Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Imperial Typewriter, Putney

A recent visit to Leeds Castle reminded me of a painted signage for an office furniture shop in Putney. The ghost sign below, painted on wood, could be seen for a few months while the shop was being restored prior to being put on the market. Unfortunately I don't think it was ever fully visible.

The Lyndon Co. Ltd.
Imperial Typewriter

The only mention of The Lyndon Co Ltd at its Putney address I could find dates from 1968. However, given the style of the painted sign, we can assume it had been selling office goods for a few decades. A company of the same name traded until a few years ago in Wandsworth High Street so maybe it had relocated there at some point. As the sign suggests, Lyndon was the Imperial Typewriter Company's local agent.

The Imperial Typewriter Company was established in Leicester in 1908 by Hidalgo Moya, an engineer who had been designing and selling typewriters since 1903. However his earlier models were not without problems and sales remained disappointing. In order to obtain the capital needed to develop a prototype that could conquer the office machine market, he founded Imperial Typewriter. The Imperial Model A was released in 1908 and remained in production until 1915. Other models followed. In 1927, with Imperial Model 50, Imperial Typewriter finally abandoned the three-bank keyboard in favour of the much more popular four-bank one.

In 1932 the company launched its first portable typewriter. This machine, originally developed in partnership with German company Torpedo, was to be called Regent but apparently the success of J. B. Priestley's The Good Companions led to a last minute rethink and after an agreement had been found with the writer, the portable typewriter adopted the name The Good Companion. Priestley was given the first one, while one was sold to Buckingham Palace. As a consequence, Imperial Typewriter was allowed to feature the coat of arms of King George V with the mention "By Royal Appointment" on its machines. The Good Companion, in its seven different designs, remained in production until 1963, making it the most successful portable typwriter at the time.
In 1953 Imperial Typewriter opened a new factory in Hull for its portable machines while the ones for office use continued to be manufactured in Leicester. However by the 1960s the company was facing growing competition and losing ground to cheaper models from the far east and mainland Europe.
In 1966 Imperial Typewriter was acquired by US company Litton Industries through its Royal Typewriter division. Litton kept the Imperial brand for a few years but it disappeared eventually in the 1970s. The Leicester plant closed down in 1974.

I remembered this ghost sign when, while at Leeds Castle, I noticed the Daily Sketch from June 19, 1940, carried on its from page an advert for the Imperial Typewriter Company. Then, in another room, a model of The Good Companion sat on a desk.

Location: Upper Richmond Road / Pictures taken in January 2011 and October 2012

1 comment:

Sam Roberts said...

I love the lettering on this, what a shame we can't see the whole sign. The gold letters remind me of the Boyd Pianos sign in Dalston.