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Shipping the Mignon 2

Our Mignon 2 arrived in a big black case reminiscent of briefcases from the turn of the century, at the bottom of which was what looked like an orange, severely scratched shipping label. Not knowing anything about the shipping of typewriters in the past, or about shipping in general for that matter, my husband suggested this would make for a cool research project, and how right he was! Let's get started!

At the top left of the diamond is written "Hamburg - Amerika - Linie". Since Hamburg is in Germany, I assume this is written in German. A quick translation from Google Translate ( reveals that "linie" is German for "line". The top right side reads "Hamburg - Sudamerikanische D-6". This looks like it was on the shipping line from Hamburg to America or Hamburg to South America. Given that this Mignon Modell 2 is from 1909 (TypewriterDatabase, n.d.), and since no railroad tracks or streets cross the ocean from Hamburg to the Americas that I am aware of, it is likely this was a boat shipping line.

The next three lines on the label read "Agence: Eiffe & Co., Anvers et Bruxelles". From high school French class, I remember that "et" means "and" in French. So we have at least German and French on the same label. A little research on the name of the company turns to Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping (1905), a register of iron marine ships. The registry lists telegraphic addresses, among which Eiffe & Co. can be found with a physical address on 10 Quai van Dyck, Antwerp (p. 665). Anvers is the French name for Antwerp, Bruxelles is the French name for Brussels, and both cities are located in Belgium. According to Wikipedia (Languages of Belgium, 2018), the three official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French, and German, so it makes perfect sense that this shipping label, printed by a company in Belgium, is written in German and French. A map of the world with Belgium, part of Germany, and part of the Americas circled is above for reference (Free US, 2014).

A book of reprinted articles on shipping in Antwerp (Wilkinson Bros. Ltd, 1898) reveals that Eiffe & Co. was originally a prominent shipping company in Antewrp named Messrs. Mogan Straatman and Co. A young Ernst Eiffe, Esq. (picture from Wilkinson Bros. Ltd, 1898, p. 28) who worked for the former shipping company, re-named the company after himself and became sole proprietor. Among shipping lines they represented, one was the Hamburg-American Line and another was the Hamburg-South American Line, both of which are printed on our own orange shipping label. (As an aside, Mr. Eiffe also owned shipping insurance agencies and was a philanthropist in Germany and Belgium.)

It is interesting to note that Eiffe & Co. is called a steamship agency (Wilkinson Bros. Ltd, 1898). According to this definition (Shipping Agency, 2018), an agent handled the cargo and interests of customers rather than ran the ship itself. This is consistent with the term "agence", French for "agency", listed on our shipping label. As such, it would make sense that the shipping lines "Hamburg - Amerika - Linie" and "Hamburg - Sudamerikanische D-6" are the actual names of specific shipping lines in and of themselves, rather than simply the course of travel for this particular company, Eiffe & Co. Under this logic, we can start to research the shipping line as it's own entity.

It seems that the Hamburg America Line was a popular route for Norwegians emigrating to the US (Norway Heritage, 2018), and became Germany's, and eventually the world's largest shipping company (Hamburg America Line, 2018). It seems that the Hamburg America Line, also known as Hamburg-Amerika Linie according to this same entry (and as also written on our shipping label) is actually the name of a shipping company, not just a line of transport. Taking another look at our label, "Hamburg - Amerika - Linie" is also shown in larger font than "Hamburg - Sudamerikanische D-6". So then, is this second, smaller font name, the route . . . or perhaps it is smaller to fit on the line? Researching the name by itself reveals a second shipping company, Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft A/S & Co KG, aka Hamburg Süd, was founded in 1871 and still ships today (Hamburg Süd, 2018). A closer look at the label reveals that second name is actually "Hamburg - Sudamerikanische D.-G" not "D-6". Of course! Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft / D.-G. A look at the history of Hamburg Süd (1871-1914) on their current website (Hamburg Süd, n.d.) reveals pictures (copied above) of the early steamships, as well as a poster with both names that appear on our shipping label, Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft and Hamburg-Amerika Linie.

Let's turn for a minute to the keyboard on the Mignon Modell 2 that arrived inside this particular case. The characters are foreign. Only two languages I am aware of have the cedilla, French and Portuguese. My husband popped out the keyboard when he was repairing it, and on the bottom confirmed that this is a "Portuguese" alphabet. Portuguese also so happens to be the language of Brazil! It is interesting to note that when Hamburg Süd was founded, it provided a monthly shipping service to both Brazil and Argentina. Since the language of Argentina is Spanish, it would not be a stretch to imagine that this typewriter was shipped to Brazil, for use by a Brazilian.

Further, it is interesting to note that the Mignon typewriter is made by a German company, Allgemeinen Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft, or AEG (Adler, 1997). Given that this shipping line went from Hamburg to South America, with stops in Brazil, it would not be a stretch to imagine that this typewriter was purchased from AEG and shipped to someone in Brazil, either on special order, along with a shipment of other typewriters (but then why would the shipping label be by case rather than by box of multiple cases), or purchased by a Brazilian vising Germany to his/her home in Brazil.

Returning to the label, across the bottom is written Dépôt de bagage, French for luggage deposit, or baggage depot. Nothing strange there. I tried to find out if this particular term was used specifically for this line, or for cargo vs. carry-on luggage, but could not. Finally, across the middle section is written "1ere Cl." 1ere is the French abbreviation for first. Since the French word for class is classe, this appears to be a first class sticker; however, it is difficult to determine if the bag itself went to first class provisions, or, if this is checked luggage by someone also traveling across the sea, it may be that the person has a first class ticket, and so their baggage is first class. It could also be that the ship itself is a first class ship. Unfortunately, the middle section of the label has been torn out, which likely had personally identifying information to provide more details as to whether this typewriter was being shipped with someone, to someone, or to a business for someone to pick up and/or purchase. There does appear to be some cursive writing outside of the middle onto the orange section of the label, but this provides no further information.

The typewriter eventually traveled up to North America, California specifically, from which my husband and I purchased it. The little world traveler is now restored and will be cared for in our collection here on the east coast.



Adler, M. (1997). Antique Typewriters: From Creed to QWERTY. (pp. 163-165). Schiffer publishing, Ltd. Atglen, PA, USA.

Free US and World Maps. (2010-2014). "World mercator projection map with country outlines." Retrieved from:

Galiano, L. (2018, March 23). From the Virtual Typewriter Collection of Luis Galiano: 1909 Mignon 2. Retrieved from The Typewriter Database:

Hamburg America Line. (2018, February 27). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

Hamburg Süd. (2018, October 18). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

Hamburg Süd. (n.d.). Hamburg Süd Group. Retrieved from:

Languages of Belgium. (2018, October 27). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping. (1905). Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping United with the Underwriters' Registry for Iron Vessels in 1885. London. Retrieved from Google Books:

Norway Heritage. (1997-2018). "The Hamburg America Line". Retrieved from:

Shipping Agency. (2018, August 22). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

Wilkinson Brothers, Limited. (1898). Antwerp: Commercially Considered, A Series of Articles Reprinted from "The Syren and Shipping". London. Retrieved from Google Books:


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