Recently on Craigslist, I came across an advertisement for a small typewriter collection that included a Bennet typewriter. I hastily clicked on it, although I assumed it was probably just a repost of a similar advertisement about a collection of Smith Corona Galaxy typewriters, which are sub par machines to say the least. As I read over the ad, it soon dawned upon me that I had just hit a gold mine.
I had spent many hours ogling the Bennet typewriter on Ebay. Their prices ranged from $200 to $700 dollars. I dreamed of having one, until the fateful day on Craigslist.
I have been collecting typewriters since the 8th grade. I am fascinated by their mechanics and their importance in history. I was lucky enough this past summer to work for a week at one of the few typewriter shops left in the country. Being able to revitalize typewriters is very important to me. I feel when I help fix a typewriter I am bringing to life an object that has been forgotten in time.
After I received the Bennet, I went to Ace Typewriter to restore it. The machine’s keys did not move, and there were bits of old typewriter erasers clogging the inner workings of the machine. Unlike other machines I have worked with, this required a simple oiling and polishing.
I purchased the Bennet typewriter from an author who was researching typewriters for a new book he was writing.
The Bennet typewriter was advertised in 1901 as so small that it could fit into your pocket. This might have been a stretch, but the Bennet is the smallest typewriter ever made.
The Bennet measures 25 by 10 by 3 centimeters. It has a simple ratchet mechanism that allows for a bypass of normal typewriter mechanics, which can be clunky and heavy. Instead of type bars, it has a wheel (similar to IBM Selectric typewriter or a Blickensderfer typewriter), which turns when a key is pressed and then imprints onto the page.
It took a lot of detective work to uncover what it really was, as it was not the standard Junior or Bennet typewriter. After much research, I found out the machine was manufactured as a Bennet but sold as a Junior typewriter.
The Junior was the predecessor to the Bennet and had some mechanical issues, including the alignment of the capitals and lowercase letters. This machine is a transition model between the Bennet and Junior models. The Junior typewriter was patented in 1901, and a couple years later, it was renamed the Bennet.
It is a transition model according to the typewriter database. A similar machine sold on British eBay in 2008 that had a junior case, which showed that it was a transition model.
Typing on this machine is difficult to say the least. Due to its petite size, it is easy to accidently press the wrong key. The machine is sloppy and is not precise. Since it is meant as a pocket typewriter it was not meant for extended use.
This typewriter was advertised for people who traveled a lot. Even portable typewriters are very heavy and clunky making it harder for them to be carried around.
Douglas MacArthur most famously used the Bennet typewriter. MacArthur was a five star general during World War II. He used his Bennet typewriter throughout his World War I and World War II career.