Friday, January 3, 2014

A library show

On Friday I got my second chance ever to put on a public display of some of my typewriter collection. I got a nice postal letter last month from a librarian in Milford, Ohio inviting me to exhibit some typewriters. Today I brought them over and found that I'd been assigned two very nice display cases right in the main entrance of a large library. 

I put the heaviest machines on the bottom, and set up an assortment of portables on the glass shelves. The selection only hints at the wide range of typewriter designs, but I think it will generate some curiosity and enjoyment.

This is my text for the labels:

Case 1

Blickensderfer no. 7 (USA, 1910): The Blickensderfer was a successful portable typewriter with interchangeable typewheels, three banks (rows) of keys in a unique configuration, a double shift, and an ink roller.

Hammond Folding Multiplex (USA, ca. 1923): The Hammond was introduced in the 1880s and survived, with a name change to Varityper, into the 1970s. It uses interchangeable “type shuttles” and makes an impression by hitting the paper from the back against the ribbon. On this portable model, the keyboard folds up for storage.

Imperial D (England, ca. 1920): This portable typewriter uses a “downstroke” configuration in which the typebars stand straight up in front of the carriage. The entire keyboard and typebar assembly can be removed and exchanged for a different one.

Underwood portable (USA, 1929): Underwood joined the portable typewriter trend with this compact three-bank machine available in black or marbled green.

Corona no. 3 (USA, 1922): This lightweight portable becomes very compact when its carriage is folded down onto its keyboard. It was quite popular in its day.

Corona 4 (USA, 1928): The successor to the Corona 3 features a four-bank keyboard and was available in a variety of attractive color schemes.

Smith Premier no. 2 (USA, 1902): Like many early typewriters, the Smith Premier is an understroke or “blind writer.” The typist has to raise the carriage to see her work. This machine also has a “full keyboard,” with separate keys for upper- and lowercase letters, and no shift key.

Williams no. 4 (USA, 1900): The many methods devised to produce instantly visible writing include the Williams’ “grasshopper” mechanism. The type rests on inked pads and “hops” onto the page. Only a few lines of writing are clearly visible at a time; the upper and lower sections of the paper are rolled up in baskets.

Case 2

Remington Noiseless Portable (USA, 1933): “Noiseless” typewriters quiet the sound of typing by slowing the typebar down as it approaches the printing point. Noiseless portables were popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

Voss (West Germany, 1957): A very solid typewriter, the Voss features a striking streamlined profile and gull-wing ribbon covers.

Underwood DeLuxe Quiet Tab (USA, 1956): This portable reflects the influence of ’50s industrial design. Unlike prewar Underwood portables, it shifts for capital letters not by raising the carriage but by lowering the type.

Hermes 3000 (Switzerland, 1961): The 3000 is known for its precise alignment and sophisticated features. This example has been stripped down to bare metal—one of the ways some typewriter fans today are customizing and modifying their machines.

Olympia SM5 (West Germany, 1964): Olympias are widely recognized as setting a high standard for quality construction. This machine has an Arabic keyboard; it types from right to left and assigns more horizontal space to some characters than to others. Typewriters have been made for most alphabets and writing systems.

Moskva (USSR, ca. 1960): The Moskva was the primary type of portable typewriter manufactured in the Soviet Union. It is similar to some Underwood portables. This machine uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

Oliver no. 9 (USA, ca. 1920): Olivers are immediately recognizable by their inverted U-shaped typebars that strike down onto the paper from both sides. They were made in the US from the 1890s to the 1920s, and in the UK through World War II.

Royal Scrittore II (China, 2012): This machine is an example of the portable manual typewriters that are still made today. Electric typewriters are also still manufactured and are in demand for a variety of uses; in 2013, the Kremlin ordered 20 of them because they are hacker-proof.

Later in the month I'll be bringing over a couple of loaners for a letter-writing event the library is hosting. My display will run through January.


  1. Congrats. These choices from your collection are apt and beautiful.

  2. How could anyone not be interested in typewriters after seeing that selection! Awesome.

  3. Great selection, although Ton may be disheartened to see no Olivettis.

    1. Ping, you know me well. (:
      But bravo for this, Richard! As I mentioned last year, hope they consider making this a yearly exhibit!

  4. The library where my wife works had asked about me displaying some of my machines in their foyer last year. I declined once I saw how flimsy the glass shelving looked. I didn't want to chance it with my QDL, Quiet-Riter or SM3 and the only typewriters in my collection that might have been light enough were the Lettera 32, Groma Kolibri and Remette. Didn't seem like I had enough machines to make it worthwhile.
    Looking at your display, Richard, and it seems that the glass shelves are at least twice the thickness of the ones I had to work with.
    Congrats on a nice display. You'll find that many people will stop to check it out on their way into the library.

    1. I do have a nightmare of a pile of broken glass and broken typewriters. I wasn't about to try putting a Smith Premier on one of those shelves! But I think it will be OK as is. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Oh beautiful displays Richard! Great to see them out there.

  6. Very beautiful machines! As always you do a great job on displaying them and adding a bit of insight to each one.
    The green Underwood 3 Bank is especially nice. I do not know that I ever saw one in any color but black.

  7. These look so great!

    I love that you included the 2012 Royal right next to the Oliver. It beautifully illustrates the progression of the writing machine. Very cool.


  8. Oooh, what a beautiful display!

    One of my golden dreams would be to have my collection in display in proper cases like these. Nice, wooden structure with sturdy glass shelves, and ideally a proper source of light on the top... Fantastic way to keep the machines! Alas, that sort of display would require quite a bit of space...

    Congratulations on the display! You are sharing some very beautiful machines there.

  9. Superb display indeed! And that Williams is something else!! Awesome.

  10. Very nice display! I guess the Williams was the difficult part, the question being: put it in line with the other machines (keyboard in front), or put it sideways so the mechanism is visible? At home I put it sideways as well, but it brakes the pattern... (I love those "problems")

    1. The decision was made easier by the fact that the Williams wouldn't fit in the case unless I turned it!

  11. Awesome! Congrats on the beautiful display, Richard!

  12. Doesn't a glass casework wonders. Instant museum exhibits, well done.