Sunday, June 2, 2013


Does this typewriter appeal to you?

How about this one?

You guessed it, it's the same machine, after suitable application of Scrubbing Bubbles, Pledge, steel wool, Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish, and touch-up paint.

The Remington Rand KMC is still an understated machine, but you can see that it's handsomely understated when its paint is revealed as black (not gray), its return lever shines, and you can even see the light-blue pinstripes around the lower edge of the ribbon cover and on the sides.

(Of course, being a sucker for glossy Deco designs, I would really like to find a breathtaking Remington 17 like the one below. I've only seen one in this style, ever, which was in the collection of the late Don Sutherland; I don't know where it's gone to, and all I have are these little photos.

But back to what I do have ...)

I got my first Remington (my Noiseless Portable no. 7) about 35 years ago, and started collecting Remington portables some 19 years ago, but my experience with the big modern Remingtons was almost nil until I cleaned a Remington 17 for a WordPlay customer a little while ago and was pleased with its quality. I decided that I'd like to have a KMC, the automatic-margin brother of the 17. (The 17 has awkward margin settings in back. The left stop controls the right margin and vice versa, as on Underwoods, which is due to putting the stops on the body of the machine instead of on the carriage. It's confusing.) So when I saw a KMC that looked pretty good for a reasonable price on Etsy, I snapped it up.

The typewriter has several nice features, such as this paper bail which stays forward, away from the platen, when you pull on the chromed piece in the center of these photos. Then, when you want it to return, you push down on the piece and it snaps back.

On the left there's a typebar unjammer lever and ribbon reverse lever, above the KMC key which controls the left margin:

On the right, above the KMC key for the right margin, are a 3-position touch regulator and the ribbon height control, including a setting for using the middle of the ribbon. (But what does "J" mean?)

This KMC (#JT1048602) was made in December, 1946. The T may indicate the 10-place decimal tabulator.

The model is contemporaneous with the Royal KMM, has a similar aesthetic, and a similar set of features—notably, the automatic margin setting (KMC = Keyboard Margin Control, similar to Royal's Magic Margin). As Ryan Adney has documented, this similarity led to a lawsuit from Royal that forced Remington to drop the feature.

In my experience in person and on eBay, the KMM turns up more often than the KMC. Let's check the numbers on The Typewriter Database. The Royal numbers are:

21780001938"KHT" fall of 1938, "KHM" Magic Margin began at 2273522. (REMINGTON Examined #2250058 in Oct '38)17,18
30260001943Production Halted: World War II17
30260001944Production Halted: World War II17
38650001949Model "KMG" Announced 2/10/49, first grey model, began at 385000017,18

The KMM isn't listed as such, but it looks like between the first KHM Magic Margin and the KMG, 1,576,478 typewriters were made. Of course, later models retained the Magic Margin feature.

Here are the Remington numbers:

No. 17
up to 1000001939Prefix J13
1540001940Prefix J13,15
2480001941Prefix J13,15
3900001942Prefix J13,15
5330001943Prefix J13,15
5420001944Prefix J13
6050001945Prefix J13,15
7800001946Prefix J Machine was renamed "KMC" in 194713,15
up to 10580001947Prefix J13,15
13320001948Prefix J13,15
15150001949Prefix J13,15

For further accuracy and clarification, here are the numbers straight from the horse's mouth, the official Remington serial number book:

Lots of data here, but the key facts are that the KMC machines run from J885100 to J1647299, and that some non-KMC typewriters are included in those numbers; so total production of KMCs was under 762,199. This confirms my unscientific impression that the KMC is less common than the KMM.

But how do the rivals compare in use?

Well, it's a lovely day for some typewriting on the porch ...

And here are the results of my comparison. Areas of clear superiority, in my opinion, are marked with a red check.

You'll see that the Remington comes out ahead in most categories, in my view — but the category that most typists care most about is touch, and there I think the Royal has an advantage. There's nothing wrong with the Remington's touch, but the Royal has some extra speed and springiness—your hands almost bounce on the keys. For extended typing, especially if I wanted to go fast, I would probably choose the Royal KMM. But you may have different preferences. I don't think you'll go wrong if you choose either of these fine writing machines.


  1. Very nice comparison. Thanks for all the detail and especially the serial number information.

  2. Great road test - and a nice clean-up job on the Remington. I have to pshych myself before moving my KHM, so I'd need a weightlifter's belt to tackle the elephant!

  3. I've been using extensively my Remington KMC, and I'm very impressed with its response. In my machine in particular, you have to find a certain pace when typing, or the (rather worn) escapement might act up and insert a blank space where it shouldn't. But once you find the proper pace, you can type on it for hours at a very decent speed (I average around 200 - 250 CPM on this machine).

    Besides, and rather interestingly, this Remington-Rand with Spanish-language keyboard operates the accents in the "normal" way (first the accent, then the vowel), unlike all my other Spanish-language Remingtons, where you type the vowel first and the accent.

    Of all the classic Remingtons in my stable, this is definitely my first choice when I type more than 20 pages. Unless, of course, I have a Selectric on my desk.

  4. That Remington 17 you showed is so amazing. The details! The blue function keys! It's slightly mind blowing.

    Remembering my Remington and Royal standards, keeping the Remington and switching out the Royal's touch only would probably have been an improvement on both. The thing I cannot stand the most about many Royals is their soft left margin. Looks like it was showing that off here. :(

    1. Good eye. Yes, the Royal's left margin was being a little erratic today, although I don't think it's usually too bad.

    2. That 17 is the bee's knees. Remington had some style, but by the 50s their machines became boring. Such a shame.

    3. Is there any known way to fix the weird margins of a typewriter? I've seen them a few times before in other typewriters, but a Royal fix would be the most useful it seems. --Does anybody even know what exactly causes the problem, mechanically? Obviously the result is either it pops forward one additional space, or else didn't make it all the way to the end in the first place.

    4. Albert Tangora says, "Properly operated, the carriage will return to the same 'spot' every time. 'Banging' it back on one line, and 'caressing' it back on the next, interrupts continuity and may cause an uneven margin. It should be returned with uniform force." (#27 in 50 Common Typing Faults.)

      But there may also be a mechanical solution. Sometimes the rack on which the margin stops slide can be adjusted horizontally, and moving it a little left or right may cure the problem.

  5. Great restoration job. It's a wonder what a little elbow grease will do to restore one of these grand old standards. I haven's had the pleasure to use a KMC and after your wonderful review it might be one of the next machines to make it's way into my collection. I have to agree about the carriage return lever. Downward models are far better than their up-turned brothers.

  6. Cool shootout! Love that pinstripe design.

  7. Fantastic work on the restoration. Very interesting indeed to read your KMC vs KMM review. I have an ex-public service 1939 KMM (used for my last post actually) which I absolutely love to bits, goes like the clappers, but I've never used a KMC. Now I want to. Definitely agree with Ryan's comments too. 1950's Remington standards (namely the SJ) are as boring as cross-stitch.

  8. Okay.... I think Don Sutherland's machine just shot to the top of my 'most wanted' list.

    Thanks. For a moment there I thought I had every possible machine that I ever hoped to get. Dammit.

  9. Well done! An excellent comparative article that I really enjoyed reading. I love the comparative notes, and the concept that these machines really were tested out fully, side by side, on someone's porch in the year 2013. Thanks for creating this competition and fully documenting the results.

  10. Great side-by-side, I look forward to more comparisons like this.
    "Rhinoceral" vs. "Elephantine" haha!

  11. Hi there! Found your post through Google and thought it was a great read.

    I have a quick question that I hope you can help with! I own a working KMC that I picked up from an antique store, but I'm in need of a new ribbon. Do you have any recommendations for where I can pick one up? I know about FJA Products and some options on Ebay, but not exactly sure the ribbon type/model I should be using.

    If you could give me some advice, I'd greatly appreciate it.


    1. Hi Karrie,

      Any half-inch-wide ribbon will fit. You don't need eyelets (grommets) on the ends of the ribbon. You will need to hook the ribbon onto the special metal rings used by Remington.

      See my FAQ for various ribbon sources.


  12. Would you say this was the typewriter used by Bob Dylan at the Big Pink in 1967?

    Remington KMC or Remington KMM. Can we tell them apart in a photograph?

    1940s? Assume no more specific date is detectable.

    Video of it in 2014:

    In England he borrowed an Olympia SG1:

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ed.

      There is no Remington KMM; that's a Royal brand. There are many telltale design differences.

      The typewriter in the photo is a Remington KMC. It's similar to the Remington 17, but the KMC keys on either side of the keyboard give it away.

  13. Just picked up a kmc for my 10 year. It was on the top of her christmas wish list. Is there a dummy guide somewhere out there so i can teach her how to use it

    1. Great! This is an excellent model and I hope she'll enjoy it.

      User's guides for the KMC can be downloaded from my website:

      And my book ( includes lots of information on using typewriters and maintaining them, along with ideas for what to do with them.

  14. Hi Richard, very nice job you did with your KMC. I am from Belgium and just bought a Remington KMC but with an AZERTY keyboard. All the details look the same, apart from two keys with a french subscription : 'suppression des cavaliers' and 'pose des cavaliers' Do you have any idea about a Remington KMC range produced in or for Europe ? Thanks !

  15. Hi Richard,
    Great read !
    I have a Remington KMC with a French keyboard (azerty). Do you know of a European production line or were these machines also made in the US and then exported ?
    Thanks !

    1. Hi Elsa, Thanks for your comments. I assume those two keys refer to what is called "tab set" and "tab clear" in English. I do think that Remington built some machines in Europe, but they also exported to Europe from the US. If you can let me know the serial number, I may be able to tell you more. I also think that if the machine was made in a European country, it will probably say so somewhere.

  16. I have owned and used many of both of these typewriters--pica and elite, and various carriage lengths. I can tell you that Royal tends to be straighter of print than Remington--at least the typewriters I've used. Oh, the Remingtons are good, but the chances of finding peculiarities in the print are greater in the Remington. They both have an excellent touch and rhythm, and both have smoothly operating carriages--although by design, the Royal is a tiny bit more "loosey-goosey" than Remington. The reason is the hooks used to secure it to the main track. Nothing wrong with it, it's the nature of this particular beast--all Royals are like this--the uprights, that is. Oh, and as for the design of the Remington being Ho-Hum--Royal went completely the other way and made the striking, streamlined HH models. The only thing that irks me is that they painted them that awful brown and put green keys on most of them. I've seen an iteration of one with ivory keys and a turquoise exterior. THAT was a FABULOUS looking typewriter!!