Founded in 1912 in a tin-roof loft above a stationery store in the heart of Old Pasadena, Anderson Typewriter Co. — now Anderson Business Technology — has hit the return key on a century, still a family business and still on Colorado Boulevard.
Don Anderson, who started working at father C. Elmer Anderson’s shop during World War II, has seen the manual typewriter give way to the electric, then the word processor and finally the computer. But customer service never goes out of style, the 84-year-old said.
He and son David Anderson, who took the helm in 1984, celebrated their company’s 100th anniversary on Thursday with a gathering at the University Club of Pasadena.
The event included a display of antique typewriters, some dating to the 1800s, that three generations of Andersons have received as trade-ins at their 120 E. Colorado Blvd. store, only 350 feet from the original location at 49 E. Colorado.
Guests tested their speed and accuracy on a 1938 Royal typewriter, the model Don Anderson used for typing classes at Marshall Junior High School, now Marshall Fundamental.
The winner was Bob Ralston, a former organist for the Lawrence Welk Show, who typed 48.5 words per minute.
When Don Anderson was in school, his father held an exclusive Southern California contract for Royal sales and service and talked the company into sponsoring a Rose Parade float. C. Elmer Anderson served as president of the Tournament of Roses in 1935 and 1936, welcoming silent film actor Harold Lloyd and then-Texas Gov. James V. Allred, a proponent of the New Deal, as grand marshals.
“Back then they came out with a new typewriter every year or two, but in the last 20 years it’s been constant change,” he said. “David came along at the right time. He was young and willing to learn.”
David Anderson, 54, switched the company’s specialty from typewriters to fax machines and copy machines, and now the latest in wireless printer/copiers. He changed the company name in 1995.
“We’ve always had a service component, and that’s mostly what we do today on the printer and copier side of things,” said David Anderson, who trained as a geologist before joining the family business.
But typewriters haven’t totally disappeared, with nostalgic customers bringing the machines in for repairs two or three times a week, he said.
Calvin and Phyllis Smith, owners of the Bickley Printing Co. at 25 S. Fair Oaks Ave., founded in 1906, recently brought a machine in for repair.
Calvin Smith, who prints stationery and business cards for the Andersons, still fills special print requests on his 1940s linotype machine. Phyllis Smith adds a personal touch by tapping out invoices on her 1950s Royal that goes to the Andersons for the occasional tune-up, she said.
Joel Sheldon, owner of Vroman’s Bookstore — founded in 1894 across the street from where C. Elmer Anderson later set up shop — praised the Andersons ’ willingness and ability to adapt to changing times.
The 100-year milestone, Sheldon said, “is a testament to their business acumen and family commitment.”
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