Vari-Typer Typewriter

Vari-Typer Typewriter

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This Vari-Typer electric typewriter was made by the Ralph C. Coxhead Corporation in New York, New York around the late 1937. The Vari-Typer was based on the body of a Hammond No. 2 typewriter, which had an unusual typing mechanism. Instead of the character striking the paper from the front of the machine, the printing is done by a hammer in the back of the machine striking a type-carrying shuttle in the front of the machine, with the paper and ink ribbon in between to receive the impression. The Vari-Typer was so named because it had the ability to print in a variety of typesets in various sizes, including math formulae, special symbols, and foreign characters with an easy replacement of the type shuttle. The Vari-Typer would make direct impressions of the character on the paper that could then be reproduced by a variety of processes including litho-plates, mimeo stencils or photo-offset printing. This Vari-Typer is an electric typewriter that would automatically rewind the carriage at the end of each line.
The type-shuttle and hammer typing mechanism present in the Vari-Typer evolved from the Hammond typewriter invented by James Bartlett Hammond in 1884. James Hammond founded the Hammond Typewriter Company to produce typewriters with his patented mechanism, which enjoyed success in the late 19th and early 20th century, winning the gold medal at the New Orleans Centennial Exposition. Much could be said about Hammond’s affairs towards the end of his life, but the story of the Vari-Typer merely depends on Hammond’s patents passing to the Frederick Hepburn Company, and then ending up in the hands of the Ralph Coxhead Corporation around 1929, the company that eventually produced this Vari-Typer.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Other Terms
typewriter; Electric
Ralph C. Coxhead Corporation
overall: 8 3/4 in x 18 1/2 in x 34 1/2 in; 22.225 cm x 46.99 cm x 87.63 cm
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catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I sold Vari-Typers in Australia between 1965 and 1970 primarily to drafting departments and consulting engineers to replace hand lettering on drawings. Also sold a few to printers for cold type text work for lithographic offset printing. Also sold the Headliner phototype unit that produced strips of Headline type up 72 points in size. With the above two units a printer could produce many types of forms and brouchures.
In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I worked for a government agency on Kelly AFB in Texas. We used the varityper to create government forms. We designed form with hand drawn lines, then used the verityper to create the text. It was a very interesting and primitive way to design forms. After that we used a Wang Computer. Now of course anyone can create a form; but in the earlier days, it seemed to be very creative but cumbersome.
I believe I was one of the first operators of the Vari-Typer in the UK. Being sent to London for training (a big deal then).Producing copy of all sorts of forms with ruling and lettering for Wilts. United Dairies, Trowbridge, Wiltshire in the late 50s. for the in-house printing Department, where i met my future husband now married 56years tomorow (2019).
My mother, Sarah E Bronson née Caraway who will be 98 in a few days, worked for Duncan Field in San Antonio in 1942. She typed on a Vari-Typer for the government during the war. She later taught others to type on it. She enjoyed seeing this article very much. She loved sharing it with me. Thank you.
During the 1955 September to June school year at Purdue University, I was hired by Dr. and Mrs. Wright, Minister of the Presbyterian Church located on the edge of Purdue's campus, to type his weekly services on the Vari-Typer Typewriter, and then mail them to his many followers who were past (and current) students at Purdue during the 1950's. I worked closely with both Dr. and Mrs. Wright to type his sermons each week and send off the mailings which numbered in the hundreds. It was a delightful and challenging job, but I cherish the warm memories of my associations with these two kind, and well respected folks. My husband graduated from the EE School at Purdue in the spring of 1956, and upon graduation we moved to California. I kept in contact with them for many years.
Many years ago my uncle Charles Brock Tabb worked for Ralph C. Coxhead Corporation here in Richmond VA. and brought home one for us to look at. I guess that it really interest me because later in life I repaired IBM Selectrics for two different businesses.

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