Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Quiet Update

Update on the Underwood Noiseless Portable typewriter. I was able to clean it up nice. It still has a lot of its original finish and is in remarkable shape. A little oil and the keys work fine, and it types fine with no skipping. The only thing I've noticed is that the bell doesn't work. The serial number 692302 puts the date of its manufacture a few years back further than I'd expected. It was built at some point between Jan. 1, 1934 and Jan. 1, 1935, making it 78 years old. This was from a time when things had to be built to last and could be repaired, and not just thrown away. I doubt those of you who live long enough will ever see an eighty-year-old computer that still works.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I have to keep it quiet. This is a noiseless typewriter, after all. More correctly, the Underwood Noiseless Portable, a clone of the Remington Noiseless Portable. Both were made side-by-side in the Remington factory (I'm going to presume in Ilion, N.Y., since uninformed presumption is such a big part of this blog).

This one just arrived today. I wasn't expecting it until the 28th but it snuck up on me. It's that quiet. Like a ninja in ballerina shoes. I was in downtown Lufkin this morning at an antiques store looking at some old machines (didn't take the iPhone, so no pictures). One was a very similar Remington, for $175.. It didn't work as well as this one, either....and this one cost me nowhere near that.

Put a new ribbon on it (a maddening experience which I assume must get easier) and cleaned it up a bit, but it was operational out of the box. The shipping box, that is, since it didn't have a case. Still, we're talking about a genuine hunk-o-history here, a living, breathing (so to speak) piece of ancient alien technology. This model's history is fragmented and poorly documented at best. There don't seem to be reliable production numbers and the serials are weird, but it had to have been made between 1937 and 1942. Or thereabouts. There is some more info on the Noiseless Portable here. The more you know.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Time Machine.

Here's a beautiful typewriter. This is a circa 1961 Smith-Corona Clipper. Very clean, looks and works like it's brand new. I can't tell you how much I paid. I know it wasn't that much. Perhaps I've taken something to block the memory. I'm sure it wasn't that expensive, since I am a man of modest means.

Nicely detailed inside and out. If my insides were this clean I'd live forever, too.

One of the few times I've gotten a typewriter in the mail and didn't have to clean the white gunk off the keys. What IS that stuff, anyway? I suspect it's mold, or DNA residue from space aliens who used the typewriters in the past.

Case is clean but mildly dented. Has protected this typewriter for over fifty years. Cases can be notorious filth traps. This one's in good shape.

Underside. I wish my underside was this clean. Unlike typewriters, us humans have to shower at least once every ten days.

Back. Looks like a slight dent. It doesn't even show up this well when you look at it in person. The bad lighting seems to have brought it out.

This was owned by "Spector". Hopefully not Phil Spector. If there's an evil spirit that makes me point guns at rock stars and kill b-movie actresses, I am gonna be pissed. Or Arlen Spector, the ambitious Junior Counselor for the Warren Commission who invented the "single bullet theory" that proved Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin that shot JFK. I bet the Spector who was the previous owner of this typewriter was a somewhat less interesting, less controversial individual.

Type sample. These machines were very popular and Smith-Corona ultimately sold millions of them. In fact, I have four. This one, a much older Clipper with a slight skipping problem, and two Towers (re-badged and sold at Sears & Roebuck stores). They're plentiful and cheap, though you'd be hard-pressed to find one this clean.

The Phantom Olympia SG2: A Slight Update

Regarding the typewriter (above) that I misidentified as the Olympia SG2: It wasn't. It appears instead to have been an SM2 (but don't hold me to that). The SG2, had it existed, would be an entirely different (and much larger) machine. But did it exist? A commenter to my previous post insisted that it didn't.

But I stress that I'm not a typewriter expert. So where do I turn for the final word? To a typewriter expert.

In early 2012, three members of the Yahoo Typewriters Group (all longtime collectors) confirmed the existence of the machine here. Two said they own the SG2, but they are quite rare and there is no company literature documenting they were made. In the end, neither supplied a photo. I'd love to see one.

From the discussion:

"It was not made in large numbers. It was a simpler model."
"Yes. I have one- it's basically like the SG3, but without tabs. It types very nicely."
"The Olympia SG 2 was a simplified Machine that looks very similar like the early SG 3-N. It is a little bit smaller (only very little difference!), and has smaller platen turn knobs. Best visual difference is the missing of the large tab keys above the keyboard. It has a tab, but only with a small key at the right of the top key row, and a set-clear-lever at the left of the keyboard. This model was made in very limited numbers and does not show up anywhere in literature. It is extremely hard to find, I have one in my collection, butI only have seen one other example in 35 years of typewriter business and collecting."

In conclusion, I freely admit to being wrong about the typewriter due to an error on my part, but in the end I was vindicated by pure stupid luck. Wild, huh?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

If Maria Callas also had a drink, this would be the greatest photo ever.

Thirty-Two Deep

I live in a desperate situation. In my single room, I am surrounded by everything I own, and that includes thirty-two typewriters. I won't lie to you: two more are on the way. But that's it for now. There simply isn't time, money, or space for more, when you take into account my laptop and other possessions. That being said, it's been quite a while since I made an accounting of all my children. There are some that have been well-documented here, but some have not been mentioned. Over the next few days/weeks I'll be taking some fresh pictures and type samples and posting them here. I must tell you that I haven't named any of them in quite a while, though. Sheer numbers have cut into personalization, it seems.

Largely non-functional 1950s Smith-Corona Secretarial 88. More about it later.

Lufkin: Broken Typewriter Capital of Texas

I live about ten miles from Lufkin, Texas. From time to time I go visit antique and thrift stores to see what's shaking. The other day I caught several old broken machines in their natural habitats.

Not for sale. Seen in the window of The Pink Leopard Boutique in downtown Lufkin. A rusty old Royal, probably a Quiet De Luxe (EDIT: Apparently not). There was a commotion and controversy when I tried to get this picture. I think the ladies inside were surprised to see such a straight, burly man in a store that sold frilly women's items. BUT YOU HAVE A TYPEWRITER IN YOUR WINDOW.

$49. An old Olympia. SG-2? I think so. What a beautiful machine. Flawless and strikingly beautiful. Too bad it didn't work. If it worked *poorly*, I could deal with that. But not at all. The carriage is where it is and will not move. A heartbreaker. If it functioned I would have bought it on the spot.

$65. Smith-Corona Silent Super. Worked, obviously. No apparent damage. And don't get me wrong, I love Smith-Coronas. That's why I have three very similar to this. But none of them cost me $65. I'm sure it will be fine for someone else. I'm also equally sure at this price it will still be there next time I drop by.

$75. Remington-Rand Bantam. A pre-WW2 typewriter used to teach typing. I know little about this model. It's not something I would buy, most likely. They seem to be popular on eBay, but I don't know if it would be worth re-selling. I didn't try it out, so it might work or not.

$55. Underwood Universal. Right carriage knob missing. Didn't seem to least not $55 worth. I was surprised how light these things actually are. From my experience with Underwoods of the era I expected a much heavier machine. If it had worked I might have been interested.

$34. Montgomery-Ward Signature 300. Seemed to work but beaten up. These are fairly common Japanese typewriters more commonly sold as Brother and Webster models in the U.S. I have one already and rarely use it. I do like the green color, though.

$45. Olympia Socialite. Circa 1966. Probably the best-working machine of the day. Typed fine and did make good contact, though there was no ribbon present. $45 seemed a bit steep to me, though. I try not to spend that much unless it's something I'm really stoked about. Under different circumstances I would buy it.

$40. Smith-Corona Corsair. Good machine, but S-C was using cheap plastic cases for their typewriters by this point. This one looked great, typed okay, but had a broken return lever. Not worth it to me, I'm a fanboy, not a typewriter repairman.

$35. Royal Quiet De Luxe. This is an older model, and those could be glass keys. My main fault was that the bell didn't ring, and it didn't seem to properly grip and hold the paper when I inserted it. Also the case is incredibly flimsy, offering no real protection.

$45 "firm". Royal Heritage III. These were sold through Montgomery-Ward stores in the early 1960s. This one is really in good shape, very clean. It typed okay as far as I could see, everything worked. But I have an older Heritage model already, and it's just another typewriter when it comes down to it. I can and do discriminate at this point.

No price. Not for sale? Underwood Standard. Wouldn't type and carriage seemed rusted in place. I took two photos of this amazing old machine. I'd love to have one like it, but it would hurt me not to be able to use it. That upsets me greatly.

So, as you may gather I didn't buy anything on this trip. I'm not made of money and I can't buy every typewriter that I see, no matter how much I might want it. But it costs nothing to look, and I'll keep taking the pictures and posting them here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Alive Again

It's been quite a year. The old blog has just sat here, shunned and ignored, while I secretly have continued my typewriter-hoarding ways. In fact, I have so many now that there's no excuse not to press them back into service and get this blog going again.

In the next 2-3 days expect a full update, lots of photos, and some very sexy scans of black and white print. It's all too much.

And did someone say PODCAST? Wait, that was me. I brought the subject up on Reddit...and if I can get enough people who will listen, and a few who are willing to Skype with me and talk about the subject a couple of times a month, I am willing to produce and co-host such a show. Let me know, folks.