Tom Thumb typewriters
Tom Thumb typewriters are typewriters for children, manufactured from 1953 by the Western Stamping Company in Jackson, Michigan.
Background and Description
The Western Stamping Company in Jackson was founded in 1939 by ex employees of Sparks Withington Company’s automotive division. World War II saw the business, consisting of an almost entirely female workforce, producing aircraft parts, radios, communications mast clamps, and machine gun parts.
After the war, Jackson engineer Lathrop Berry brought his prototype for a toy cash register into the Western Stamping Company. This item was so popular, that the company became one of the foremost producers of children’s toys during the 1940s and 50s. 750,000 cash registers were produced by 1947. Children dreamed of receiving these metal cash registers as Christmas presents, and it is estimated they produced 600,000 of them a year. These toy cash registers were remarkably because they worked, ringing up sales, completing bills, with a drawer filled with toy coins and notes.
The Tom Thumb typewriters began to be produced in 1953. These were metal typewriters designed for children, that were key activated and actually worked.
The original Tom Thumb typewriters are made of metal, with three full rows of keys containing the alphabet and punctuation, working with a ribbon, much like a full size typewriter. They have a Tom Thumb logo affixed, of name with a smiling boy in polka dot bow tie. The typewriters are often green in colour, though some are red.
Collecting Tom Thumb typewriters
Thousands of Tom Thumb machines were produced in the first year of production, and they continued to be manufactured (and the design slightly altered) over 30-40 years. They are easy to come by on auction sites like eBay, and in second hand stores.
The Tom Thumb typewriter was succeeded by the ‘President’, a plastic bodied machine also made by Western Stamping Company that worked much the same, using a ribbon. However, there are some ‘President’ toy typewriters that seem to have no connection to the Western Stamping Company or Tom Thumb. Be wary of this if you desire an original. This can usually be detected if the typewriter is in possession of its original carrying case, which will have the Tom Thumb logo.
The best examples come with their removable lids, and in their original carry cases. Some even retain their original Western Stamping Company cardboard boxes.
Tom Thumb typewriters are not particularly valuable. They were widely produced right from the start, and developed over three of four decades. They generally sell for below $100 on auction sites such as eBay. However, antique shops often price them somewhat higher.
Earlier examples, original metal Tom Thumbs, are more sought after than the later plastic ‘President’ Tom Thumb typewriters.