Further reading #1:
Further reading #2:
Illustrious family built an empire of industry in city
by David Lowe, Nottingham Evening Post, Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Jardine's was once one of Nottingham's biggest employers. ... When John Jardine died in 1895 the business was taken over by his only surviving son Ernest (later Sir Ernest Jardine).... By 1930 Sir Ernest had a substantial interest in at least 31 companies – 13 of them directly involved with lace .... He was also involved in the manufacture of typewriters, having become chairman of Bar-Lock in 1925....
After the war, typewriters were in such short supply that output could barely keep pace with demand. In 1951, the Nottingham Journal reported: "Today, more than 500 people are employed in the works, where the Bar-Lock typewriter is manufactured from start to finish, and where every 15 minutes a new standard typewriter is completed."
But competition was increasing, especially from America, and Bar-Lock managers realised they had to modernise to survive.
In 1953 they announced the name was going to change from Bar-Lock to Byron and a radical new model was going to be produced.
Almost £1.25m was invested to produce a first-class standard machine. The typewriter not only had a new name but a new trademark, the poet Byron's profile surrounded by a wreath, and new colours. Instead of traditional black, machines were now two-tone, dark green and light stone. The typewriter was also equipped with "finger-fit" plastic keys, shaped so as not to break the typist's nails. ...
The postwar body style of the Bar-Lock, rechristened Byron (ca. 1953)
"Byron typewriter, designed by Herbert Norman James, M.S.I.A., in 1955 and produced by BYRON BUSINESS MACHINES, 16 Berkeley Street, W.1. Left: first prototype of new machine. Right: latest prototype, white balls have been replaced by 'spade' handle on carriage return lever, and finger grip knobs on platen. Original pastel colours replaced by metallic blue-grey and black."
How do you like that first prototype?
"It is new, not only in general appearance, but also in important mechanical principles. ... The new men [in charge of the company] are almost all under 40 years of age and are keen to make a completely fresh start. ... Its massive appearance is mainly due to the provision of extra space within the casing for carbon ribbon mechanism and to allow for the introduction of a similar but electrified version of the machine at a later date. Herbert Norman James, the industrial designer who was called in as consultant, has evolved a pleasing form which is also attractive when seen from the viewpoint of a visitor waiting at the wrong side of the office desk. ... The plurality of buttons has been carried a stage too far. ... The recent deplorable tendency to incorporate such features in several types of appliance is apparently due to a desire to flatter the user by giving her the sensation of operating a complicated control desk that is incomprehensible to the humbler onlooker.
Herbert Norman James was born in 1918, according to a list of British designers on the web. That's all I know about him. The Design story gives credit for the mechanical innovations to F. S. Hardy and Dennis Whitehead.
Why the name "Byron"? Lord Byron's estate, Newstead Abbey, is in Nottinghamshire, and the typewriter factory was in Nottingham. Do you think the Romantic poet would have used a machine like this?
The following two ads, from 1955 and 1956, promote the new Byron as a "milestone in typewriter history." It clearly was not yet available to the public, but was being exhibited at industrial shows. These images come from Leonhard Dingwerth's anthology of typewriter advertisements.
Finally, here is a 1957 ad (Times of London, Sept. 11) that indicates that the typewriter is under production and available to the public. Only a few such ads exist. They were the last gasp of the company -- at least as a maker of "real" typewriters ...
The failure of the Mark I and the takeover by Oliver was not the end of the Byron typewriter story!
The Revere toy typewriter pictured below bears an uncanny resemblance to the big Mark I, and seems to use exactly the same paint.
In fact, some of these machines were actually called Byron Junior!
Another name variant for this toy is Kamkap. My Revere is stamped on the back as "patent applied for" and made by Petite Typewriters in Nottingham. Tom Furrier shows us a similar Petite which is marked "08-55." Presumably this means August 1955. The appearance of a Kamkap in a 1956 Sears catalogue confirms that it was made before the collapse of Byron.
Apparently Petite was not sold to Oliver; instead, the toy branch of the company continued and thrived into the 1980s. Later toy typewriters from the company are often identified as made by Byron Jardine.
Big Brother and Little Brother:
Byron Jardine continued to create toy typewriters into the 1980s, often labeled "Petite." Here is an electronic talking typewriter manufactured by the company.
If you've read this far, you probably want a Byron Mark I yourself. I can't help you there, but please download the two fonts I've created using this typewriter -- one using a cloth ribbon, and one using a carbon ribbon. (The latter is called "Byron Mark II" -- even if there never was such a typewriter, there can be such a font!) Click the font samples to download the fonts.
Now I'd like to hear from anyone who owns another Byron Mark I, a Byron Secretary, or any other late Byron. Leave a comment here and we can compare our machines!