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Introduced in 1917 the Safe-Guard Check Writer was an instant success. At its release the Safe-Guard was considered a major leap forward in check writers.

There were check writers and check protectors of various types using various technologies previous to the Safe-Guard.  However, the Safe-Guard’s unique combination of printing the check amount on a diagonal in a single line coupled with a diagonal rectangular design embossed over the name of the payee and over the written check amount made for a potent combination of writing and protecting.

ad from 1919 industry magazine

There were a number of different, but very similar, models introduced early on including the models F, G, R, S, W, Y, and others.  The very earliest models will reflect that they were manufactured by the John Whitaker Manufacturing Company but the company changed names to the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company in November 1917. Also, between 1921 and 1922 the style of the front rubber feet were changed to a more elongated “clown shoe” style foot.  This means that if you have a model Y check writer that states it was manufactured by the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company and it has circular rubber front feet then it was made between 1918 and 1921 (see picture at beginning of post).  If the model has elongated front feet then it was made 1921 or after.

newspaper ad from 1922

The model Y weighs 8 lbs 4 oz and measures 9.5″ L x 7.875″ W x 7.375″ H.  This is a serious piece of equipment.  These are also extremely well-made and are very likely to still be working.  Oftentimes, if it is not working then simply cleaning out the mechanics and adding a minimal amount of oil is enough to put it back in working condition.  One word of caution though, be careful if you are going to refill the ink well and use the correct ink.  While I do not have an operator’s manual it is unlikely that this used a water-based ink.  Doing so would have damaged the internal mechanisms over time.  I would recommend either leaving the ink well alone or cleaning (if you must) but not refilling so as not to inadvertently cause any damage.  Otherwise, if you must refill the ink reservoir then an oil-based ink similar to the type used by numbering machines would likely be your best bet.

The Safe-Guard Check Writer was advertised at $55 in 1920.  In 2017 dollars that is $674!

John Whitaker was the inventor and patent holder for all of the Safe-Guard patents.  He started John Whitaker Manufacturing Co and had factories in Philadelphia and North Wales, Pennsylvania.  In September 1917 he consolidated his factories in one location in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  He was known as a manufacturer of adding machines although it is unknown if he continued to do so after the introduction of the Safe-Guard Check Writer.  As noted above, in November 1917 the name of the company was changed to the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company.  In 1929 the Safe-Guard Check Writer Co purchased two companies; the Hercules Check Certifier Co and the Repeating Stamp and Duplicating Corporation.  By 1946 the company name had again changed to Safeguard Corporation but it stayed in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  In 1946 the company was sold but did not change names, however, John Whitaker retired that year from the company.  John Whitaker passed away February 10, 1964.  A 1963 article mentions that Safeguard Business Systems is a distributorship of Safeguard Corp.  Safeguard Business Systems is still in business to this day.

It is unknown how long the model Y (and it’s sibling models) was available but consensus from other collectors has it until approximately 1928 when new models were introduced.

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Editors (1917, September), Machinery Markets and News of the Works – Philadelphia, The Iron Age, page 719
  2. Editors (1917, November), A Check Writer That Protects the Payee’s Name, Typewriter Topics, pages 158-160
  3. Lodewick & Roquemore (1920, March), advertisement, Jackson Daily News, page 7
  4. Safe-Guard Check Writer Co (1922, July), advertisement, American Exporter, page 12
  5. Safe-Guard Check Writer Co (1922, October), advertisement, Kansas City Kansan, page 6A
  6. Office Equipment Co (1926, November), advertisement, Asheville Citizen, page Twelve
  7. Editors (1929, October), Safe Guard Check Gets Duplicating Device, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, page 39
  8. Editors (1929, September), Financial World Briefly Scanned, Wilmington Morning News, page 13
  9. Editors (1963, January), Obituary Paul B. Stitt, Philadelphia Inquirer, page 12
  10. Editors (1964, February), John Whitaker, 94, Founded Firm, The Morning Call, page 31
  11. Editors (1964, March), New Business is Formed, The Times San Mateo, page 29

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