|Sales of this machine began in 1957, and continued only for several years. The well-known firm Cole Steel Equipment Company imported and distributed the machine through established office furniture dealers. By early 1959, it had established a subsidiary company, Cole Steel Office Machines, Inc. to handle distribution of the Cole-Steel Portable.
The parent machine, the ABC, was launched in 1955 by Koch's Adlernahmaschinenwerke AG, in Bielefeld W. Germany; production of the ABC in Germany ended in 1966. The ABC quickly became well known among portable typewriters in Germany because of the beautiful styling applied by Professor W. Wagenfeld of Stuttgart.
|There are three basic models of COLE-STEEL, not identified on the machine itself but rather by a prefix to the serial number. These are "2-, 3-" and "4-" before the serial. The "2" is seen at right; quickly identifiable as this variant has 43 character keys and no visible ribbon selector. Inside, under the top cover, is a switch to defeat the ribbon vibrator to allow making of stencils; otherwise this is a single color machine.
There are some features normally identified with the machines of a given prefix number which overlap into late versions of models one prefix older, or conversely into early machines with prefixes one digit higher. The actual fact may be that numerous small changes were continuously being made, and that generalization is the best we can do at this late date.
|At left is a "3" series COLE-STEEL. Note the change to 44 character keys, with the margin release moving down from the top row to the third; also note 3-position thumbwheel ribbon selector to right of keyboard.|
|Other changes to the "3" series included the addition of a touch regulator under the top cover, lacking on the "2," and the change to a simple pull-off top cover -- unlike the previous machine which has release button on both sides. The "2" had a ribbon cutout switch, under the top cover on the right, for stencil work.
The "4" series, the hardest to find, utilizes a lever type ribbon selector on the right side of the machine, just in front of the carriage. Most other features are generally similar to the "3."
|James Siena sent this shot of his COLE-STEEL, a "4-" variant. Note ribbon selector lever visible on right side, just in front of carriage. Interestingly, this machine appears to revert to button type top cover release.|
|Tim Hopkins, who sent the shot at right, used to work for a firm which sold office furniture.. and these typewriters! He recalls that these "sleek little typewriters" didn't seem to sell well, although the owner did buy two for his family.|
|At left, original ad artwork for the "1958 COLE PORTABLE," which is the first name used for these machines. The ad listed 186 dealers nationwide for these machines which retailed for $94.50 plus tax. Dealers were stated to offer "liberal trade-ins on your old typewriter." Colors offered were Mist Green, Desert Sand and Cole Gray. The Mist Green was referred to as "Green Hammertone" on the ABC. The plastic lid was of matching color.|
|The COLE-STEEL didn't have a long or significant place in typewriter history; however, its beautiful styling and trim shape make it one of my personal favorite machines.|
|click to see post-1966 production in Portugal|
|One of the earliest "off brand" machines I acquired was a Cole-Steel. Since then, these machines have remained among my favorites. Here is a brief Cole-Steel synopsis. Keep in mind that these are relabeled ABC machines; the ABC examples appear next.|
|The advertisement shown partially above also shows John Cameron Swayze, who promotes the Cole-Steel. He actually did own a Cole-Steel, and I now own it myself. You can click here to see it.|
|abc Here are a few machines from the Tilman Elster collection carrying the original "abc" brand.|
|At left, what we would call a "3-" series machine, with the number 3 as a prefix to the serial. This is a great color for these machines, as the glint of light from just the edges tends to throw the curvature into relief. Indeed, these are attractive machines in any color, and in either the flat enamel or hammertone finish.|
|The series eventually did include model numbers, and at right is Tilman's ABC 1300. This is a carryover from the previous line, in the original body, but with new numbering.|
|At left, an early ABC 2000. It is not clear whether this style was developed independently, or with cooperation from Messa -- but it is clear that the earlier style did not survive the move of production to Portugal in 1966.|