The Oliver Typewriter Company manufactured most of their typewriters for sale in the United States. These machines are the standard Oliver models.
The Oliver No. 1 is arguably one of the most sought-after typewriters ever. This is due to its historical significance as well as its uniqueness in that it looks very different from its successors. The Oliver 1 was manufactured in Dubuque, Iowa. All model 1 machines were nickel plated and have flat side handles and black keytops.
Only 500 machines were made, and I know of 10 currently in existance today. Unfortunately, I have yet to add an Oliver 1 to my collection.
The Oliver No. 2 was the first Oliver model produced at the factory in Woodstock, Illinois. Initally, the first few hundred Oliver No. 2s were nickel plated. The iconic olive green paint was introducted as an option and eventually became the standard finish. The white keytops were also introduced in the same manner.
Many improvements were made during the production run of this model, all of which are listed in the table below. Note that there is no Oliver model "1 1/2" "1b"- the model 2 was simply revised and updated throughout its production run. Also note that the Oliver Typewriter Company jumped from serial number 500 to 5001 when starting production of the Oliver No. 2.
The Oliver No. 3 is very similar to the model 2. The most distinguishable difference is the taller base. The model 3 also introduced left and right margin release keys.
The Oliver No. 5 is the next traditional model after the Oliver No. 3. (The Oliver No. 4 is not the next traditional model because starting with the model 4, the even-numbered machines were manufactured for international markets.) The model 5 is noticeably different from previous models in shape and design. Numerous improvements were introduced throughout this model's life span, all of which are listed in the table below.
The Oliver No. 5 was the first model to offer a new typeface called Printype. It was designed to mimic actual book print. Machines with this typeface option have "The Printype Oliver - Pat. Nov. 5, 1912" displayed on their paper tables.
The Oliver No. 7 is the successor to the model 5. The frame was redesigned to wrap around the keyboard. From a distance, one could easily mistake it for an Oliver No. 9, but the model 7 has a single set of shift keys to the left of the keyboard. The left margin release key is located to the right of the keyboard and the right margin release key is above the keyboard to the left of the tab key.
With nearly half a million machines produced, the Oliver No. 9 is by far the most common Oliver model. This model introduced shift keys on both sides of the keyboard.
Some Oliver No. 9 machines have the keys staggered differently. Traditionally, looking from left to right, the keys protrude from the top row, the bottow row, and then the middle row. The alternate keyboard staggers in order, from the top row, the middle row, and then the bottom row. Some of the symbols and other characters were also rearranged on the alternate keyboard.
The machines with these alternate keyboards have an "A" prefix on the serial number. example I know of is my machine, serial number A900380X. After this machine, the only other example I could find before serial number A980001 is A928771X. Beginning with A980001, all model 9 machines were given the "A" prefix and alternate keyboard. Note that this excludes Oliver No. L-10 machines which have a Spanish keyboard with the traditional staggered layout and therefore do not have an "A" prefix.
The only two machines I know to exist with an "X" suffix are the ones listed above. My machine, A900380X, has flat-cut side handles with two screws in each handle. Side handles are made like this if a bracket to support a wide carriage is installed. However, there are no brackets nor a wide carriage on this machine. Perhaps this is related to the "X" suffix.
The Oliver No. 11 was the last Oliver model produced for the domestic market. Compared to its predecessors, the Oliver No. 11 was given a different look. The iconic olive green paint was discontinued in favor of gloss black accented with gold pinstriping. The Oliver logo was redesigned using a thin lettering.The side handles were replaced with side cutouts to lift the machine. Many sources say that only 35,000 model 11s were produced. However, this is incorrect; 50,000 Oliver 11s were produced. I have seen Oliver No. 11 serial number 1049945 to help back this claim.
Some model 11 (also 12, L-12, and L-13) serial numbers have a "B" prefix. Unlike the "A" prefix on Oliver No. 9 machines which denotes an alternate keyboard, the "B" prefix has no correlation to the keyboard. Some machines with a "B" prefix have the alternate keyboard and some do not. I have yet to figure out what the "B" prefix means.