|The RELIANCE VISIBLE was a product of the Reliance Typewriter Company of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, which appears by all indications to have fully acquired the manufacturing facility of the former Pittsburg Visible Typewriter Company in Kittanning, Pennsylvania and the rights to the production of the design (which it would have had to acquire from Union Typewriter Company following Pittsburg's failure.) The various accounts seem to disagree as to the date of introduction of the various machines of the Reliance line, but approximately 1915 or 1916 is the best guess.
At left we see the cover of a remarkable advertising book produced for the Reliance Visible. Notable on the bottom of the cover is the name Montgomery Ward & Co., the well known catalog retailer that was, at that time, going head to head with Sears, Roebuck & Co. to be the number one catalog merchant in the United States. Sears was not only selling typewriters through its catalog years before this, but had invested in both the Emerson and Harris concerns (both visibles, it should be noted) and had a large hand in the evolution of the Emerson concern into the Woodstock Typewriter Company, through the powers of Alvah Roebuck himself by 1914.
It is thus no surprise to find Montgomery Ward advertising typewriters, and in fact it appears by the content of this booklet and an actual letter contained therein that Montgomery Ward in all likelihood actually OWNED the Reliance Typewriter concern, or at least had assumed ownership by the time this book was sent.
|This book was actually found with a Reliance Visible typewriter (serial number 51695) which we will see shortly. A letter was found in the book, written to the individual who had requested it. It is on Montgomery Ward letterhead, labeled as such:
MONTGOMERY WARD & CO.
RELIANCE VISIBLE TYPEWRITER DIVISION
The letter was mailed to one Enos Lesh on October 28, 1916 along with the booklet. Written into the booklet itself by hand on a later page is "Mar 4-1917 Enos Lesh." We can only assume that the date is that on which Mr. Lesh (of Alexandria, Ohio) actually acquired the Reliance Visible with s/n 51695. We obviously cannot assume anything about how long the machine had been in stock, however.
Several direct statements are made in this book which tell us that Montgomery Ward was producing the machines. One of the other repeated statements is that only the marginal profit nature of such a large firm's catalog business could allow such an incredible deal as the Reliance Visible was -- and also mentions the lack of expense of any sales network or agents. The price at this time was $48.50, and since the machine still retained the removable typing action unit these were sold individually for $30.00. By way of comparison, the book mentions that nearly every standard typewriter at the time was selling for $97.50.
|Mongtomery Ward was offering the Reliance Visible on a 30-day trial offer basis, through catalog mail order, direct to customers.
"The Reliance Typewriter must sell itself to you on its own merits. You don't need risk a penny when you try one.
Simply send us the catalogue price of the Reliance. We will immediately ship you the typewriter, fully tested and thoroughly inspected. If, after trying the Reliance for 30 days, you don't feel perfectly satisfied with your purchase, your money is at your call -- we will return it, plus any transportation charges, without question. You can't lose a penny on the transaction."
|....continuing further .... "We want to send you a Reliance on trial. Keep it 30 days. Use it for any work you wish. Try it out every way you know how. Watch it operate. Compare it with any high-priced typewriter. Watch the touch, the action, the quality of the work, the ease of operation. Use it for billing, invoicing, manifolding or stencil work. Give it any reasonable test you can think of; examine it thoroughly; ask the opinion of others. We take all the risk -- you take none. We couldn't afford to ship typewriters on these terms if we didn't have a mighty good typewriter to back up our statements. We couldn't stay in the typewriter business if Reliance Typewriters did not make good. They are made right; they are sold right; and they are going to stay right."
From later in the book, concerning Ward's operation: AN UNUSUAL BUSINESS, CONDUCTED IN AN UNUSUAL WAY. ".....Being a big house, and doing things in a big way, we can get along on smaller profits than most people. So, we can make a typewriter, for example, and cut the usual price in two." (Author's note: One of many direct indications that Montgomery Ward owned or at least controlled Reliance.)
Montgomery Ward indicates that there were "..no agents who talk and spend money." They had no salesmen, no retail outlets or branches and thus could put every dollar of value possible into the typewriter itself. "... All the expense is put into the machine itself. Then we take the complete machine and sell it to you in the quickest, most convenient, most economical way. You pay for the typewriter when you buy a Reliance; you don't have to pay an extra $50.00 to help cover the selling expenses." Clearly, Ward had joined the league of typewriter manufacturers that distributed machines direct to customers only and which often made such claims in attempts to persuade the customer that a great deal of the money paid for a standard $100 typewriter was doing him no good, and that direct-sale lower-priced machines were not necessarily inferior just by virtue of lower price.
|The Typewriter -- a Big Factor in Modern Business
The typewriter is everywhere. It jingles busily for mighty corporations; it taps merrily in the small store or office. It is a sign of the times. It denotes progress, accuracy, speed, efficiency. It signifies care and attention to details. It is the voice of business. Its messages radiate from homes, offices, stores, factories -- everywhere where people work or earn or learn.
The typewriter has made possible two-three-four-ten letters where but one could be written before. It has expanded a man's ability to tell others what he has to sell or to buy or to trade. It has replaced the old goose-quill and the stylus; even the steel pen has given way before it as a business need.
We call the typewriter a business need because everyone today is in business; you are no less a business man because you are a farmer, or a professional man, or because you have nothing tangible to buy and sell. The farmer sells his produce; he makes a profit or a loss on his investment in land and equipment. The professional man sells his brains or his ability.
And the typewriter has helped build business because it is one of the big, really useful things.
|Now that we've investigated the ownership of the Reliance Typewriter Company, the contents of the brochure regarding the sales effort and terms, and indicated Montgomery Ward's overall approach, we'll next investigate the particular and special features of the Reliance Visible which the retailer felt made it the best typewriter buy on the market.|