A charity shop acquisition, the Imperial 200 has serial number 1249067 and was produced between 1970 and 1971. The model 200 existed from 1969 to 1973. These were Silver-Seiko Portables made in Japan and badged under Royal and Imperial marques.
Comments on the design
It has a compact design and when closed has dimensions of depth 32 cm, width 29.5 cm and height 8 cm at the widest part. It weighs 4.5 kg.
There is a touch control lever to the left of the machine.
The ‘L’ position is for a light touch and ‘H’ for heavy touch – the latter recommended if more than one copy is to be made.
The margin release key also doubles as a disentangler to free locked type bars.
History of the Imperial 200
The genesis of the Imperial Typewriter Company can be traced back to Hidalgo Moya, an American-Spanish engineer who arrived in Leicester in 1902 with a handmade model of what he considered to be a revolutionary design of typewriter. He attracted finance from local businessman, J.G. Chattaway and established The Moya Typewriter Company in a small factory in Garton Street producing the first workable typewriter that would sell for four guineas. However, it, and a second model, proved uneconomic and was not successful.
Come 1908 Moya needed more financial assistance and this came from William Arthur Evans. He saw the potential of Moya’s latest model and invested his own money in establishing in 1908 a new company with Moya, the Imperial Typewriter Co. Ltd., with Evans as its Chairman. Interestingly the company was only dissolved in 2018 as shown in the record from Companies House below.
The Imperial Model B typewriter was a commercial breakthrough when first introduced around 1915. It paved the way for the company to be one of the world’s leading typewriter manufacturers, centred on a new factory in East Park Road, Leicester. Evans was to remain as Chairman until his retirement in 1933. In 1954, the company expanded and opened a second factory in Hull.
The company produced electric, standard, and portable typewriters. Its main premises were on East Park Road and Copdale Road, but the company also owned several other buildings for manufacturing items, including office machinery for invoicing, cheque-writing, typewriter accessories, and repairs. During the boom years good wages and cheap housing attracted migrants from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and, later, South Asians fleeing persecution in Kenya.
By the early 1970s, manufacturing was in recession and Leicester was hard hit as many factories closed. In the late 1960s, the Imperial Typewriter Company succumbed to cheaper overseas production costs and began to import machines from Japan, like the one I obtained. The company was acquired by Litton Industries in 1966 who also took over Royal Typewriters. Imperial portable typewriters started to be made in other countries, but none could really be called ‘British’.
Office Equipment Machinery (OEM) incorporated in 1950, took over the business of the Imperial Typewriter Company on 1 March 1975, a week after Litton had closed the last Imperial factory on Hedon Road in Hull.
After a brief revival under the brand name Imperial Business Equipment, no manual typewriter was made in the Imperial name after Litton Industries sold the brand to Volkswagen in 1979, and none after VW sold it to Olivetti in 1986.
The 1974 Strike
In May 1974, Asian workers at the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester went on strike over unequal bonus payments and discrimination in promotion. Strikers returned to work after 14 weeks on the picket line, but within a few months the factory ceased production at both the Leicester and Hull plants, making thousands redundant.
Sources of information
Oztypewriter blogspot the history of Imperial Company
Imperial Portable Typewriters 1908-1978
Imperial Typewriter Company Limited- Science Museum Group
Imperial (Silver-Seiko) Typewriter Serial Numbers
The Imperial Strik
Imperial 200 Instruction manual