Thursday, May 17, 2018

Montgomery Ward Signature 810 electric typewriter

Once in a blue moon I check I was scrolling through and saw this picture, which made me pause for some reason. I sensed that this was something different. There was something about its shape and color that appealed to me. So I put in a lowball bid, figuring I might have fun playing with this plastic gadget.

I was the only bidder. When the box arrived it was surprisingly heavy. This was no plastic machine: its body was solid cast aluminum. And the shape was indeed intriguing, with a scooped-out keyboard area very reminiscent of the first IBM Selectric.

The machine was pretty grimy, as you can see if you compare the left half of the keyboard to the untouched right half:


Naturally, I removed the shell and did my best to overhaul the typewriter.

It's an impressive little piece of machinery:

And there are plenty of signs of high-quality design and construction, such as these well-hinged plastic paper guides that you can pull away from the platen.

Sadly, it's not working properly. There's a missing tooth in this rack that means the typewriter will always skip a space.

Well, it's still interesting as a piece of industrial design.

But what is this thing?

The Montgomery Ward Signature 810 was made in Nagoya, Japan, which marks it as a Brother product, specifically the type JP-4 electric machine (according to the helpful information on The Typewriter Database). The serial number on this specimen, F0693817, dates it at 1970.

This particular model is quite hard to find, as is the fancier 811D. This example seen online sets and clears the tab stops with buttons on either side of the tab bar, whereas the 810 only has pre-set stops. The 811D also has one typebar with exchangeable type (activated by the red key).

There is also a model 812D that includes a power return and repeat spacer:

These electrics were clearly designed in tandem with some manual Brothers, such as the Signature 511D (this is Ted Munk's machine).

I imagine that the 810 was not a market success because it lacked an electric carriage return and was probably pretty expensive, given the high quality of its materials and construction.

For some reason, I like this pastel green color much better than baby blue. How about you?


  1. I wonder if the rack could be replaced with one from another Brother machine?

    1. Sure, if I find a parts machine of a similar model.

  2. Is this the one you showed off in the FB group awhile back?

  3. Actually, I do like this shade of green, even though it is perilously close to 1970s era Avocado green, which I always thought an abhorrent color, especially for kitchen appliances.

  4. I wonder how those teeth get broken...

    1. That's a good question. Maybe the carriage received a sharp leftward jolt that put too much strain on that tooth.

  5. I love the retro green color.

  6. Nice thing about using a manual carriage return on an electric is the typewriter doesn't inch across the table. Got a Smith Corona that always has to be re-centered on the table after pressing the carriage return key.