1896: Deutsche Triumph Fahrradwerke AG is founded in Nuremberg.
1909: Triumph starts manufacturing typewriters.
1953: Triumph is taken over by Max Grundig, merged with Adlerwerke, and renamed Triumph-Adler.
1968: Litton Industries Inc. becomes the company's new majority shareholder.
1979: Triumph-Adler is acquired by Volkswagen AG.
1985: The company is renamed TA Triumph-Adler AG.
1986: Italian Olivetti group takes over the company.
1994: Olivetti sells to a group of German investors; Triumph-Adler becomes a management holding company.
1997: The typewriter production in Frankfurt/Main is closed down.
TA Triumph-Adler AG is Germany's leading supplier of distribution services for printing, copying and presentation equipment.
Making Bicycles, Motorcycles, and Typewriters: 1896-1913
At the turn of the 19th century the world was swept by a flood of technical innovations that paved the way for industrialization. One of them was the bicycle. In the 1890s the new vehicle took the public by storm. The predecessor of the modern bicycle--the Velocipede--was equipped with a giant front wheel and proved suitable only for acrobats. In 1884, however, two Englishmen invented a version with much smaller wheels which became increasingly popular. At about the same time two German entrepreneurs--Siegfried Bettmann and M. Schulte--founded a bicycle firm in Coventry, England, the Triumph Cycle Company Ltd. In July 1896 they established a subsidiary in Nuremberg, Germany--the Deutsche Triumph Fahrradwerke AG.
In 1909 Deutsche Triumph ventured into another new field when they took over the production of a bankrupt typewriter manufacturer in Nuremberg. The Norica typewriter became the company's second key product, and in 1911 Deutsche Triumph was renamed Triumph-Werke Nürnberg AG. Two years later Triumph-Werke became independent from its English parent company.
Surviving Two World Wars:
During World War I, from 1914 until 1919, Triumph-Werke made supplies crucial for the war: beds and tables for field hospitals, fuses, and ammunition. After the war the company resumed the production of motorcycles and launched Knirps--the first German motorcycle with a two-stroke engine. The popularity of motorcycles grew during the 1920s, bolstering Triumph-Werke sales. I
In 1920 Triumph-Werke also started making typewriters again, continuing with the prewar model Triumph 2. In 1925 the company received an order for 600 typewriters from the telegraph service division of the German post office, the Deutsche Reichspost. Three years later a Triumph typewriter was shipped to the Vatican, and the company received an endorsement from the pope himself. Triumph's typewriters were continuously improved throughout the 1920s. In 1928 the company introduced three smaller typewriter models: Durabel, Norm 6, and Perfect. In the mid-1930s Triumph-Werke erected a brand-new building for large-series production of its standard typewriter. In addition, the company extended its product range in the office equipment sector and started making adding machines. By 1938 Triumph-Werke employed about 1,800 people and was grossing 15 million Reichsmark annually.
In 1939 Germany went to war again, and the country's economy was administered by the National Socialist government. Triumph-Werke's mainstay during this time was its BD 250 motorcycle, which the German army ordered by the thousands. By 1940 the production of typewriters for civilian use was restricted and ceased completely at the end of 1942.
World War II left the company's offices and production facilities mostly untouched. Triumph-Werke then received a production permit and started making typewriters, bicycles and bicycle trailers, wheelbarrows, and hand-drawn carts. In 1948 the company also resumed the manufacture of motorcycles and in 1953 launched a new line of mopeds and motor scooters. The mid-1950s also saw a new Triumph typewriter, called the Matura, equipped with a patented carriage return mechanism.
Losing Ground and Independence: 1956-93
In 1953, the takeover of Triumph-Werke by German entrepreneur Max Grundig, whose core business was in consumer electronics, ended the company's independence. Grundig reorganized the company to focus on office machines and shut down the vehicle production. Research and development (R&D) efforts were directed towards better electric typewriters which were becoming increasingly popular for their more comfortable features. With electronic data processing on the rise, Triumph-Werke introduced a telex-type tape punch in 1956. Triumph's new Family Typewriter--a name inspired by Grundig's granddaughter Gabriele--followed a year later. Another novelty--the F3 automated invoicing machine, equipped with a connector for card punches--marked the beginning of the office computer era. The company's new electric typewriter Electric 20 became its standard model of the 1960s. It was used by the world typing champion in Vienna in 1961, who scored 647 strokes per minute, setting a new world record.
In 1957 Triumph-Werke acquired a minority share in Frankfurt/Main-based typewriter manufacturer Adler. Combined, the two companies controlled over 50 percent of the German market for typewriters. By 1968 Triumph-Werke had an 82 percent stake in Adler, and the latter was merged with Triumph and the company renamed Triumph-Adler. Just around the time that the integration of the two companies was completed, Grundig sold Triumph-Adler to Beverly Hills-based Litton Industries Inc.
Backed by the new parent company, Triumph-Adler set out to conquer the growing market for microcomputers. In 1969 the company introduced the new TA 100 computer series. Triumph-Adler's microcomputer division--including R&D, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution--was based at headquarters in Nuremberg. In 1971 the company launched the TA 10, which dubbed "the people's computer." It was the size of a suitcase and offered at a competitive price. Only two years later Triumph-Adler had sold over 10,000 of the computers. Still, typewriters accounted for more than 60 percent of the company's total sales. In 1977 Triumph-Adler acquired the U.S.-based Royal Group, using used the company's production plants and distribution network to enter the American market. Ten years after the Litton takeover, Triumph-Adler's sales had grown ten-fold. The company's professional microcomputers had a 19 percent market share in Germany, a share larger than that of any other competitor.
In March 1979 German auto maker Volkswagen AG bought 55 percent of Triumph-Adler's share capital, acquiring another 43 percent from Litton and German Diehl GmbH in 1980. The company, which by 1980 had over 17,000 employees on its payroll, was renamed Triumph-Adler AG für Büro- und Informationstechnik. That year marked the beginning of a challenging era for Triumph-Adler, as the company reported a loss of DM 50 million. In the following years, top management focused on downsizing and restructuring. The company's workforce was cut in half and distribution was extended to include department stores. None of these measures, however, stopped the company from falling behind the competition. By 1986 Triumph-Adler was only number five in the German market for professional microcomputers, with its market share having shrunk to 6.4 percent. In that year, Volkswagen sold most of its holdings in Triumph-Adler to the Italian Olivetti group, one of the company's main European competitors.
The new parent, however, was not able to rescue the company from its downfall, caused by the increasingly popular IBM personal computers which rapidly replaced the older microcomputer technology. By 1988 the number of employees as well as the company's revenues had shrunk to less than half the figures of 1984. Only the company's typewriter division turned up a profit.
In the early 1990s Triumph-Adler became Olivetti's headquarters for office machines and an original equipment manufacturer for other computer makers. In 1991 the company launched a self-developed laptop computer. However, the rapidly declining prices for computer hardware components and the development cost for the new TA portable computer pushed the company heavily into the red. Moreover, parent company Olivetti was struggling too, cutting down on orders for Triumph-Adler by one-third. All of the company's production facilities in Nuremberg, Fürth, and Schwandorf were shut down while production was moved out of the country. Most of the company's assets, such as real estate and machinery, were sold to cover some of the DM 160 million in losses that Olivetti incurred in 1992 alone.
By 1993 Triumph-Adler had shrunk to a quarter of its former size. It was, in fact, left only with the typewriter production business in Frankfurt/Main. In that year Olivetti decided to rid itself of the loss-making enterprise and canceled the agreement with Triumph-Adler that had guaranteed that the Italian parent would be responsible for making up Triumph-Adler's losses. Olivetti then integrated Triumph-Adler's office machine distribution subsidiary, Triumph-Adler Vertriebs GmbH, into its own business.
New Beginning as a Management Holding in 1994
Equipped with several hundred million in cash from outstanding Olivetti payments, the new Triumph-Adler holding company went on a shopping spree. In addition to the already existing holding for office related products, Triumph-Adler acquired a broad variety of companies, from toy manufacturers to health related products, and organized them into four major business divisions: TA Office, TA Toys & Leisure, TA Health and TA BauTech. The latter included a number of manufacturers and service providers in the construction industry.
In 1997 Triumph-Adler closed down its typewriter plant in Frankfurt/Main. In the mid-1990s the market for typewriters had shrunk drastically, by about 30 percent in 1996 alone. Personal computers had won the race against the more limited capabilities of the typewriter. Although in 2001 the company still sold Triumph-Adler typewriters worth EUR 12.7 million, the business was not profitable anymore.
I want to thanks to www.fundinguniverse.com and www.triumph-adler.com for the text and also www.typewriters.ch and www.ebay.de for the pictures.