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Typewriters Have Rich History 'Over There' in World War I

By Neal McChristy

With Spad and Nieuport biplanes flying overhead, World War I correspondents from Britain usually used a trusty Corona typewriter on a tripod to peck out the news from France to send to their editors. The light fold-up portables were everywhere from down in the trenches to up in patrol aircraft.

The British Army used the Oliver during the war, known for its "flying" keys that strike downward from the sides. It had been invented by a minister who tired of writing his sermons in longhand.

The Corona and Oliver typewriters are in a collection of Lehigh Valley Business Machines, Bethlehem, Pa., which also includes a Woodstock, a company that made history in World War II in its own way. While typewriter companies were converted to making arms in this war, the Woodstock Company of Woodstock, Ill., was told to continue making typewriters.

A successor to the Woodstock is also in the collection. - the R.C. Allen. Lehigh Valley Business Machines has a 1967 R.C. Allen in its collection. The Woodstock was changed to this name in 1950, and 1967 was the last year of production.


The collection at the Lehigh Valley Business Machines office includes over a dozen machines, all in working order. Bob McLaughlin and Douglas Knerr co-own the company after buying it in 1994. Many of the typewriters were acquired from Bob Munshaur, who established the business in 1972 and sold it to Knerr and McLaughlin.

"Maybe one or two were acquired in a yard sale," McLaughlin said. He had originally worked for Munshaur, then began working for Block Business machines servicing checkwriters, fax machines, copiers, mimeograph machines and paper-folders. He stayed with Block 11 years mainly servicing fax machines and typewriters.

McLaughlin and Knerr's company includes service for all models of fax machines, printers and typewriters. McLaughlin said his primary interest was in giving regional fax service. They service in nearby New Jersey, in addition to such nearby towns as Allentown and Easton.

"It's building," McLaughlin said. "We started out with two techs and now we have three techs." There are five employees.

The Olivers are #5 (manufactured 1907) and the #9 (manufactured 1915). The Woodstock is a 1929 model, and the Corona is a 1912 model. Here are some other typewriters in the collection and a little about the companies that made them:

  • Royal 1923, Royal "Quiet Deluxe" 1939 and Royal "Portable Touch" Control 1939 - The "Magic Margin" and being the number one typewriter manufacturer were new developments for Royal in 1939.
  • IBM Selectric of 1961 - The IBM corporation has never made a portable or manual machine, but the Selectric's dominance is still evident in the service field as companies continue to service this machine.
  • Remington Model 5 1925 - Remington took over the manufacture of the "Noiseless" typewriter in 1923, and the model 5 had a number of improvements, including double-shift capability.
  • Smith-Corona 1948 - The name "Smith-Corona" first appeared on a typewriter in 1946 after the company had manufactured rifles and munitions during the war, as did many other typewriter companies.
  • Underwood 1915 and Underwood 1947 - Underwood devoted most of its attention to the development of rifles and munitions during World War II, including M-1 rifle barrels for the ground forces and rate-of-climb indicators for U.S. aircraft.

Editor's Note: Anyone interested in the collection may write to Bob McLaughlin at Lehigh Valley Business Machines, 306 E. Broad Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018, telephone (610) 865-4551 or fax to (610) 865-4586.

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