Weapon of Choice: “Thunderbird 2” 1968 Montgomery Ward Signature 440T #B8860433
It’s been a bit since I’ve browsed through Muse Technical’s Department store catalog archive, but the other night someone asked about an 80’s-era Penncrest machine on the FB – and that set me to looking at the archive again. What I’ve found is that the guys at christmas.musetechnical.com have been busy adding many new catalogs, including a *lot* of new Montgomery Wards catalogs covering the majority of time that MW has been selling typewriters, and especially the period when they were selling typewriters with their house brand labeling. It seemed like a good time to examine what these catalogs could tell us about the Monkey Wards history with typewriters on a year by year basis. I found some fun surprises to share!
I should note here that in addition to the serial number dating we can do with Montgomery Wards machines (they use the manufacturers series for all models (except technically Smith-Corona made Store brand models), and the general age range clues we get from these store catalogs, Montgomery Wards often used a “reversed 2-digit datecode” on the serial number label of especially store-branded machines.
The first catalog in the archive for MW is Christmas 1941. The USA was not yet fully into WWII, but the war was coming, and American businesses were supporting servicemen overseas, and wartime austerity was being prepared for. MW offers a small variety of Underwood Portables, with no store branding at all. This is pretty much exactly how Sears was selling typewriters at the time, and the main surprise here is the “New” ‘Correspondent’ model Underwood, with the built-in typing stand table case. Wouldn’t you like one of those brand-new for $49.50? :D
The Montgomery Wards archive of catalogs is as of yet somewhat sparse through the 1940’s through early 1950’s, but we begin to pick up around 1956, when MW was for all intents and purposes a full-selection Typewriter Dealer – selling Royals, Smith-Coronas, Underwoods, Remingtons and even IBM Electrics and Reconditioned Standard Manual machines – much like any other typewriter dealer. Still no store branded machines, but an incredible selection to chose from.
We then jump forward to Christmas 1958, where we see more reconditioned Standards, but newer ones. No more 1920’s-era Underwood 5’s – this year we get fairly fresh Underwood “S” models. As far as new machines go? Brand-new Underwood, Remington and Royal portables. Ooh, looka that pretty two-tone Aristocrat!
Christmas 1959 is when Montgomery Wards gets their own “store brand” of a sort. They start offering the “Royal Heritage”, a model made specifically for MW by Royal. This is the beginning of the famous “blue badge” Royals with the sky-blue case interiors. If you see one of these, it was sold by Montgomery Wards. MW still sold non-store branding too, though – with Darts and Futuras still on offer along with a few Remington and Smith-Corona models, including the new SCM Electric Portable 5TE model. Underwood is conspicuously absent from the offerings.
Christmas 1960 gives us a nice selection of Smith-Corona portables, with Remington and Cole Steel along for the ride. The Royal Futura, Dart and store-brand Heritage are featured on the full-color pages, though – blue badge on the main stage.
By Christmas 1961, we see a new “Heritage Deluxe” model, with a white and gold badge rather than blue. The “Dart” model is still on offer, but a new store-brand “Forward 1” model appears. Also another new model in the Futura style appears; the Montgomery Wards exclusive “Heritage III”.
Montgomery Wards celebrates the “Forward” branding in Spring/Summer 1962 with FOUR “Forward” models, the “Forward 1”, “Forward Dart”, “Forward Heritage Deluxe” and “Forward Heritage III”. Essentially the same models as the previous year, but for some reason now called “Forward” though they still have the Royal badge and no obvious “Forward” branding on most of them. We also get a full page of reconditioned Standards and Standard Electrics – all rebuilt models from the 1950’s.
In Christmas 1962, We get the same “Forward” Royal models as before, plus a new “Safari” body “Heritage 500”. I note that Small Spencerian Script is now offered on this model, and I’m beginning to suspect that this face is found on both Royals and Brothers because both were sold extensively by Montgomery Wards. We will see the Brothers show up soon, and I’ll note the big typeface mystery when they come along.
Spring/Summer 1963 gives us the same “Forward” Heritage Royals as last year and a page full of Reconditioned standards and Electrics (ooh, a fully professionally reconditioned RE for $189.50, what a deal! You wouldn’t be able to get the rubber alone replaced for that money today.)
Christmas 1963 finally introduces the Brother-built “Signature” series with the Signature 300 (JP-1). The Small Spencerian Script option is not yet available on the Brother, but is, along with “Graphic Elite” and the supposedly rare “Executive” face on this year’s (Royal) Signature 500 (previously “Heritage 500”).
These are all Royal-exclusive typefaces, so it isn’t *yet* surprising that Montgomery Ward is offering them on Royal-built portables, despite Royal’s reluctance to supply some of the faces on portables.
1963 Montgomery Ward Signature 500 #5706111 (Executive)
The Traveler-style “Signature 400” also can be had with Small Spencerian Script, but the budget Signature 100 (JP-1) only comes in Pica.
Spring/Summer 1964 settles in with the Signature 100 & 300 (JP-1) models still not offered in Script, and the (Royal) Signature 88 now just in Elite and Pica. It’s only the high-end (Royal) Signature 500 that can be had in one of 5 type styles including the “Executive” and “Spencerian Script” options. This time, it comes with a Free Typing Course on LP! We get another page of Reconditioned 1950’s Standards and Royal RE’s too.
Fall/Winter 1964 brings an exciting new Brother JP-1 model with a very unique accessory included standard, the “Signature 440” with exclusive “Tag-A-Long Table” that clamps to your desk to make a little typing-height table shelf, all in a deluxe “luggage-Style” leather case to hold it all. (This is on my want list, BTW). This model joins the Signature 100 and 300 in the JP-1 type lineup, and can now be had in Small Spencerian Script typeface (starting August 21, 1964.) This is where I believe that Montgomery Wards either required or suggested that Brother make the same Spencerian Script that MW offered with the Royal-built “Signature 500” available on the top-end Brother model, a decision which unites these two manufacturers being by far the most commonly found fitted with Small Spencerian Script. It was MW that cross-pollinated the face from Royal to Brother.
We also are introduced to the new Brother JP-3 type Signature 510, 513 and 088 models, and this is where the really weird typeface mystery appears. According to this catalog, the Brother-made Signature 510 & 513 can be had in FOUR of the typefaces that were previously available on the Royal-made Safari-type Signature 500 (which is not in this catalog anymore) – including the rare “Executive” that has only ever been found on Royals. The Small Spencerian Script and Executive typefaces started August 21, 1964 on the 510 & 513.
1964 Montgomery Ward Signature 510 #F4458574 (Spencerian Script)
The rebuilts are a little thinned out this year, with just refurbed Reminton Super-Riters, Royal HH’s & HE’s up for grabs.
Christmas 1964 sees the Brother-made Signature line firm up with the 300, 440 and 510 & 513 models now being offered with a Free Typewriter Table, Illuminated Easel or Clamp-On Typewriter Table (already comes free with the 440 anyway). The JP-3 type Signature 500 models now sported a paper injector and the 513 model could be had fitted with a new “Contempo Pica” typeface as well as the previous 4 styles.
“Contemporary Pica”, also a Royal typeface:
Spring/Summer 1965 continues with the same options for the Brother made Signature 100, 300, 440 (JP-1) and 088, 510 & 513 (JP-3) models, with same typestyle options. The Rebuilt Super-Riters and HH’s are still offered, but the RE’s are gone.
Christmas 1965 continues with the JP-3 type Signature 510 & 513 now coming with a free Transistor Radio, and the new Highbrow JP-1 type Signature 440T replacing the 440 in the lineup (also free radio). The 440T adds a keyset tabulator and replaces the 440’s clamp-on table and leatherette case with a briefcase-style carrying case made of a somewhat thin plastic, like the JP-3 carrying cases. Again the typeface options are just as rich as before.
Fall/Winter 1966 brings us the same JP1-type Signature 100, 300 & 440T, but now it seems the 440T can be had in a “Men’s” and “Women’s” models, with the girls getting a “Soft White” shell and (never before or after seen) Grey keytops, and a case styled in bright blue. The JP-3 type Signature 088, 510 & 513 are the same as previous, still with a large typeface selection.
Christmas 1966 is more of the same, just a price cut difference, clearing out old stock.
Spring/Summer 1967 Introduces the new Brother Electric JP-2 type Signature 1010 & 1013 models with Power Return, and the Manual Return 1000 and 1003 models. These new models are available only in Pica or Elite, but the old JP-3 type Signature 088, 510 & 513 and JP-1 type Signature 100, 300 & 440T models are still offering the same typestyles as before.
Christmas 1967 offers the same lineup of Signature 1000, 1003, 1010 & 1013 (JP-2) Electrics, but introduces the new Signature 511 (JP-3) model in a new shell which supports “Dial-A-Type” interchangable typeface rotating typeslug cylinders. The introduction of the 511 model means the loss of the “Executive” and “Contempo Pica” typeface options, and now only Spencerian Script is available as a special typeface option. The JP-1 type Signature 300T model shows up in a new Cycolac, rounded shell and the Signature 440T adopts a charcoal version of this shell and drops the briefcase-style case for a weird plastic clamshell case that has zero sex appeal. The “Women’s” white/grey variation of the 440T vanishes.
Spring/Summer 1968 is more of the same, with the manuals settling into the same three typeface options as were introduced last Christmas, but now the old metal-shelled JP-1 type Signature 100 re-appears in the catalog.
And this lineup continues into Christmas 1968 as well.
We’re missing the Spring/Summer & Fall/Winter 1969 catalogs, but by Christmas 1969, we see a Brother JP-4 type Signature 811D Electric, and the somewhat out-of-place Signature 510D appears with the old-style shell. “D” has been suffixed to some model numbers to represent something, maybe “Dial-A-Type” compatibility, but that compatibility also existed on previous models without the “D” suffix.
Fall/Winter 1970 has the JP-4 type Signature 811D along with the JP-2 type 1003D and 1010 & 1013D. The new JP-3 type Signature 511D in the new shell joins the old 510D in the old shell. The JP-1 types Signature S100, 300T & 440T are still the same.
Christmas 1970 features the new JP-4 type wider-carriage Signature 812D and the old-style JP-3 type 510D along with the 300T JP-1 type on a cool full-page color spread, but that’s about it.
Not much changes for Christmas 1971, despite us lacking the middle-of-the-year catalogs for 1971. Same models, but drastic price cutting to clear ’em out. I smell change in the air…
Strangeness abounds in Spring/Summer 1972 as a repeat spacer are added to the Signature 300T & 440T to turn them into the Signature 300 and 440. Huh? Well, OK. The new Signature 400 is TWO-TONED Gold/Charcoal, and I have never seen one. The old metal shell Signature 100 and 510D are still here, as are the Electric 812D, 1003D and 1013D. The new JP-4 type Signature 810 is introduced. The big new addition is the new budget electric, the JP-8 type “Brother Electric”, which eschews the “Signature” branding.
Christmas 1972 brings us that change. Gone is the “Signature” branding, and in with the new “Escort” branding. Gone are the Brother made portables (except the “Brother Electric” JP-8 which is now called the “Montgomery Ward Electric 800”), replaced with Olivetti made Lettera 32-type Escort 33 (Dora) and Escort 66 (Studio 45).
More Olivettis join us in Christmas of 1973. The swoopy, yellow Escort 55 (Lettera 32) joins in, and mysteriously, we see the old Brother JP-4 type Signature 812D is offered again. The Olivetti can be had in a non-Spencerian Script that is common on Olivettis. The typewriter listings in the archived catalogs start getting much thinner after this, so we’ll probably be missing a lot of what was actually offered between 1972 through 1979, so it’s likely that some old models remained in inventory for a few years after they stopped appearing in catalogs.
Christmas 1974 just lists the (L32) Escort 55 and (JP-8) Ward Electric 800.
Fall/Winter 1975 introduces Olivetti-branded Lettera 36 and Praxis 48 along with the old Brother JP-8 type electrics branded “Montgomery Ward”. All 3 of the Lettera-32 type Escorts are here, the Escort 33, 55 and 66.
Christmas 1975 brings us a new Smith-Corona made Coronamatic 6 type “Montgomery Ward Cartridge Electric 12 Automatic” to join the now-white shelled L32 type Escort 55.
Christmas 1976 simply replaces the Escort 55 with a Brother JP-7 type “Escort 350”.
Brother returns with a vengeance in Spring/Summer of 1977 as a JP-10 type cartridge Electric joins a pair of JP-8 types in the electric line-up and a JP-7 type Escort 550 joins the 350 model and a JP-1 type manual portable. Man, if I was a Wards shopper buying the “Cartridge Ribbon” typewriter, I’d be getting frustrated by now phoning up for replacement ribbons, because there’s also 3 new Coronamatic 6 types to puzzle over the names of. :D
Christmas 1977 only lists the Coronamatic 6 type “Cartridge Mark 12” and the JP-7 type Escort 350.
And Christmas 1978 is no different. /:
Oh look, absolutely nothing has changed by Christmas 1979! ):
Hey, a couple of new Coronamatic 6 types, one with a funky new ribbon cover by Fall/Winter 1980. A new shell on the JP-8 type and a new Brother electric JP-11 ball element typewriter joins the Brother JP-7 type Escorts 350 & 550 and a brand-mew special purchase Maritsa made Princess type manual portable! Name ’em what you want, the Montgomery Wards catalog has no opinion on the matter.
Weird, the Christmas 1980 catalog page for typewriters looks pretty much the same as the Christmas 1979 one. :O
Spring/Summer 1981 brings us the same as Fall/Winter 1980, but now the JP-11 type ball element machine is replaced with a Smith-Corona/Olivetti ball element machine that could be had with a “Casual” typeface ball. This won’t be the end of confusing incompatible ball element machines in Montgomery Ward’s lineup. Daisywheel machines make their debut in the MW catalog with the Olivetti Praxis 35 electronic portable.
Finally the monotony of a Coronamatic 6 type and a JP-7 type for Christmas is broken, and Christmas 1981 just lists an Olivetti Praxis 30 Daisywheel machine.
And it looks like Fall/Winter 1982 drops all pretense of store branding, giving us Brother branded JP-7’s a JP-14 and one of those ill-fated Brother JP-16 moving-carriage daisywheels with Smith-Corona branded Coronamatic 6 & 8 types and an Olivetti Praxis 35.
Christmas 1982 is just a JP-14, a JP-7 and a buncha Coronamatic 6 & 8’s.
Christmas 1983 introduces the Brother EP-20 Thermal to the JP-14 (oooh, an example of the “Shadow” typeball), a JP-7 and a Coronamatic 8.
Spring/Summer 1984 introduces Silver-Reed EXD 5 & 15 thermal typewriters to the lineup. Olivetti Praxis 35 daisywheel is present as is a Brother Correctronic 50 along with its RS-232 & Centronics interface adapter accessory. Oh, and a page with the Coronamatics, a JP-14 and a JP-7.
The weird Selectric-ish Remington 880 golfball machine appears in Fall/Winter of 1984 along with the standard Coronamatics and a JP-14. For daisywheels, we have a Brother Correctronic 50 and an Executron 68, and the computer-connection adapter is still on offer. The Silver-Reed thermal typewriters are also here.
Christmas 1984 brings us many of the same Brother Daisywheels and Silver-Reed Thermals, but new on offer is the Brother Type-A-Graph pen plotter typewriter. Those doomed Remington 880 Selectric types are here as is the ubiquitous Coronamatic type. Manual typewriters seem to no longer be offered. Now it’s all about home computers.
Christmas 1985 is the last Mongomery Ward catalog listed in the MuseTechnical archive. In it, we see the same Smith-Corona electric, Brother daisywheels and the Remington 880 Selectric-type. Montgomery Ward gets one last branding lick in with the 1100 Electronic daisywheel and the Sharp PA-1000 and Brother EP-45 thermals join the Brother Type-O-Graph in the lineup.
That’s where the information taps out, but the story is clear of a catalog company/department store that started by selling name brands, then transitioned to some very neat, specialized and customized store brand typewriters made by Royal and Brother – to the point of cross-pollinating a couple typefaces from one to the other, then ended up just selling name brands again till the market segment disappeared. There are some very interesting Montgomery Wards “Signature” and “Escort” branded models that are worth collecting and we can put pretty firm dates on all of those. Personally, I have 3 of the 440T’s in my collection and am seeking a 440 with the bolt-on typing table. Weird, wacky & fun machines..