Thursday, December 1, 2022

December 2022 typewriter safari

It's time for another typewriter safari! As usual, these machines were spotted in a local antique mall. (To get the holiday feeling, imagine Bing Crosby crooning overhead and holiday shoppers pushing carts around the huge warehouse.) I came home with one of them. Can you guess which? 

This time I'll offer a little more commentary than I usually do. 

1. Underwood Master, $97 (–20% discount).

This beefy 1930s version of the classic workhorse is an impressive typewriter. I suppose the best they could do to streamline a boxy machine was to add a thick sheet-metal frame on the sides and back. Little-known fact: the Master, to be complete, needs ribbon covers that sit on top of the spools. They are rarely found, but I did find a Master with the ribbon covers 4 years ago.

2. Smith-Corona Skyriter, $39.99.

A common, rugged little laptap from the '50s. This one has been repainted. It includes £ and Rs (Rupees). I wonder if it was used in India.

3. Marxwriter Supreme, $65.

I think the Marxwriter and the Tom Thumb are the most commonly found toy typewriters. This looks like a '60s creation. Decades earlier, Marx also made sheet-metal index typewriters. None of these devices are things you'd want to write a novel on.

4. Oliver no. 9, $99.

This is the most common model of Oliver, and the condition is typical. Something about the paint and nickel on Olivers doesn't hold up as well as on some other makes. Also typically, the ribbon covers are missing. Still, it's an Oliver, and Olivers are cool.

Now here are two very different Royals ...

5. Royal HH, $38.

Made for just a couple of years in the mid-'50s, but they sold like hotcakes. These are durable, well-engineered typewriters from the height of Royal's quality and popularity. The tabulator which you can operate with the heel of your hand is a distinctive feature.

6. Royal Quiet Deluxe, $38.

No, not that Royal Quiet Deluxe. The classic design from the 1930s-50s has no relation to this little typewriter made in Holland. It's descended from the Halberg and from other small Royal models such as the Royalite. This "QDL" from the late '60s has an attractively streamlined plastic body. Unfortunately, the plastic gets brittle. The ribbon cover is held on with springs that stretch between two plastic hooks that are almost always broken. This was no exception.

7. Smith-Corona Coronet, $39.95.

One of the many variants of the Smith-Corona electric portables produced from the '50s into the '70s. Some, like this one, have a manual carriage return. This one looks unusually clean.

8. Underwood Master, $95.

"RARE," says the tag. Uh, no (see #1).

* * * * *

We interrupt this typewriter parade for an object I've never seen before: a bakelite (?) rack for records (?) or books (?) embossed with military scenes. I imagine this on the desk of some officer during WWII, or maybe in the home of some military family just after the war. If I were into militaria, I would snap it up.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

* * * * * 

9. Royal Aristocrat, $129.

Speaking of WWII, there's a biography of "General Ike" which must date somewhere between the end of the war and his election as president in 1952—which may be about the right date for the typewriter, too. If I had to tell you the difference between the Aristocrat and the Quiet Deluxe of this era, I would be in trouble.

10. Underwood S, $119.

This model replaced the Master in 1940. Underwood decided to drop the beefy look and return to a more classic profile. They did keep the panel which covers up the typebars (it easily pops out).

11. Smith-Corona Skyriter, $64.95.

This is a commonly found color scheme, and this specimen hasn't been repainted.

12. Royal Quiet Deluxe, $64.95.

Here's a classic QDL from about 1950-1953, complete with user's manual. On the sheet, someone has typed: "Dear Mr. Wall, This is to advise you that your dammed old typewriter is ready for pick up"—followed by many repetitions of the old "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party." Supposedly this sentence dates back to the 1870s and has been used as a typing test ever since!

So: which typewriter(s) would you pick?

And which one do you think I brought home?