The Prototype folding typewriter
The machine shown here is the prototype of the Standard Folding Typewriter,
made by its American inventor, Frank Rose, around 1904-5. The
prototype was thought to have been lost but was in fact stored away with Rose's
personal effects after his early death around 1906. It recently came up
for auction and was re-discovered and correctly identified after some
engineering detective work. Although it
superficially resembles the production machine shown on the previous page, the
prototype is entirely hand-built and differs from the production machine in
dozens of matters of detail. The label attached to the machine, probably written
by Frank Rose, or his son George, contains the descriptions:
Model No. 2
This tells us firstly that the machine was the second prototype made
(confirmed by the serial number 2 stamped by hand several times on the back)
secondly, that it did not yet have an official name ("Rose Typewriter"
or "Standard Folding") and was known simply as the Aluminum Machine
and thirdly that it was probably made to test a ribbon transport
do we know it’s a prototype? At first glance, the machine appears to resemble
very closely an early type Standard Folding Typewriter as manufactured in 1908.
However, closer inspection shows that the No 2 machine is different in several
important respects. The first is that practically every part of it has been made
by hand and bears the marks of hand manufacture, such as file marks and scriber
marks. There are numerous errors in construction (such as holes drilled in the
wrong place, or breaking through into channels where other parts should slide.)
These errors have not been made good but simply left. An example of this can be
seen with the main front plate, which is secured by means of one central screw
either side. Underneath the plate, however, are four further tapped holes which
it was originally intended should secure the front plate by two screws each
machine thus shows evidence of developing design, not the stability of design
required for production. There are a few properly manufactured parts, such as
the platen and the nickel plated key caps. It may be that these were simply
taken from another machine, or were bought in as commodity parts from a
component maker. A key feature of the prototype is that almost every working
part is made from aluminium – steel hardly features at all. This design
feature is taken to such lengths, in the effort to save weight, that aluminium
is used for components that could not possibly be constructed from such a
relatively soft metal. This is not simply engineering ignorance on Rose’s part
– in 1903 aluminium was still a rare and precious metal, a novelty that had
never been used for any serious industrial purpose. A complete list of
differences between the prototype and later production versions would fill many
pages. There are differences in dimensions (including the overall length and
width) differences in material, differences in features provided and differences
of engineering design.
* The folding arms are fabricated out of aluminium rather than nickel plated
The obvious differences between the prototype and later production versions
* The ribbon spools are double-sided and fabricated out of brass rather than
* The paper fingers are fabricated out of Brass rather than nickel plated
* The space bar is fabricated out of painted wood, rather than aluminium and
* There is no decal on the front, no company name engraved on the back and no
'proper' Serial Number punched or scratched anywhere, except that the single
number 2 is hand punched a few times in various orientations on the back.
* There are no cast type slugs on the type bars.
* There is no shift lock mechanism.
* There are no rubber feet to stop the machine moving in use.
* The type bars are fixed by a single row of screws instead of a double row.
Many of the dimensions in the production version are different. For instance
the platen is 8.75 inches against 8.5, the width increased from 7.25 to 7.375
and length from 7.375 to 7.5. The type levers in the production version are 0.1
inch thick while the frames are made from sheet aluminium 0.16 inches thick. In
the prototype the frames are cut from 0.125 inch sheet and the type levers even
thicker at 0.143. Many features are not available on the prototype, including
2-colour ribbon, cap/fig lock, line spacing, platen release, ribbon vibrator or
pressure roller to aid paper feed. All are present on later production machines.
There is also considerable refinement in engineering design that is not present
in the prototype. For example, the ribbon bobbins are advanced by a
sophisticated worm and gear wheel. In the prototype, there is a clumsy attempt
to drive the ribbon bobbins directly from the escapement linkage by a large gear
with many teeth.