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The Oliver Typewriter
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Serial Number 1009 | Made in 1898

At first glance, it appears to be an Oliver No. 2. But you notice the odd side handles, and then you see the paper table's elegant decal- it reads WOODSTOCK. This machine has no correlation to the eponymous machines manufactured by the Woodstock Typewriter Company. This Woodstock was manufactured in 1898 by the Linotype Company of Montreal, Canada for the Oliver Typewriter Company.

The Woodstock was discussed at meetings concerning the Detroit Board of Education's purchase of typewriters for high schools. This group of meetings, known as the Battle of Detroit, lasted from September 1898 to January 1899. A pamphlet published by the Linotype Company of Montreal, Canada covers these meetings in great detail.1 According to the pamphlet, a certain Inspector Marr, presumably a member of the Board of Education, showed the committee formed to purchase typewriters an advertisement for the Woodstock in the Fall-Winter 1898-1899 Montgomery Ward catalogue, apparently in order to question the fairness of the price at which Oliver typewriters had been offered to the Board. W. A. Waterbury, the manager of the Oliver Typewriter Company, explained that the Woodstock was "an unguaranteed, cheap machine of which nineteen were all that were ever made". Waterbury stated, "We have a circular now in print for circulation offering $5,000 for twenty Woodstock typewriters", reinforcing the fact only nineteen were manufactured. He also stated that the Woodstock was manufactured strictly for sale to large department stores, and all nineteen machines were sold to Montgomery Ward and Company, of Chicago. They contracted for the second grade machines which were not to be sold for under $60. The Oliver Typewriter Company stopped manufacture of the Woodstock typewriter after it had been on the market for less than ten months. It is unknown how many machines Montgomery Ward sold.

No machines were known to have survived until a Woodstock with a serial number of 1009, presumably the ninth machine produced, was listed on eBay. I was so astounded that such a rare machine existed that I had to bid on it, and I won!

After conversing with Bobbie, the eBay seller, I learned that this machine made its way into a house owned by a self-proclaimed hoarder named Jim H. near Lancaster, California. She claims Jim does not know where he acquired most of his things, but he would shop at places such as flea markets, Goodwill, and auctions. The Woodstock came out of a house Jim owned for thirty years and never lived in; he used it just for storage. When Bobbie bought the machine, she placed it in her storage with initial intentions of selling it at her booth in an antique shop for $40! However, she researched the machine first, and after finding no information on this Woodstock, she listed it on eBay, figuring it would bring a couple hundred dollars.

Anyway, the machine arrived safe and sound. After examining the machine in detail, I have concluded that the Woodstock is mechanically identical to early Oliver No. 2 machines.2 The major difference between the Woodstock and the Oliver No. 2, aside from the Woodstock branding, is the base. The Woodstock base has altered side handles and, rather than curving inward, the back of the base mirrors the curves made by the front of the base. The base is currently painted black, although it shows runs and has been touched up in a few places. Even the type guards have been painted black, some of which has chipped off, revealing a dark yellow color. The raised parts of the side panels are nickel-plated, while the backgrounds are black.

In my opinion, the Woodstock does not appear to be a second grade machine as W.A. Waterbury had described. I am hard-pressed to find a reason to render the Woodstock a cheaper Oliver No. 2 counterpart. The advertisement in the catalogue even stated that the Woodstock was “complete in a highly finished metal case with handle”. Unfortunately, such a case has yet to resurface. One can only hope a Woodstock in the original case may one day be discovered.

  1. The Linotype Company manufactured Oliver machines for Canada (including the Canadian Oliver No. 3) and South America.

  2. There are several distinct styles of the Oliver No. 2 I can identify. The earliest style of Oliver No. 2 had round holes in the ribbon spool covers, the "Open O" logo on the side panels, a cutout of the base under the keyboard, a plastic key comb, curved metal springs for the spacing mechanism, a pivoting bearing for the shifting mechanism, and thinner key mounts. This style shows the 1894, 1895, and 1896 patent dates. I believe The "Open O" logo was introduced when the 1898 patent date was added. This is the style to which the Woodstock is most related. Later, the 1891 patent was listed on the machines. When this occurred, the second to last version of Oliver No. 2 was introduced. This style was given later style ribbon spool covers with elongated holes, a solid base under the keyboard, a metal key comb, coil springs for the spacing mechanism (including other minor mechanical differences), a simpler wheel bearing for the shifting mechanism, and wider key mounts. The last variation simply added a model number on the paper table. I am still narrowing down between which serial numbers these variations were put into effect.
    Sources:
    Battle of Detroit- Pamphlet published by the Linotype Company of Montreal, Canada in 1899.
    ETCetera No. 4 - Oddest Oliver - Don Decker
    ETCetera No. 29 - The First Woodstock - Alexander “Sandy” Sellers
Serial Number
Date
1001
1898
1019
1898

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