Readers of the European Typewriter Site may well have noticed what appears to be a very large family of related typewriters, produced under an enormous number of brand names by several companies in Germany.  Thomas Fuertig has made a point of collecting, and researching these related machines, and has sent us a letter detailing the various companies which made the typewriters.  The story is complex, centering around the large Kuhrt family of Nurnberg, Germany in the early part of the last century.  We will attempt to display each product line and corporate line here with some notes, in as simple a fashion as is possible considering the complexity of the material and the need for brevity and clarity.

In 1909, Karl Friedrich Kuhrt launched Schreibmascninengesellschaft Franconia, in Nurnberg, Germany.  Otto Baldamus handled sales of the machines through a separate firm in Coburg.  The Franconia was produced under this arrangement through the end of 1911; by 1912, Otto Baldamus had totally taken over the operation with the new firm being named Schreibmaschinengesellschaft Franconia.

On the left is seen Thomas Fuertig's FRANCONIA, serial number 520.

Two models of Franconia were built, Model 1 and Model 2; a new model, the Franconia-Excelsior Model 3 appeared roughly 1913 but production was cut off by the First World War.
After the end of the First World War, production based on the Franconia was restarted.  Initially, Hammerwerk Mayer & Co. produced the machines under the name OMEGA, fron 1919-1921.  An improved model, the EXCELSIOR appeared in 1921 and the firm changed hands again, becoming Schreibmaschinenfabrik Augsburg, AG from 1921 through 1926.   Sales were handled by Excelsior-Maschinen-GmbH, Berlin.

At right, Thomas Fuertig's OMEGA, serial 934.
Left, EXCELSIOR Mod. 1, serial number 2032/3147.

Right, EXCELSIOR Mod. 2, serial 50906.

Both machines, Thomas Fuertig collection.

The Excelsior Modell 2 was considered a further improvement over the previous model, and was introduced about 1922.  Production of this whole branch ended in 1926.

At about the same time in 1909 as the FRANCONIA was launched, a separate venture was begun to manufacture a very similar typewriter in another place.  While Karl Friedrich Kuhrt was involved with this venture as well, two of his brothers became involved with it later.   A number of different company names was used over time; essentially from 1909 through 1919 the company was referred to as Deutsche Schreibmaschinenwerke, with the names of the actual participants suffixed to this (Hovelmann, Kuhrt & Bollendorf through 1913, then Nierhaus, Kuhrt & Bollendorf through 1919.)  After 1919 the company became Minerva Schreibmaschinenfabrik Achille & Richard Kuhrt, and operated this way through 1923 when it was taken over by Ludwig Dreyer until shutdown in 1924.  Dreyer briefly reanimated the machine as the HELMA, unsuccessfully, in 1927-1928.
Four models of the MINERVA were produced, roughly corresponding to the dates of the FRANCONIA models through models 1, 2 and 3.  The MINERVA Model 4 appeared about 1914 and was produced until the end.

Above, MINERVA Mod. 4, serial 12027.
Left, HEROINE B, a relabeled Minerva Mod. 4, serial 13588.

Both machines in Thomas Fuertig collection.
Left, OMEGA serial number 2785.  Tilman Elster collection. 

Same model as seen above; however, in this picture, the very interesting openings in the side of the body of the OMEGA are visible. 
COMMERCIAL.  In 1914, Karl Friedrich Kuhrt was reponsible for another design, again similar but with interchangeable type-basket.  This was the COMMERCIAL, made in several successive models from inception in 1914 through about 1923.  The maker the whole time was Commercial Schreibmaschinenfabrik K.Fr. Kuhrt, Nurnberg.

At left, apparently the first model was the COMMERCIAL Mod. 5 introduced in 1914.  This example is serial number 5810 and is in the Thomas Fuertig collection.
At right, Thomas Fuertig's MARKANA, serial 9418.  This is a relabeled Commercial Mod. 6; the Modell 6 was introduced around 1919.
This FRAMO-RECORD, s/n 19322 is the only one of its kind known to exist.  It is a relabeled Commercial Mod. 11; that model was the last, apparently, and must have been introduced near the time the company shut down around 1923.  Thomas Fuertig collection.
RELIABLE.    Arno Kuhrt, another brother of Karl Friedrich Kuhrt, developed the RELIABLE and placed it on the market in 1921 as a product of Reliable Schreibmaschinen GmbH, Nurnberg.  The machine was made in successive models through about 1930, although an off-branch of the design appeared briefly as the PHOENIX in 1924-1925 made by Hegeling-Werke, Eitorf.

On the right, Thomas Fuertig's LIGA s/n E2080.

The LIGA seen here is actually a relabeled RELIABLE Mod. 2; we do not have good data on just when the various models of the RELIABLE appeared.
RELIABLE Mod. 3    s/n 13880

Thomas Fuertig collection

Very similar to the machine pictured above in major aspects; note the unusual frame treatment around the keyboard.
The machine at right is in the Tilman Elster collection.  It is labeled as the HEGA UNIVERSAL, with sub-lettering noting that it is the "Standard Typewriter Model 5."  This is a member of the RELIABLE family, and is, in all probability, a Reliable Mod. 5.
Thomas Fuertig has identified that 67 names for these various machines are known to collectors and historians, but of those 35 of them are only references in historical or trade literature and have not been discovered on actual machines.  This large, complicated family of companies and typewriters (and brothers!) is now a bit easier to understand, thanks in large part to our friend Thomas Fuertig!

One or two notes should be made to place these machines in some sort of context.  First, it is important to note that all of the machines seen here were "lower-priced, standard" machines, meaning that they were designed to fulfill most of the roles of a true "one hundred dollar" standard typewriter of the day at lower, or even considerably lower, cost.  Several of the groups also had production slowed or halted by the First World War; all of them were affected either by the economic recession of the early 1920's or the Great Depression of the 1930's (although one could argue that some of them only survived the 1920's recession because they WERE lower-priced machines.)  Normally, cut-rate standards didn't last long in any marketplace, but these machines' longevity is proof of both the desire of the family to enter, and stay in (and spread) the business and of the great need for typewriters in Europe during this time period.