An Influential, Unknown Typewriter

The Rapid is perhaps the most influential unknown typewriter in history. Introduced in 1888 (the company went bankrupt four years later), it was designed by British-born Bernard Granville for The Western Rapid Typewriter Company of Findlay, Ohio.  He was ahead of his time.

How influential was it? The design of its type bars would be adapted by typewriter pioneer Wellington Parker Kidder on his successful machines the Wellington, in England, followed by the Empire in Canada, the Adler in Europe, and later the Noiseless (which became the Remington Noiseless after a merger). Granville also created a ribbon vibrator which meant the typist could see what they were typing on the page. But it was the Underwood No. 1, in 1896, that adopted this innovation and led to it becoming standard on typewriters throughout the 20th century.

Granville created another unique feature: the typist could control everything by the keys alone. At the top of the keyboard sat a “Lift” key which advanced the paper on the platen to the next line, and a “‘Return” key, which made the carriage swing back to the right, ready to type on a new line. So an entire page could be typed without a typist’s hands leaving the keyboard.

Despite having all these winning design components, Granville suffered from a costly fire in the factory in 1889, and general mismanagement once he was established in a new factory a year later. Not to mention that his Rapid typed only in upper case, a feature that was already becoming obsolete by the 1890s.