Thursday, June 20, 2013

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.


  1. So pretty these are, but I wouldn't spend that much on them.

  2. They want a lot more than they're worth. If you can't use it, it's really of no value to me.

  3. Please be more careful in the information you're putting out there. The internet is a resource that should be trustworthy.
    The first one is a Royal HH, not a Quiet DeLuxe, not even "probably". The QDLs are portables; this one is an office machine.
    The second one is an Olympia SM3 or SM4, another portable; the SGx machines are office-sized. The "G" in "SGx" is German for "gross", meaning "big". I've never heard of an SG2, only SG1 and SG3--not that I'm an authority, but where did that number come from?
    The 6th one, Montgomery Wards Signature 300, might well be made by Smith Corona, who rebranded for M-W before the Japanese got into the act. I can't be sure of this one from the pic--does it have that slide-forward ribbon cover?
    The 8th one, SC Corsair: opinions differ, of course, but it's a hard sell to call the Corsair "a good machine". Loosey-goosey typing action, light weight that slides around on the desk, and every one I have ever seen has a broken return lever--not what we'd call "good" or confidence-inspiring for the machine as a whole. Commonly the return lever problem is a missing or stretched spring that should be holding things in place--an easy fix, but then you still have those other deficiencies. $40--no way. Maybe $5 as a decoration, not a frequent user.

    I agree with your assessment of prices and sympathize with your desire (and inability) to save everything! Me too! I have acquired over 100 typewriters at an average price of under $12, and this includes a good-condition Oliver No. 5.

    Anyway, I am definitely looking forward to your future posts and catching up on your old ones. Thanks!
    == Michael Höhne

    1. Thanks for commenting. While I'm by no means a typewriter expert, I do know what the Signature machine I was looking at is the Japanese version. I have a nearly identical one a few feet away from me, and it's a Brother re-badge. I don't know about the Smith-Corona deal they had, but I do know that in the late '50s they were hooked up with Royal. S-C around the same time was making Tower machines for Sears. Underwood and Olivetti also ended up as Towers in some cases, but I haven't seen a lot of those.