My new book is ready!

My new book, Portable Typewriters, is out! I will be releasing a lower-priced black-and-white copy soon. It is available in paperback and Kindle. This was a project that took two years, and two laptop computers to accomplish. (My first draft and laptop was lost to a kitchen sink...but I was able to rebuild my draft!)

1966 Ad Copy for the Smith-Corona Super Sterling

The Super Sterling by Smith-Corona

You’ll rave about this full duty, budget-priced mid-weight portable! Feel the smooth action and see the precision response of this basic Smith-Corona portable. It has everything you need to make your writing chores go smoother and easier, and it’s built to stay stylish and new all through your school years. It has all the same uncompromising quality, precision, and stamina of the more expensive Smith-Corona portables. Wherever you have writing to do—at home, in school, at the office or on the road—this rugged portable will serve you with flawless dependability and distinction. Its scientifically balanced, full 88-character office-size keyboard is engineered for accelerated action…keeps pace with the fastest fingers! You’ll love its advanced, low-profile styling designed for easy traveling and easy-storability. Its sophisticated decorator colors include: Star-Mist Blue, Bengal Tan, Slate Grey, Oasis Green. Accompanied by a flight-styled all metal, vinyl…

Royal Royalite portables

In 1954, Royal McBee corporation purchased an emerging typewriter manufacturer from Holland, who only made small portable typewriters, which were known as Halberg Travelers. Very few Halberg-labeled typewriters were made; most are found under the name Royal. Royal altered the design of the Traveler--the gull-wing ribbon covers were removed, as was the console carrying case, which was similar to that of the Smith-Corona Skyriter. These were replaced by a removable ribbon cover, which stretched down the sides of the machine, and a zippered carrying case, which was made of vinyl. They were sold under a new name: Royal Royalite. 

While the earliest Royalites were one-tone green, later models could be found in two-tone gray, or in a special name variant, called the Eldorado, in black and gold. These typewriters came in vinyl attache cases. For 1963, the zippered carrying case was replaced by a front-latched vinyl carrying case. In 1963, the Halberg-designed Royalite was offered one last t…

Olivetti Lettera

The fifties were a period of rapid change in the typewriter market. Manufacturers began taking compact portables seriously, especially after seeing the success of Hermes, Olympia, and Olivetti with their compact portables, which were being imported to the United States in growing numbers. Underwood was dying on the vine, while Royal merged with McBee Corporation, and Smith-Corona bought out Marchant Calculator, forming SCM Corporation. Underwood still possessed a nationwide dealer network, and Olivetti, having struggled to gain a foothold in the American market, saw it as a huge asset. They purchased Underwood Corporation, and began to replace Underwood's portables (which had a reputation of being increasingly shoddy) with Olivetti designs. (However, the Underwood standard continued in production through 1970.) 
1963 saw the introduction of the basis of every subsequent Olivetti portable--the Lettera 32. This was a re-engineered Lettera 22. It was a compact portable, with a keyse…

Smith-Corona Galaxie

In 1959, Smith-Corona redesigned its popular portable typewriter. A new bodyshell, designed by David O. Chase and Philip Stevens replaced the rounded bodyshell introduced in 1949. Where the styling of the previous generation of portable was soft and rounded, the new model was crisp, angular, and thoroughly modern. The keyboard surround and carriage ends were made of plastic; the keyboard surround was white plastic, and the carriage-ends were body-colored. The rear of the carriage was brushed stainless-steel, with the Smith-Corona logo on the back. Even the name was modern--Galaxie. While the bodyshell was redesigned, the Galaxie's mechanism dated back to 1932, with slight enhancements in 1949 (plastic keytops and new linespace mechanism), and 1954 (keyset tabulator). It was available in Star-Mist Blue, Oasis Green, Jet Black, Apache Tan, Hunter Red, and Driftwood Gray. 
Early Galaxie portables were equipped with an olive green carrying case, with a textured band in olive that wrapp…

Royal Sprite/Astronaut/Swinger/Fleetwood

In 1965, Silver-Reed, a Japanese manufacturer of knitting machines, branched into manufacturing portable typewriters. They hired GK Design Group to design their new portable, a simple, metal bodied compact typewriter. Within two years, Litton Industries, parent company of Royal Typewriter, began importing these machines in large numbers, and relabeling them as Royal portables for the American market, and Imperial for the British market.
The first of these portables to be introduced was the Royal Mercury, a compact, carriage-shifted portable typewriter, with a 44-key keyboard, touch adjuster, and a two-color ribbon. It was launched in 1966, and began to be heavily advertised in 1968. The Royal Signet, a simple portable, with a single-color ribbon, and a 42-key keyboard, was sold as a cheaper alternative. However, it appears from period advertising in the Seattle Times, that both models could be purchased for the same price, depending on which store was having a sale.

For 1968, an additio…

Royal Caravan/890/990/Sabre/Custom II/Custom III

In 1965, Litton Industries took over Royal McBee Corporation. Much has been written about the various effects of this merger, from a labor perspective (Litton closed Royal's Springfield, Missouri factory in 1970, and moved its production to Portugal; they also moved Imperial's production to Portugal), from the perspective of the rise of the relabeled portable typewriter (Litton imported Silver-Reed portables in huge numbers and labeled them as Royals and Imperials). However, not much has been written about the changes to Royal's full size portable line. The Royal Caravan, a frequently-forgotten model gave a good indicator of the future of Royal's product line.

1962 Royal Safari advertisement, courtesy of Darryl Bridson, Royal Consumer Products 

In 1962, Royal introduced the Safari as a replacement to their Futura. Although mechanically identical to the Futura, it broke with Royal's design philosophy of tall, upright portable typewriters-—the Safari was streamlined. …