Friday, May 6, 2022

Oliver Typewriter Factory, Woodstock, Illinois. (1895-1959)

The Oliver Typewriter is the invention of Reverend Thomas Oliver. Thomas Oliver was born in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, on August 1, 1852. At an early age, he became interested in mechanics. After moving to Iowa in 1888, Reverend Thomas Oliver began to create a typing machine out of strips cut from tin cans and rubber. It was claimed he had never seen a typewriter of any kind before. 
After patenting several designs in the early 1890s, Reverend Oliver was able to find investors interested in his machines. With the help of investors, a brick building was leased to Oliver to manufacture his typewriter. While visiting Chicago to promote his machine, Oliver encountered a businessman who became interested in the typewriter and bought the stock held by the initial investors. Oliver received a 65% interest in the company and set out to continue the development of his typewriter.

The Oliver Typewriter Company officially opened in 1895, with headquarters in only two rooms on the ninth floor of a building in Chicago. In December 1896, manufacturing was moved from Dubuque, Iowa, to a factory on a 12-acre lot in Woodstock, Illinois. Since the Oliver Typewriter Company outgrew its office space six times in ten years, construction of a new office building began. From 1907 to 1926, 159 North Dearborn Street in Chicago served as the world headquarters for the Oliver Typewriter Company.


A minor recession from 1921 to 1922 caused a large number of customers to default on their payments resulting in the repossession of their Oliver typewriters. The board of directors voted to liquidate the Oliver Typewriter Company in 1926. 

In 1928, The Oliver Typewriter Company was sold to investors who formed the Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company Ltd. in Croydon, England. Around this time, the British company started selling licensed rebranded machines produced by various European nations. In 1958, the Byron Typewriter Company (formerly the Barlock Typewriter Company) of Nottingham, England, was purchased by the British Oliver Company. The licensing ventures were ultimately unsuccessful, and in May 1959, production of all Oliver typewriters ended.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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