Imperial's Unsung Hero

 By Robert Messenger


Arthur Bott Pateman was the unsung hero of the Imperial Typewriter Company. While most of the credit goes to Hidalgo Moya for establishing the company in 1908 and designing its earliest models, it was Pateman who saved Imperial from going the way of other British typewriter manufacturers in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Pateman, indeed, rose from starting out as an apprentice in Moya’s assembly department in 1904 to being Imperial’s general manager in 1923, managing director from 1939 and board chairman from 1956. Admittedly, it was Pateman’s advertising manager, Bill Mawle, who set the recovery of Imperial in motion by making a direct approach to British royalty in the early 1930s, but the machine Mawle was promoting, the Imperial Model 50, was designed by Pateman in 1926 and built in Leicester under Pateman’s supervision.

Pateman's success was continued on through all his subsequent Imperial standards - the Models 55, 59, 60, 65 and 66 (1937-1954), as well as the "Doppelgänger" double keyboard machine Pateman developed with Claude Brumhill in 1957.

All the while, Pateman carried on with an eccentric hobby away from the Leicester factory. Pateman used much of his wages to buy cars and, immediately upon taking delivery of them, taking them completely apart, chroming all the engine's moving parts (and whatever else he could strip off that wasn't already chromed) and re-designing the bodywork. Pateman called chrome "the sign of an enthusiast". He started this pasttime in 1913 with his first car purchase, a Belgian-made Métallurgique. Eventually Pateman built a magnificently-fitted garage at his country estate house in Rothley, a village in the Charnwood borough in Leicestershire. There he made what he called "improvements" to the manufacturers' original designs of his cars. Pateman went on to "re-design" six Alvises, four Standard Swallows, three Jaguars, four Rovers and a Bentley - 19 cars altogether. They became known as "Patemanised" models.

Pateman was born in 1886 at St Mark, Tollington Park, Islington, London. He studied engineering at the East London Technical College, then at the College of Technology, Leicester. From 1900 he served an apprenticeship with the British United Shoe Machinery Company on Belgrave Road in Leicester, owned by Moya’s father-in-law and Imperial Typewriter Company backer Jack Chattaway. In 1911 Pateman was made Imperial works manager under general manager Eric Pilblad. Pateman died at St Bernards, Bradfield, Swafield, Norfolk, in 1972, aged 86.

Pateman’s lasting achievement was the Model 50, one of the first and still by far the best British frontstrike standard typewriter ever made, a machine which ranks right up there with the Underwood 5. With this design, Pateman managed to incorporate in a standard-sized machine the outstanding feature of Moya’s Imperial portables – an interchangeable keyboard-typebasket.

With the flick of switches on either side of the keyboard, the whole keyboard-typebasket section pulls out from the body of the Imperial standard. This is as well as the carriage being detachable, making the Imperial so easy to dismantle to change carriage widths or fonts and languages, or for maintenance, repairs and a simple service.