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Smith Premier 1

First year of production:
Smith Premier Typewriter Company , Syracuse, NY , USA
Serial nr:

The Smith Premier full-keyboard upstrike typewriter is one of the giants of typewriter history. The machine was the first typewriter built by the L.C. Smith & Brothers gun factory in Syracuse, N.Y. The inventor was an engineer by the name of Alexander Brown, who was employed by Smith.

Legend has it that Brown saw the Sholes & Glidden typewriter at an exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 and vowed to build a better machine. His boss gave him the room he needed and Brown began his series of improvements on the S&G. The Smith Premier Typewriter was introduced in 1889 and it was indeed a major improvement compared to the Sholes & Glidden and many contemporary machines.

What was most striking about the Smith Premier 1 (SP1) was the relief of cattails and flowers and the columns cast into the sides of the machine (pic 4). But the secret of the improvements was on the inside. Brown had decided to drop the concept of levers that swung the type up against the platen. Instead, he developed a system of cranks and rods that could easily be fine tuned and adjusted and that made operation very light.

A second feature that Smith Premier used as a special selling point, was the circular brush that was mounted inside the machine to clean the type. A separate crank was used to turn the brush (pic 6) around and to bring it up to clean the type.

The Smith Premier 1 was replaced with a second model in 1894, that was built without the ornately decorated sides. Starting with the SP3 in 1901, the machine had a total of 84 keys (the SP1 and 2 had 76) and was available in different carriage widths on the models 4, 5 and 6.

In 1908 Smith Premier launched a new model, the SP10 that was the only full-keyboard frontstrike typewriter ever built. The SP10 was the last of the 'real' Smith Premiers. After the demise of the company, the brand name was bought by the Remington Typewriter Company that continued to launch regular office machines and portables with the name Smith Premier for many years.

The Smith Premier was also the model for several unique products. One of these was the Lino-Typewriter, a machine that was in fact the SP1, but the keyboard lay-out of the Linotype composing machine. This machine served a niche market of Linotype operators in need of a typewriter.
Detail of the Siamese Smith Premier keyboard (photo: Pluethipol Prachumphol) 
The machine was also built for a total of 13 different languages, with special characters or keyboard lay-outs. The most fascinating of these is the Smith Premier Siamese typewriter, that used the full keyboard to present the more than 70 different letters in the Siamese alphabet. The entire history of this machine is presented on a separate website:

Courtesy of: Robert collection