona. What is of interest is the fact that the Fox Baby was actually patented. Detail at left from US patent 1,337,563; developed by H. P. Nordmark, filed December 26, 1917 and patented April 20, 1920. Also patented in Great Britain at the same time. This is interesting due to the fact that, because the patent was never withdrawn, L. C. Smith & Corona must never have proven patent infringement. If they had won, the patent would have been pulled. Thus, if this litigation in part ended the company, it was by sheer monetary expenditure in defense coupled with development of a new non-folding machine. The somewhat complicated construction of the Fox standard probably didn't help either.|
|Fox Visible Typewriters by Will Davis with Jim Dax, Peter Weil, Ed Neuert, Herman Price, Richard Polt|
|Two models of the Fox Visible standard machine were offered. There were models No. 23 and No. 24, which according to every source differed largely in the number of characters each could print. However, although present information indicates that the No. 23 had 39 keys and the No. 24 had 44, there is at least one early illustration showing a No. 24 machine with 43 keys. Whether or not any of these exist is not known to us.
Further, options were added over time, such as a tabulator, and later in production (perhaps around 1909) a back-space key and mechanism were added to both the No. 23 and No. 24 models. Very late machines are known to exist that have "modern" keytops with nickel ring and glass insert, but the vast majority have celluloid keytops that are frequently found with the character legend rubbed off.
|FOX No. 24 David B. Davis collection
serial number P1355 21355
This machine is an early Fox No. 24; it is new enough to incorporate the tabulator but is not new enough to include the backspace key. This places the machine obviously later than the 1906 introduction of the line, but not later than about 1909, which was when Carl Mares wrote that machines of this brand were beginning to include the back-spacer.
Before we describe the features of the machine, it is significant to make a note about it. This machine is without doubt the fastest typewriter ever tested by the author. It is faster than the Woodstock or R C Allen machines described elsewhere on this site, and is also faster than any Underwood. Every attempt to exceed the machine's speed capability was thwarted. It not only refused to pile up type bars, but also absolutely refused to skip its escapement. The machine (like the Fox blind-writer before it) has a two-speed escapement, and the machine is actually set on "high speed."
|The lightness of the touch of this machine cannot be believed; neither can the ease and lightness of the shift, which in this machine moves the type basket and not the platen or carriage. The operation of the machine is absolutely effortless vis a vis the keyboard and anything on it. The toggling two-step ribbon selector (which uses the black and red keys seen at the upper left of the keyboard) is innovative for the time and also easy to work. The type bars fly to the print point, and with the escapement set on expert or high speed, the platen moves when the type is about one or one and a half inches away. They then return instantaneously.
The literature of the time well describes the rather unusual construction of the Fox Visible as regards the type bars and their mounting methods. Briefly, it should be noted that about one third of the type bars are only about half as long as the others; there are also two different mounting rings (perhaps you could call them bearing mounts) on which type bars are hinged. The bearings themselves are large, and the design appears at first to be very awkward and unconventional. That idea is quickly eliminated from thought when actual work is performed on the machine.
|The machine has right-hand carriage return, which for some will take some getting used to, but this operates pretty easily and the carriage offers the tiniest reisitance to returning. The line-space selector is mounted on the return lever itself, and is an extremely clever device which once observed requires nothing to understand and use. Unfortunate is the lack of a back-space key, and the margin setting stops are somewhat primitive and troublesome to set; but the few retrograde features of the machine are more than compensated for by its incredible typing capability. It is impossible to think that there might be someone who could NOT use this machine. The response is so even from key to key and the touch required so light that any typist with any method or style could successfully operate and very likely enjoy it. We simply cannot say enough about it; it is unexcelled.|
|FOX 24 tested|
|If the machine is (or was) so fabulous, then what happened? If the patents filed later for this machine are any indication, the company itself wasn't making much money on them. At least two patents have been found wherein it is deliberately and clearly stated that the purpose was to obtain easier and cheaper assembly of the machines than had been experienced prior. One of these incorporates very heavy redesign of the machine, especially the key lever / type bar mechanism, which upon observation one finds slightly overcomplicated in the Fox No. 23 and No. 24. It seems apparent though that the company never had the ability to go ahead with these alterations, and perhaps decided that small portable machines such as that pictured above were a better idea to improve its position. As we now know, those met with trouble and had to be redesigned, even though the original patent held up and was never withdrawn. This redesign and retooling for the portable, coupled with expenditures on the action with Corona and the marginal profit obtained on the standard Fox machines may well have been enough to drive the company out in 1921. This is unfortunate, because the testing of this Fox No. 24 shows very clearly that the powers in charge earlier at the Fox Typewriter Company knew what a typewriter should be, and what it had to do -- and knew how to make it extremely easy to operate and yet robust at the same time. Maybe it would have been different had William Fox not retired in 1915, but of course this is totally speculative, and we will never know.|
|AT RIGHT: Read for yourself! This advertisement for the FOX VISIBLE is from February 1906.
Note that the 'regular models of the Fox' continued in production; this means the upstrike machines manufactured prior.
|Above, FOX PORTABLE No. 1, serial number 421. Jim Dax collection. This is the collapsible machine mentioned above.|
|Fox Typewriter Company, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan began making typewriters at the end of the 1890's. In 1906 it added a brand new $100 "Visible" standard to its line- later it added portables, before final shutdown in 1921. Here is our look.|
|Fox Visible design, and later unbuilt variants
As mentioned above the Fox Visible was somewhat unconventional in its design of key lever - type bar mechanism which uniquely included type bars of two different lengths. This can be seen here in an original patent. Note the red underlined numbers 585 and 587, which point to one of the shorter type bars and its intermediate lever, respectively. The lower, longer type bars are represented by 586. Note that the type bars are pulled from above and behind by the intermediate levers shich take their motion from the key levers at 22.
|On the right we see front views of the two half-circle bearing mounting rings for the original Fox Visible design. Note that putting all the type bars in two separate mountings allows each type bar bearing to have more space than if all of them were in one, even if it were a full half-circle. This design was obviously somewhat complicated and expensive to make, and two later patents show attempts to rectify this - both partly through use of a slotted segment.|
|The FOX patent at left -- never built -- was filed in 1913 and shows the machine having been seriously altered. Note that the key lever imparts its motion to an intermediate lever which, by way of the shape of the opening and the shape of the intermediate lever imparts accelerating type bar action. The intermediate lever pulls an intermediate link, connected to the type bar which is mounted in a slotted segment. Note the tangs, attached to the key lever either side of the intermediate lever to prevent it from popping out. This was certainly a design weakness, and would probably have been a failure prone point in production. Of course, none was built.|
|Another design, about a year later, is very different. This machine (also never built) used intermediate levers roughly similar but reversed, with motion of the upper part of the lever being toward the front of the machine. The intermediate lever imparted its motion to a link, which was connected both to the type bar lower end hook and also to a swinging link, seen quite clearly in this view. This would have provided a very sturdy arrangement not likely to work out of alignment and from a design standpoint seems much better than the design above.|
|At right, another view from the same FOX patent. Here we see a front view of the segment, showing that not only was a segment used for the type bars but also, lower and concentrically mounted to the type bar segment, a second segment was used for the lower ends of the swinging links. All of the designs for Fox Visible standard machines, both built and not built were basket or segment shifted. As stated neither of these modern slotted-segment designs was built, and the old "plain bearing" Fox Visible soldiered on through the end of the company's production in 1921.|
|Next page: Fox Visible models, changes, alterations, variations. New!!|