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MMD > Archives > July 1998 > 1998.07.16 > 07Prev  Next


Auto-typist & American Automatic Typewriter Co.
By Art Reblitz

The American Automatic Typewriter Co., owned by Otto Schulz of
Chicago's M. Schulz piano company, began building the Auto-typist
in 1932.  This interesting machine had a roll-operated console which
could be connected to one or many slave units.  Each slave unit had a
pneumatic action with pull-down wires connected to the keys of a
typewriter.

Auto-typists were used for duplicating letters for bill collecting,
advertising, mass mailing, etc.  As each letter was typed individually
on a real typewriter, it had a hand-typed look that improved its
chances of being read, when the recipient might discard a ordinary mass
mailing produced on a ditto or mimeograph machine.

Users created their own headings, paragraphs, or complete letters on
a small mechanical roll perforator controlled by a typewriter keyboard.
The fanciest Auto-typist console was equipped with an automatic selec-
tor mechanism enabling the operator to choose the desired paragraph or
complete letter by turning a dial.  The roll mechanism was based on the
Western Electric Piano Company's "Selectra," used in their coin-
operated pianos in the mid 1920s, originally patented by Russell
Wilcox, who later developed jukebox record selector mechanisms.
Tracker bar hole spacing is 5 per inch.

The interesting story of the Auto-typist, and how the M. Schulz company
came to be in this business, is included on p. 660 in Dave Bowers'
Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, currently available from
Marty Roenigk.

A letter duplicating service in Colorado Springs used Auto-typists well
into the 1970s.  The Auto-typist wasn't really obsolete until modern
computer printers enabled a similar hand-produced look.

Incidentally, the American Automatic Typewriter Co. sold the finest
pre-trimmed 11-1/4" wide dry-waxed music roll paper in two different
weights.  I bought several big rolls of it in the early 1970s and used
it for hundreds of drawing board band organ and orchestrion roll
masters -- anything 11 1/4" wide or narrower -- for about ten years.
In 1972, a 10-pound  roll (700 feet) was $11, and a 25-pound roll
(1750') was $25, plus shipping.

My July 9, 1958 price list includes six basic models, from the 5600
Standard Auto-Typist (for electric typewriter) for $850, all the way
up to the 5660 Dual Selector, 100 Push-Button (for electric or manual
typewriter) for $2250.  Four different perforators ranged in price
from $375 to $1475.

Art Reblitz


(Message sent Thu 16 Jul 1998, 13:30:49 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  American, Automatic, Auto-typist, Co, Typewriter

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