To celebrate our ongoing organization of the Courtenay and District Museum collection, please join us for the first in a Collection Selections series of re-discovered items, including those that became a vital part of life and business in the 20th century and went on to shape the future.

CDM 972.152.1

This is the Oliver No. 5, a peculiar typewriter manufactured by The Oliver Typewriter Co. in 1913. Thomas Oliver, a Methodist minister from Woodstock, Ontario, founded his typewriter company in 1895 while on a business trip to Chicago, Illinois. The batwing-like typing bars are the most striking feature of this machine, but this form serves a function. Oliver was frustrated with what he considered a design flaw of typewriters in the early 1890s, and set out to make a machine where he could see the text on the same line as it was typed. According to Oliver, the final piece to solve his mechanical marvel came to him in a dream in which he pictured the unmistakable vertical typing bars.

“The Oliver Typewriter No. 5, which is now being placed on the market, is the ‘last word’ in typewriters—a Symphony in Steel. It is scientific in principle, flawless in construction, accurate in adjustment, splendidly efficient in operation.”

From the Oliver Typewriter Co. catalog, 1908.

While other Oliver typewriters followed, the No. 5 was the last model overseen by Thomas Oliver who died in 1909. In the late 1940s, the Denman Island General Store sold this 30 lb relic, hopefully for less than its original $100 price tag (which would equate to well over $2000 in 2022). The museum accepted it as a generous donation in 1972.

Click this link for further reading on the history of the Oliver No. 5