The Ford typewriter is a striking machine with its beautiful ornate grill and gracefully integrated keyboard. It was a machine to grace the eyes but would not have endeared itself to the typist, as the keys are rather springy and wobbly when typing and the platen with a line advance lever, surprisingly does not have a line-by-line clicking action if one needs to go back or forwards a few lines. Also the shift keys for capitals and figures require a solid push to operate, not a good design for fast typing. However, what the Ford did have was visible writing, allowing one to see the typed words on the platen as soon as they were typed. It was not the first to do this but most contemporary typewriters were still blind writers, requiring one to lift the carriage to see the last lines typed.
The Ford typewriter broke new ground in being the first typewriter to use the new metal Ďaluminumí in its construction. The Ford was sold in two versions, one with an all aluminum frame and carriage and the other with a cast iron, black enameled, frame and aluminum carriage, as shown above. Both sport a beautiful Japanned grill.
The Ford is a lateral thrust machine, with the typebars moving straight forwards to strike the platen. One can see a typebar moving towards the platen (with the top cover plate removed) in the third detail photo below.
The Ford typewriter was invented by Eugene A Ford (1866 - 1948), a man with a very distinguished career. Ford worked with Herman Hollerith, director of the United States Census, and founder of the Tabulating Machine Company. Hollerith created the first mechanical, punched card data processing equipment that would revolutionize the collecting and disseminating of information for the US Census. It was first used to full effect during the 1890s census and saved two years off the time required to count the data manually! It was during this time that Ford worked on his typewriter, receiving a patent in 1892 and putting the typewriter on the market in 1895. Ford would work with IBM for the rest of his career, becoming chief development engineer in IBMís New York laboratories in 1911. He would continue to develop and patent many improvements to punched card accounting machines, sorters, and counter devices.
We are fortunate that Eugene Ford turned his attention to typewriters in his early years.