Woodstock Typewriter Co., est. 1907


Museum Artifact: Woodstock Standard Typewriter, Model No. 5, 1922

Made By: Woodstock Typewriter Company, 300 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, IL (Offices at 35 N Dearborn St, Chicago)

Woodstock is a sleepy, romantic little town of 25,000, accessible by the Union Pacific Northwest Metra rail line from downtown Chicago—about an hour and a half journey. If you go there, you might recognize it as the stand-in for Punxsutawney in the movie Groundhog Day. They even have an honorary shoe imprint in a block of concrete near the town square that says, “Bill Murray stood here.” A bit less memorialized these days, however, is Woodstock’s former standing as the Typewriter Capital of the World.



In 1909, Woodstock had already put itself on the typographical map as the home of the Oliver Typewriter Company, which set up its main factory there in 1896. Now, the town had successfully coaxed another manufacturer—the fledgling Emerson Typewriter Co.—to move its operations from Momence, IL, up to a brand new facility at 300 N. Seminary Ave. It proved to be a bit of a bumpy transition at first.


The Emerson Typewriter Co. formed in Kittery, Maine, in 1907, and moved to Chicago a year later, establishing its small Momence factory. The company had generated some buzz around the release of its inaugural 1909 model, designed by noted typewriter architect Richard W. Uhlig. It was supposedly the first and only “Standard and Visible Typewriter” selling at a budget price—a $50 machine “that compares in every particular with all the so-called $100 machines.”


Unfortunately, both the production and sales figures of the first Emerson fell short of everyone’s hopes, and even before work was complete on the company’s new $40,000 factory in Woodstock, the Emerson stock holders jumped ship, selling out to one of the best known names in the Chicago retail universe, Richard Sears. Sears, in turn, put his old pal A.C. Roebuck in charge of the Woodstock operation, which was briefly renamed the Roebuck Typewriter Co. before settling into its final iteration: The Woodstock Typewriter Company.



There was a time in 20th century America when a person would say; “I’m serious,” and his friend might snarkily reply, “Yeah? I’m Roebuck.” Technically speaking, the fading retail giant we know today as Sears still goes by the official name, “Sears, Roebuck & Co.”—as they have since 1886. It’s interesting to note, though, that Alvah Curtis Roebuck [pictured] actually sold his stock in the company to Sears very early on—agreeing on a $25,000 buyout in 1895. Sears decided to keep Roebuck’s name on the banner for its positive reputation, and eventually, he decided to do his best to keep Roebuck himself around, too.


In an odd turn, A.C. Roebuck went from a co-founder and owner of his company to more of a traditional salaried employee and manager, working for a number of Sears side ventures. The Woodstock Typewriter Company, it appears, was a particular passion project. Roebuck wasn’t just financially invested in its success; he put his own considerable technological savvy into carrying the Emerson Company’s original goal to fruition—making a top shelf typewriter for the everyman.


The magazine Typewriter Topics was quick to praise Roebuck’s direct contributions to this effort when the new Woodstock model rolled out to consumers in 1915.



Quietly, but with energy characteristic of the man, A.C. Roebuck, chief in the work of mechanical development in no less capacity than as inventor, and in executive charge of the company as its president, has created in a surprisingly short length of time a writing machine of the standard variety that for simplicity and effectiveness in performance ranks far above the usual result from a first effort. A most exhaustive test of a considerable number of the machines, covering a period of several months, however, has given a gratifying degree of assurance that this new product is a success in every respect. The appearance of new typewriters on the market is of such frequent occurrence that something out of the ordinary is now required to attract more than passing attention. And we believe that our readers will agree with us when we say that the subject of this article, namely the New Woodstock Typewriter, manufactured by the Woodstock Typewriter Co., of Woodstock, Ill., U.S.A., seems to be in a class that at first sight attracts and holds your attention.


Where the Emerson had stumbled out of the gates, the Woodstock—backed by the wisdom of Sears and Roebuck—immediately gained ground in the highly competitive industry, stealing some market share from their next-door neighbors at Oliver, among others.


Rather than pricing the Woodstocks at $50 to undercut the competition, Roebuck came up with a better scheme. Woodstock typewriters sold for the same industry standard of $100, but buyers could get a rebate off their purchase of up to $32 if they promoted the machine to their friends and neighbors, then provided testimonial proof of having done so. This marketing strategy not only enticed budget conscious customers, it also created thousands of extra salesmen and women.


In the years after World War I, the new Woodstock No. 5 arrived (the model in our museum collection), and was touted for its quietness and ease of use. In the instructions that came with the typewriter, the company made a point of expressing that the Woodstock, sort of ironically, needed no instructions. That was what set it apart. “Simplicity is of the utmost importance in any machinery,” the manual read, “and the WOODSTOCK TYPEWRITER is the simplest, has the fewest parts, of any of the high grade typewriters. …The WOODSTOCK TYPEWRITER is so simple that no instructions are needed by one who has had any experience in operating a typewriter…”


The critics at Typewriter Topics (who may or may not have been on Roebuck’s payroll) seem to back up these claims.


A close inspection of the New Woodstock Typewriter reveals the fact that each and every part the relationship of one part to another, and the relationship of each part to the whole, has been just as carefully studied and executed with just as much precision as has the design of the machine. While the harmonious and highly artistic appearance of the machine is the first thing that catches the eye of the casual observer, it is the extreme simplicity and splendidly balanced relationship of the various parts that immediately appeals to the critical mechanical observer. The Woodstock machine is standard in every particular; in shape, weight, equipment, design, efficiency, etc., is single shift, having 42 keys in four rows, and we were surprised to learn that the New Woodstock visible machine has approximately 20 percent less parts than other standard single shift typewriters.



The Woodstock No. 5 in our collection has a serial number of F94926, dating it to early 1922—the heyday of typewriter mania in the town of Woodstock, when half of the world’s entire typewriter production was centered here. By the end of the decade, Oliver would shut down its local plant, and the market crash would force a happily retired, 66 year-old A.C. Roebuck to return to work at his original home, Sears, Roebuck & Co.


To the surprise of some, even against more reputable manufacturers like Underwood, Royal, and Remington, the Woodstock Typewriter Co. did survive the Depression, and eventually hit a new peak as the main typewriter supplier to the military in World War II.


Success only made the company ripe for the plucking, though, and in 1950, Woodstock Typewriter Co. was purchased by another successful wartime manufacturer, R.C. Allen Business Machines. R.C. Allen kept producing typewriters in Woodstock into the ‘60s, but eventually joined every other American typewriter in giving up the ghost by the ‘70s. The old Emerson/Woodstock factory went on to serve as the home of Woodstock Wire Works before getting converted into fancy loft apartments.



If you’re interested in how a Woodstock typewriter became the central piece of evidence in one of America’s biggest espionage trials, be sure to check out the other vintage Woodstock in our collection—the 1933 model—here







Please reload

Lost Chicago Factory Map

Help Support the

Made In Chicago Project

Artifact Categories
Company Histories

A.B. Dick Company

A.L. Hansen MFG Co.

Abbott Laboratories

Ace Fastener Corp.

Adams & Westlake Co.

Addometer Co.

Addressograph Company

Adjustable Clamp Co.

Admiral Corp.

Airguide Instrument Co.

Albert Dickinson Co.

Albert Pick & Co.

Allied MFG Co.

American Automatic Devices Co.

American Bird Products Inc.

American Cutlery Co.

American Family Scale Co.

American Flyer MFG Co.

American Metal Ware Co.

American Shoe Polish Co.

American Varnish Co.

Ampro Corporation

Anacin Company

Angel Dainty Dye Co.

Armour and Company

Arrco Playing Card Co.

Automatic Pencil Sharpener Co.

B. Heller & Co.

Bally MFG Co.

Bambino Products Co.

Bell & Howell

Benjamin Electric MFG Co.

Bersted MFG Co.

Bloomfield Industries

Bremner Biscuit Company

Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co.

Bunte Brothers Candy

Burke & James

C. Cretors & Co.

C. H. Hanson Company

Cable Piano Company

Cadaco Inc.

Calculator Machine Company

California Beverage Co.

Calumet Baking Powder Co.

Carl Goldberg Models Inc.

Central Waxed Paper Co.

Central Wholesale Grocers Inc.

Chas. A. Brewer & Sons

Chess Records

Chicago Electric MFG Co.

Chicago Flexible Shaft Co.

Chicago Hardware Foundry Co.

Chicago Mail Order Co.

Chicago Printed String Co.

Chicago Roller Skate Co.

Chicago Specialty MFG Co.

Chicago Telephone Supply Co.

Citation Hat Co.

Citrus Products Co.

Claire MFG Co.

Clipper Products Co.

Columbia Medallion Studios

Compco Corp.

Cracker Jack Company

Crane Company

Curt Teich & Co.

Curtiss Candy Co.

D.B. Fisk & Co.

Dad's Root Beer Co.

Damon MFG Co.

Denoyer-Geppert Co.

Detect-O-Ray Company

DeVry Corporation

Ditto Incorporated

Dowst Brothers Company

E.B. Millar & Co.

E.C. DeWitt & Co., Inc.

E.H. Sargent & Co.

E.J. Brach & Sons

E.K. Pond Company

Ekco Products Co.

Electric Clock Corp. of America

Electric Corp. of America

Elgin National Watch Co.

Empire Spice Mills

Essanay Film Mfg. Co.

Eugene Dietzgen Co.

Excel Projector Corp.

F.B. Redington Co.

F.H. Smith MFG Co.

F.W. Planert & Sons

Fidelitone Inc.

Fitzpatrick Bros.

Flavour Candy Co.

Florsheim Shoe Company

Foley & Co.

G. Felsenthal & Sons

Gateway Engineering Co.

General Television & Radio Corp.

Geo. B. Carpenter Co.

Geo. W. Diener MFG Co.

Gold Eagle Products Co.

Grossman MFG Co.

Hallicrafters Co.

Halsam Products Co.

Halsey Brothers Co.

Hammond Organ Co.

Hanson Scale Co.

Harmony Company

Hedman MFG Co.

Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co.

Hump Hair Pin MFG Co.

Illinois Bronze Powder Co.

Illinois Cosmetics Co.

Indestro MFG Co.

J.C. Deagan Co.

J.P. Dieter Co.

J.W. Allen & Co.

Jas. P. Marsh Corp.

Jays Foods, Inc.

Johnson Publishing Co.

Kelling Nut Company

Kellogg Switchboard & Supply

Kling Bros. & Co.

Kraft Foods Company

L. H. Thomas Co.

Langson MFG Co.

Liberty Dairy Products Co.

Lincoln Logs

Ludwig Drum Co.

Lyon & Healy

M.A. Donohue & Co.

Mall Tool Company

Mars Incorporated

MasterCrafters Clock & Radio Co.

Maybelline Company

Metal Moss MFG Co.

Mid City Uniform Cap Co.

Monark Silver King Inc.

Morton Salt Company

Motorola Inc.

National Washboard Co.

Nestor Johnson MFG Co.

Northwestern Beverage Co.

O-Cedar Corp.

Oliver Typewriter Co.

Olson Rug Co.

Page Boiler Company

Paymaster Corp.

Peerless Confection Co.

Pelouze Scale & MFG Co.

Peter Hand Brewing Co.

Playskool MFG Co.

Princess Pat Ltd.

QRS Music Company

Radio Flyer

Rand McNally & Co.

Reed Candy Company

Regal Musical Instrument Co.

Reid, Murdoch & Co.

Reliable Paste Co.

Replogle Globes, Inc.

Revere Camera Company

Rival Packing Co.

Rock-Ola MFG Corp.

S&C Electric Co.

Sanford Ink Company

Scholl MFG Co.

Schulze Baking Company

Schwinn Bicycle Co.

Sherman-Klove Co.

Shotwell MFG Co.

Shure Brothers, Inc.

Signode Steel Strapping Co.

Simoniz Company

Simonsen Metal Products Co.

Slingerland Drum Company

Spartus Camera Corp.

Sprague, Warner & Co.

Standard Brewery

Steele-Wedeles Company

Stenographic Machines, Inc.

Stewart-Warner Corp.

Stone Medicine Co.

Sunbeam Corp.

Swanberg MFG Co.

Swedish-American Telephone Co.

T.C. Gleason MFG Co.


Triner Scale & MFG Co.

Turner Brass Works

Turtle Wax Inc.

U-C Lite MFG Co.

Union Publishing House

United Razor Blade Corp.

Universal Medicine Co.

Vail MFG Co.

Val-A Company

Valmor Products Co.

Van Cleef Brothers

Vaughan Novelty MFG Co.

Vee-Jay Records

Victor Adding Machine Co.

Victor X-Ray Corporation

W.D. Allen MFG Co.

W.F. McLaughlin & Co.

W.M. Welch Scientific Co.

Webster-Chicago Corp.


Western Electric Co.

Western Fluorescent Light Co.

White Cap Co.

William Cooper & Nephews Inc.

Williamson Candy Co.

Wilson Jones Company

Wilson Sporting Goods

Wm. E. Pratt MFG Co.

Wm. Meyer Co.

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company

Woodstock Typewriter Company

Zenith Radio Corp.

Zeno MFG Co.


If you have any insights on this company and its history, or corrections about the details above, please share them below to help us tell a better story.

More Resources


© 2020 by Andrew Clayman. Created with Wix.com