My old Hammond typewriter:
an "antique" or simply an "old machine"

When my father died in 1958, I inherited an old Hammond typewriter which I have kept very carefully since. I don't really know when and how he got it but it is still in good shape. Recently, I have decided to document it and try to find if it had any value on the market of collectibles.


In 2005, I moved from a house to a condominium and tried to move all the items contained in a basement into a 4' by 8' storage. I threw away several items and succeeded keeping most in a "closest packing" arrangement. A few days ago, on the 4th of January 2006 to be precise, I decided to review the content of this storage in order to free space. I faced a Shakespearian dilemma: "to keep or not to keep, that is the question".

Amongst these items, there was a beautiful wooden case containing an old typewriter: a Hammond typewriter that I have inherited from my father in 1958 and that I have carried from homes to homes since then. I knew nothing about it except that it was quite old as it has been in the family since the early 1940s but that's about all I knew about typewriters. Being a total "typewriter illiterate", I decided to gather information about this typewriter and typewriters in general: hence the production this Web page.

Search on the Web

My first undertaking in documenting this typewriter was to search for references on the Web. The objective was to find which model I had and when it was produced. Typing "Hammond typewriter" on Google returned the following references:

  1. The virtual typewriter Museum site provides a very comprehensive historical survey of brands and models of ancient typewriters. The reader can have a quick tour of the site or go directly to specific brands: I did. In the Hammond group, I discovered descriptions of the Hammond 1 (1884), Hammond 1 variations, Hammond 1 remodeled (1895), Hammond 12 (1905), Hammond Multiplex (1913) and thee Hammond Folding (1923).
  2. Darryl Rehr's Web site on the "QWERTY Connection" answers questions such as "Why collect typewriters?", " What is a Collectible Typewriter?", " How Many Different Kinds Are There?", " What's Hot, What's Not?", "What are they worth?", "Where do I find them?" and "How do I find out more?". Additionally, there is a page on the site where the Hammond 1 and the Hammond Multiplex are described.
  3. The  Early Office Museum Web site covers the early typewriter styles that were most important in offices: Upstrikes, Hammonds, Front Strikes, Olivers and, later, Electric Front Strike typewriters. This site presents a page where the various models of Hammond typewriters are described.
  4. The Portable Typewriter Website is devoted to the early history of the portable typewriter, from around 1890 to 1930. It exhibits several models of the Hammond typewriter on this page.
  5. The Mike Campbell's home page presents links and information on antique typewriters. It has a "Hall of Hammonds" page that shows pictures and serial numbers of several Hammond models. The serial numbers shows are as following: SN 398, c1883 for the Hammond 1, 123644, c1911 for the Hammond 12, 151829, c1915 for the Hammond Open Multiplex and 196406, c1916 for the Hammond Multiplex.
  6. Christofer Nöring's web site entitled "The Swedish typewriter page" is a hobby page that presents one page dealing with Hammond typewriters.
  7. The Martin Howard collection of antique typewriters presents is comprised of typewriters from the very beginning of the typewriter industry (1880s & 1890s), it is the largest of its kind in Canada. The collection contains many rare and historically important typewriters, showing the remarkable diversity and beauty of the world's first typing machines. It has page dealing with the Hammond 1 and the Hammond 1b typewriters.
  8. The typewriters database  provides brand names, references and links to typewriters serial numbers.
  9. The Classic Typewriter page maintained by  Richard Polt took me through the strange and beautiful world of antique writing machines and, in particular, this page on the Hammond 2 typewriter.
  10. The Typewriter Museum of the Finnish Business College Web site exposes a large collection of typewriters and seven of those are Hammond typewriters visible on the H-page of the site.

A short history of typewriters

The text of this section has been cut, copied, pasted and harmonized from the text of the above references. Indebtness is hereby acknowledged.

Typewriters are machine designed to print or impress type characters on paper, as a speedier and more legible substitute for handwriting. The first recorded attempt to produce a writing machine was made by the British inventor Henry Mill, who obtained a British patent on such a machine in 1714. The next patent issued for a typewriter was granted to the American inventor William Austin Burt in 1829 for a machine with type arranged on a semicircular wheel that was revolved to the desired letter, then pressed against the paper. In 1833 a French patent was given to the French inventor Xavier Progin for a machine that embodied for the first time one of the principles employed in modern typewriters: the use for each letter or symbol of separate typebars, actuated by separate lever keys.

During the late 1860s and early 1870s, Christopher L. Sholes and collaborators invented the first practical typewriter, which was produced by E. Remington & Sons and sold as the Sholes & Glidden Type Writerduring 1874-78. The earliest Sholes & Gliddens were mounted on sewing machine stands,  and their carriage returns were operated by foot treadles. Sholes & Glidden machines typed only upper case letters. Approximately 5,000 were sold. The Sholes & Glidden typewriter introduced the QWERTY keyboard, so named because Q-W-E-R-T-Y are the first letters at the top left of the keyboard. Ever since, QWERTY has been the most popular configuration on typewriter and computer keyboards.

The Remington No. 2 typewriter was introduced in 1878. Over 100,000 machines of the No. 2 model were sold. Many of them are in constant and heavy use to-day. The No. 2 and succeeding Remington typewriters had a single keyboard, that is, a single key for each letter and a shift key to switch between lower case and capital case letters. While the No. 2 had both capital and lower case letters, the No. 4 had only capital letters.

Numerous other upstrike machines with a single keyboard were produced by Remington's competitors. These include the single keyboard version of the International Typewriter (1889), the Densmore Typewriter(1891), the Rem-Sho Typewriter (1896)/Fay-Sholes Typewriter (1901), and the Fox Typewriter (1898).


Early manufacturers of keyboard writing machines used a tremendous number of ways to print a character on paper. The most common type of keyboard writing machine is the typebar machine in which each key controls one or more characters. A typebar is a lever which at one end is connected to a key on a keyboard and at the other end carries one or more types. Depression of a key on the keyboard swings the typebar so that its type strikes the paper. The Royal typewriter that you may have learned to type on in high school is typical of a typebar machine.

Another popular style of keyboard typewriter is the single-element machine. The IBM Selectric is the most modern version. All the types are carried on a single drum or ball, or some other shaped element, and when a key is depressed, the type element rotates or swings to present the selected letter to the printing point. The type element strikes the paper to print or a hammer strikes the type element from behind the paper to create a printed impression through an intervening ribbon. Sometimes an ink roller rubs the type element to ink the letter.

Hammond typewriters

A whole book could be written about Hammond typewriters. Strange though they may look to the twenty-first-century eye, their ingenious mechanism is one of the longest-lasting in typewriter history. The Hammond was one of the earliest typewriters to be produced commercially; the first model was introduced in the early 1880's (possibly as early as 1880, or as late as 1884). And machines with the Hammond mechanism continued to be produced until the 1970s! Along the way, various refinements were made: notably, the name was changed to Varityper in the 1920s and the machine was electrified in the 1930s.


The most important feature of all Hammond typewriters is that they print from an interchangeable type shuttle: a C-shaped piece of hard rubber which is held in a central "anvil." It is easy to change type shuttles, so a single typewriter can use conventional type (large or small), cursive type, non-Roman alphabets, or mathematical symbols. A wide variety of type styles was offered. 

The heart of the machine is the turret with the semi-circle of vertical pins that are pushed up when a key is pushed. At the same time the type shuttle held on a circular anvil turns and is stopped by the pin, in the correct position for the right type to face the paper. The spring is released, the hammer, located behind the typewriter, strikes, the pin drops back and the shuttle swings back into neutral position.

On later machines, beginning with the Hammond Multiplex of 1915, the same machine could carry two type shuttles at once, and switching from one to the other took only a few seconds. The space between characters could also be adjusted. On most Varitypers, it was even possible to justify the right margin. Varitypers produced such fine work that they were used as "cold typesetting" devices, which prepared camera-ready copy for printing. Only the personal computer made the Varityper obsolete.


The Hammond Typewriter was the first office typewriter that appeared as a true alternative to the Remington Standard 2. James B. Hammond's invention appeared on the market in 1884. It was a striking machine with several features that would survive for many decades. It featured a type-shuttle, a semi-circular strip of hardened rubber that could easily be replaced. To print the letter onto the paper, a hammer struck the paper from behind and pushed it against the shuttle, through a thin rubber impression band, the ribbon and a thin shield to avoid getting ink stains onto the paper. The hammer was spring-driven, providing the most even printing result possible in the days of manual typewriters. The Hammond 1 had a type shuttle that consisted of two separate sections, each operated by one half of the curved "Ideal" keyboard.

The Hammond No. 2, which was introduced in 1895 with a new feature: it was equipped with a  small metal tab to lift the type shuttle on the front of the "turret" in order for the user to see what had been typed. The curved "Ideal" and the QUERTY "Universal" keyboard as well as a single piece curved type-shuttle were standard. It weighs 19 lb., including its wood case.  In 1887, Hammond advertised that its cumulative sales of the No. 1 and No. 2 exceeded 4,000 machines.  The Hammond No. 3, which was also introduced in 1896, was like the No. 2 but had a line length of 11.3" rather than 8.5". The No. 4 and No. 5 were like the No. 2 but had special features:  the No. 4 printed fewer characters per inch whereas the No. 5 printed Greek letters and was available with the "Ideal" keyboard only. The No. 6 through No. 8 machines were wide-carriage typewriters aimed at commercial and government offices: they had 16", 20" and 30" carriages  respectively.

The Hammond 12, introduced in 1905, was the next major improvement in the line. In appearance, it was very similar to the Model 2. Its main difference was the absence of the big metal tab on the front of the turret. Instead, there is a thick wire basket, nearly a full circle in shape, attached to the ribbon holder. This bracket was part of what is called the ribbon "vibrator" which moved the ribbon upward to meet the hammer for each letter typed. At rest, the ribbon was down out of the way so that the user could see the typing. Most Hammond 12s included a celluloid strip or card behind the keyboard, with a logo identifying the machine as a No. 12. As with earlier models, this machine was offered with either the "Ideal" of the "Universal" keyboard.

The Hammond Multiplex, first marketed in 1913 continued the evolution of this typewriter line. The machine was dubbed "Multiplex" because it was designed to carry two type shuttles at one time. The anvil ring at the top of the turret was configured with a knob allowing the user to switch between the two shuttles with one quick turn. Thus, a Roman typeface and an italic typeface could be kept on the machine, making a change between the two quick and easy. The Multiplex also used a metal drawband to power the carriage return. Earlier models used a more expensive rack-and-pinion system.

The first Hammond Multiplex machines were similar in appearance to the No. 12, with an exposed mechanism and the celluloid strip above the keys. Around 1916, Hammond improved the machine by adding a metal covering to enclose the works. The Multiplex was offered with either the "Ideal" or the "Universal" keyboards. Other variations included the variable-pitch, aluminum frames, and triple or quadruple shifts.

In 1923, the Folding Multiplex was introduced. This portable featured a keyboard which folded upward for portability, possibly inspired by the folding Corona. The Folding Multiplex is also seen labeled "Model 26".

The future of Hammond changed around 1927 when new management took over the company. According to typewriter historian Paul Lippman, James B. Hammond died in 1913 and  willed his patents to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Frederick Hepburn Co. bought the patents and changed the name of the machine to Varytyper, but eventually went bankrupt. Business machine salesman Frank B. Coxhead led a group of investors to buy the company in 1933 and continue producing the Varytypers. Under this banner, the machine evolved into a cold typesetting device, made to produce masters for printing by photo-offset. The VariTyper added right justification (1937), variable letter spacing (1947), and variable line spacing (1953).The Varytiper was electrified and updated into the 1970s, when it was finally taken off the market in favor of photographic and electronic typesetting systems. Still, the basic mechanism of a Varityper from the 1970s was the same in concept as the original Hammond.

Description of my typewriter

My first question about the Hammond typewriter that I inherited from my father was: is it an "antique" or simply an old and obsolete machine? This is what I am now trying to resolve. In the forthcoming sections, I will describe it in as many details as I can. As shown in Figure 1, it comes with a beautiful wooden cover that surrounds the typewriter on all sides.

Figure 1 - The typewriter with its cover on

Figure 2 shows a front view ot the typewriter. At the front, the keyboard is a QWERTY Universal keyboard with black keys, three shifts and a backspace key. Right above it, there is a  wide celluloid strip where the user can clip a keyboard chart when typing with a type shuttle with an unfamiliar alphabet or special symbols. Though not easily visible on Figure 2, the words "Made in USA" and "Hammond" are printed on the strip. 

Next, there is the cylindrical turret with the the semi-circle of vertical pins and the type shuttle held on the circular anvil (I have three shuttles). The hammer that hits the paper can be seen behind the 11½"-long carriage.

Figure 2 - Front view of my typewriter

The paper is rolled into a 11½"-long stainless steel cylindrical screen holder under the platen before typing, then fed out line-by-line as one advances the page (12 characters per inch). The ribbon contained in the two ribbon holders is fed in between the hammer and the type shuttle through a curved bracket that ties ribbon out of sight after each keystroke, a mechanism that was introduced with the Hammond No. 12 in 1905.

Model and year of fabrication

The typewriter looks like a Hammond 12 typewriter because it is equipped with a ribbon vibrator, a feature introduced with this model in 1905. On the other hand, the typewriter is not identified as a Model 12 anywhere, not even on the celluloid strip where it should be shown (it appears clearly on all pictures of this model that I have seen).

There seems to be no record of serial numbers for the Hammond typewriters but I will try: the serial number 80857 is engraved on the left hand side of the base of the typewriter, next to the screened paper basket and the Hammond medallion as well as underneath the left-front leg of the typewriter. 

Table I - List of Hammond typewriters with serial numbers found
Model Serial Number, date Reference
Hammond Ideal 24931 (1884) Powerhouse Museum Collection
Hammond 1 48037 (1884) Powerhouse Museum Collection
Hammond 12 (1886) Powerhouse Museum Collection
Hammond 12 63165 Typewriters Museum of Finish Business College
Hammond 12 Ideal 102116 (1905) Antique Typewriter Museum
Hammond 12 107711 Typewriters Museum of Finish Business College
Hammond # 12 123644 (1911) Mike Campbell's Hall of Hammonds
Hammond # 12 138672 (1905) Collection Ph. Campiche

Table I shows a list of various Hammond typewriters that I found in the cited references. Amongst those, the Hammond 12 typewriter with serial number 63165 held at the museum of Finland is the one which resembles the most the one I own.

Figure 3 - Photograph of the 
Model 2  S/N 63165
held at the 
Typewriter Museum of the
Finish Business College
Figure 4 - Photograph of the 
Model 12 S/N 123644
held at the 
Typewriter Museum of the
Finish Business College

They are nearly twins! It carries serial number 63165 and mine carries serial number 80857. Additionally, from Figure 3, I notice that this typewriter does not carry the "No. 12" identification that is common to most Model # 12 that I have seen. From close observation of the turret, it appears to be a Model 2 rather than a Model 12 as the easiest way to identify a No. 2 is by the large metal tab in front of the anvil, a tab that was used to push down the ribbon so that one could see what one had just typed (The Classic Typewriter Page). It is indeed a Model 2 as ascertained by Paul Robert in his e-mail dated 3 December 2007 (See Annex).  

All the photographs of Model and all of them have two clips to retain the keyboard charts on the celluloid strip. Neither mine nor the one kept at the Typewriter Museum of the Finnish Business College have these features. Figure 4 shows what a Model 12 really looks like.


After all that discussion, I am still unsure of which model I have. Except for the ribbon vibrator, it has most of the characteristics of the Hammond 2. At this point, I believe that my typewriter is an upgraded Model 2. I may be wrong and I sollicit comments.

Addendum [November 2012]

Given what is said in the comments that follow, I was wrong and the typewriter that I own is a Hammond 12.


E-Mail from Paul Robert [December 2007]

Hello George,

I just stumbled into your web page describing your search for the  identity of your Hammond typewriter. If you ask my opinion (and in a way, you did), I would say that your Hammond typewriter is a Hammond 12. That would match both the appearance and the serial number. The machine shown in your figure 3 is indeed a number 2. No doubt. If you are interested in more details about the history of the machine and its inventor, you might want to check out my latest book, The typewriter Sketchbook, which is available through . It has 30 pages on the Hammond.

With best regards
Paul Robert
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

E-mail from Martin Perez de Hooge [January 2012]

After having received this e-mail from Martin Perez de Hooge from the Netherland, on December 29th 2011:

Hello Georges,
I am a 35year old typewriter collector. i am trying to persude a hammond 1. Do you have any for sale, or maybe you know a collector willing to sale his hammond 1 typewriter?
Kind Regards,
Martin Perez (The Netherlands)

In the following interactions with Mr Perez, I found two new references that I had missed when I wrote this article in 2006:

  2. The Martin Howard Collection;

Curious about the model and value of the typewriter, I contacted Mr Martin Howard and his reply follows:

Hello Georges,

Thank you for being in touch and for sharing your project with me. Your Hammond is a model 12. As you know the model 2 and 12 are very similar. The key detail I look for in distinguishing between the two, is the style of rod that is used to lift the swinging-sector for a character shift. On a model 2, this vertical rod connects to a separate horizontal bar at the top. On a model 12, the vertical rod takes a full radius bend to form the horizontal bar.

Hammond typewriters, other than model 1s, have modest values as so many were sold. In good condition, a model 12 is worth around $250 - $300. It is certainly one of the classic early designs and a wonderful display piece.


Martin Howard

E-mail from Allen Brooker [November 2012]

On 20 November 2012, I received an e-mail from Allen Brooker stating


I came upon your web site to-day regarding the Hammond 12. Very interesting and informative. I have a 12 with the serial No 118211, unfortunately without the top case, on the base there is a silver plate stating that it was supplied by the London branch of the Hammond Typewriter company, 50 Queen Victoria St, London.  Hope this helps to update your web site.

I came by this machine when I worked for a Office Equipment company in central London in the early 70s.  I traded it in for a more modern machine, I doubt the the new modern machine is still alive, but my Hammond is still going strong.

Many Regard

Allan Brooker

Recent E-Mail

I have been provided with a reference to a supplier of vintage typwriters and parts for them called The Vintage Typewriter Shoppe!

Questions or comments?
Last modified: September 3rd 2014 11:46:20. []