.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Monday, March 28, 2011

Just a "Standard" blog post.

Get it? "Standard" blog post, and see? It's a "standard" typewriter? Who said that? What, what was that? That's lame? Ok fine. You think up titles then.

Having been participating in the Yahoo Portable Typewriter group chats lately, I came up with this idea for a post after a couple participants began discussing standard machines. I realized that I only have 3 or 4 standards, and they are not at all common ones! So, here we go. What do they all have in common? Well, other than that I own all or them, only a few things. Namely, only one of the designs would have any lasting power at all! Yet, these are some beautiful machines to look at.

The first machine it that seen at the top of the page, a Harris Visible No. 4. This machine is in fantastic condition, and is useable too. Gotta love the blue and gold pinstriping. For lots more on these machines, and the fascinating story behind them, see Will's foundational article here:


These shots are all of my machine, serial number 24568, which is in pretty darn good condition as you can see. I really like the blue and gold pinstriping, don't you? I have always felt that these machines were not junk, but not at the top. You know, kind of a solid middle of the pack performer, not losing to every other machine out there feature for feature or comparing useability, but not winning ENOUGH to make it any further than it (or the company) did. This whole business venture is an excellent study in business theory and application, and shows just how hard it can be to compete in a tough field business-wise. Yes, the story is cool, totally apart from the machines.

Here is a really beautiful machine, my Pittsburg Visible No. 12. This is a fantastic machine, and as seen here is totally useable. Yet, it is another one of those machines/companies who ended up failing. Again, refer to Will's in depth study, and also there you can see many more pictures of this very machine!


Ok, other than the Smith Premier 1 that was on this blog a while ago, this last machine is currently the only other standard I own, and I just got it today! Purchased on EBay from a well known and excellent collector, this machine fulfills a want I have had for years: a good condition, useable noiseless standard machine. Clearly this machine is useable, in fact the rear decal says: "Reconditioned at the Remington Noiseless Factory"!! Well, that could have been last week! These thrust action machines are a class in and of themselves.

Now then, we have the Harris No. 4, the Pittsburg No. 12, the previously described Smith Premier 1, and this last machine, a Remington Noiseless 6, factory reconditioned as some point. Go back and look at all the pictures above. Gee, the noiseless doesn't look too good compared to those others, does it? I mean, it isnt terrible, but these machines have a high, bulky look, odd with that rounded type bar cover contrasting with the square blocky shape of the body. No paper table either on these (these didn't have one!) to put a nice big decal on. No pinstriping at all, just liberal crinkle paint. Nope, no contest as far as looks go. All 3 others are better looking, even with one being an upstrike!

The serial number of the noiseless shown decodes to 1930. Long after all three other machines were made. And this basic design, never really a front runner in sales, would soldier on many more years. Despite it's mechanical complexity, it can be considered a successful design.

Here's the crux of the comparison: this Remington Noiseless 6 is an absolute DREAM to type on! It buries the other machines and not just by a little. Not only is it MUCH quieter, it is FAST. I couldnt pile keys on it unless I got sloppy with my typing. This machine responds to fast, strong, staccato fingers, just like someone who types a lot might be expected to have. This machine survived its original company of origin (The Noiseless Typewriter Co.) because it is inherently a GOOD MACHINE that is strong, solid, and does what it says it will do, that is reduce noise. But there is no sacrifice with that gain, other than the complexity. Not pretty, not ornate, no pinstriping, and yes I know it isn't exactly apples and apples but the least visually attractive machine here is the best to use, longest lasting of them all? Yes. And it also has an almost as good business story behind it too, but the thing about THAT is that this design had an edge, some advantage, that could keep it around. Just like Jack Nicklaus said about golf tournaments, he always felt that if he could just hang around till Sunday, maybe not even near the top, he had a good chance of winning the tournament. Some of the machines we all own did just that, their designs hung around, had something to offer, some edge or advantage, and even if their original company faltered, someone else saw the possibilities and kept the machine in the market, one way or another.

So, this display of just a few standards is at once a study in what I like personally, AND in business theory and application, useability, aesthetics, all kinds of things! Yes, those first three, the Harris, Pittsburg, and Smith Premier are top notch display machines. They all work too. Would that Remington turn any heads? Is it the "ugly friend" to the others? Maybe, but if I had to use one every day, it would be the Remington. No contest. Not even close. The Harris would certainly be second, but not a close second. Is the number of each of these you see roughly comparable to the success of the machines/companies? How many Harris' do you see? Now, how many Noiseless machines of all variants do you see, whether the original company, or Remington's, or Underwood's?

My Smith Premier 1 makes a wonderful display in my house, and everybody that sees it comments on it. Same with the Pittsburg, and no doubt why. I think they are beautiful too. But, being mechanical more than artistic in nature, and having typed LOTS on a LOT of machines, if a Noiseless were on display in someone's house, it would get the same reaction from me! The mechanical complexity and unique story of these Noiseless machines made me want one, to add to my small group of standards, and now after experiencing it's awesome useability I'm even more glad to have added it to my collection. Do you have machines on display, maybe in your office or in your home? How do they compare to your other machines NOT on display? Do you display machines that look good, or ones that WORK well, or is that even a consideration for you? Comment, and have a great week! David A. Davis

Sunday, March 6, 2011

DTW Wreck Report

When I say, offhand, to friends, or other collectors, or even as I sometimes do on the internet that we're up to our keesters in typewriters around here I'm not kidding. Many times you get to see the machines only when they're repaired, cleaned, adjusted and ready for typing. Sometimes you get to see specially selected machines that we put in the DTW because we think they're interesting subjects, and so these machines you get to see go from damaged or maladjusted to repaired. What you don't normally get is a tour of the absolute junkers that are around here waiting to be fixed, or used as boat anchors, or thrown in a ravine. Bridging this perceived gap, and very likely answering a question nobody asked, we now present our first-ever DTW Wrecked Typewriter Report.

Rex Visible No. 4. Serial number 42980. This machine is in fairly bad shape; not only is one of the feet cracked off of it, we don't have the foot. It was this way when we found it at a large antique mall in Ohio, and since we love Harris and Rex machines and the price on this thing was something stupid like $5 I bought it. It's worse than just that frame problem, though; the shift is absolutely jammed through what was very likely a total misunderstanding of how the shift / shift lock override works on one of these things (for those who don't know, there is nothing intuitive about this functionality on the Harris/Rex standards) and sometimes you'll find these with the shift jammed. It's worst when the levers are really bent like they are on this one. There are other problems with this machine, too; I think maybe two or three type bar links are off, or broken. I didn't look again. This machine will likely get parted out since the fatal problem of frame breakage without the missing piece dooms it. However, we are still looking for a Rex with the side-button ribbon selector and if we had to get a really bad one we would absolutely use as many parts out of this one as needed to make a working machine. So I guess it stays. Heck, we've had this one a couple years now. I think.

Here is our Continental Silenta. This is one that will be going up to Your Typewriter and Computer for a good tanking. The machine is not among the worst here, but any type of thrust action or Noiseless machine needs to be really really clean, in our experience, in order to function properly. This one was very dusty and dirty when we got it, and I can see it's gotten a bit worse since whenever it was I left the dust cover off of it. Oh, well... This was at one point supposed to be the designated 'Very Next Machine' to go up there for a soak and I honestly can't remember what happened. It's been a while.

This machine is another one I bought at an antique mall. I think. What we are looking at here is something kind of interesting; it's a Fox No. 4 Standard, which is the original style of Fox that is an upstrike or "blind writer." What's unusual about this one is that it has a built in decimal tabulator (with denominations up to one hundred million.) I don't recall seeing too many Fox machines with decimal tabulators; I'm not calling this one rare, but I am saying I myself haven't seen too many. This is another one that I got home and designated as that "Next Big Project," but like so many other ones it got shelved for reasons I cannot recall. Sometimes things happen in bursts and some machines get forgotten! I do recall now that when I looked at this one the first time, the price was right about at that magic cutoff "speed of sound" number for me and my spending habits, but when I realized that in addition to its lid (no base) it also had the decimal tabulator I quickly decided to buy it when that little bell went off inside that says "I don't think you see a lot of these." We'll see; now that it's on HERE, they'll pop out of the woodwork.

Here is one I don't think we've ever shown anywhere either. This is a No. 10 Remington Standard with five-key decimal tabulator. What is interesting about this machine is that it is actually a 10S variant - in other words, this machine is late enough that it has a slotted, solid one-piece type bar segment instead of the individually mounted type bar bearings that the No. 10 was introduced with in 1908. On the European Typewriter Project site, we showed Tilman Elster's 10S that very clearly has a letter "S" on the front, above the top row of keys. This machine doesn't look like it ever had that there before. It seems to work all right (not great, but all right) so I'm not too sure why it never got on any of the websites. I didn't pull it out to fully test it though; that is something for a later day.

Hey-- I think I found something that isn't a junker!

This is what looks like a 1930's Adler Standard machine, and it's really in good shape! Now I'm really confused -- however, this was stuck away in a corner that got buried pretty quickly with other machines and that would explain why we had this one cleaned professionally (it's really clean) and adjusted. This thing seems to work fine, and look closely - a QWERTY keyboard! That means I can put it through its paces without having to temporarily retrain my mind. What's more, this thing is segment shifted so it's sure to be pleasant. Once again, I have no recollection of having put this machine on any of the sites and I cannot think why not. I'll make sure to test this one on this site soon.

Well, that's enough looking through the debris field, detritus, and flotsam for one day. There are plenty more machines to be covered that ARE fixed.. and lots, unfortunately, that aren't. There's a brass framed Underwood around somewhere, and a matching parts machine for it with iron frame. There's a parts Reliance around somewhere too. There are at least two beat to death portables around too that will be a good source of small fasteners. But enough! Onward with machines that don't need to be fixed, at least for a while.


A few years back, our Dad went berserk and started having me buy, as his agent, every Smith-Corona variant I didn't already own myself. We even duplicated a couple I did have to opt up in quality. Let's take a very random look through this ocean of Smith-Corona machines -- among the collector-typists' favorites -- in what I'm going to call the Smith-Corona-rama!

Note: There are two ringers in here; one acquired recently, and one is mine.

Smith-Corona SUPER. Serial 5T 118429. This machine is actually the first of the 'ringers' since we recently acquired it from Tim Champlin. Now, I've been telling everyone for many years that the first Smith-Corona machine with the key-set tabulator was the SUPER, and that these are about the hardest conventional Super 5 machines to find. Quickly, two more keys were added and the machine became the Silent-Super. However, during all this time I never actually owned one! So recently we rectified this situation with this fine example. This machine dates to 1954. For reference as we go along, let's point out one of the more obvious trim changes that occurs on these machines -- the logo. On this machine, it's green plastic and has an underline. On the very earliest Super 5 machines the logo on the front is actually burnished metal, with an underline. This logo style came next, and then after that a logo still of plastic but with no underline.

Smith-Corona Silent-Super. Serial 5T 459437X. This machine dates by its serial number to 1957, and is finished in Desert Sand color. Note the white keytops - white appeared sometime after the introduction of the Super 5 as a keytop color. But look closely at these keytops; they still have the "T" cross section of the early Super 5 style keytops. Note also that the logo is plastic, with an underline. You can find Silent-Supers in very many colors out there if you look hard enough. Certain colors were fitted with the original green keytops, while others got these white ones. Later on, only white ones were used. I don't have a hard date on that, yet.

Smith-Corona Sterling. Serial 4AR 42795. How many people remember my brother Dave's last "What's wrong with this picture" feature? Many must, judging by the traffic it got. Those who do will find this machine of interest. Not only is this another mutant Speedline (4 series) machine painted in essentially Super 5 era paint, it's painted in Desert Sand and has white keytops! Note the keytops are "T" cross section, and note also that the logo is plastic with an underline. In point of fact, the keytops and the logo happen to closely match the previously seen Silent-Super with a production date of 1957. Is that even possible? It might just be, although I'm fairly certain that this color was available before that time. Still, this is about the latest-schemed 4AR I personally know of and it's also important to note that the other 4AR machines we showed with Smith-Corona name brand applied used decals to indicate brand, and model (if used.) This machine has the logo punched through just like the Super 5 machines, and in fact it's the same logo, making the decor even a bit closer overall to being truly Super 5.

Smith-Corona Silent-Super. Serial 5T 624260X. Here is another Silent-Super, this time in a very nice darkish green color. I can't remember the factory name for this shade right now. We see again the most common Silent-Super decor features, with underlined plastic logo and white keytops with T cross section. About the time of introduction of the 6 series, also known as the Galaxie series, the keytops were altered and had the same top contour but a bowl-shaped bottom. This change doesn't affect the typist since the feel is no different at all, but it's another one of those small changes that's easy to spot outside the machine. This machine dates to 1960 by serial number.

Smith-Corona Electric Portable. Serial 5TE 137750. Here is our second 'ringer' of the presentation -- this is actually my machine, not my Dad's. I acquired this machine many years ago, and it was my only electric typewriter of any kind whatsoever for a long long time. I got it at a resale shop for just a couple bucks because they thought it didn't work. It had a minor loose wire which I fixed quickly, but then I found out that all the type bars were stuck. The original lubrication had dried up and the machine was stuck. I very lightly used some oil and some brushes and some very light force with fingers, freeing each type bar and cycling it until the machine worked like a charm! It still does even today. It's very nice to use, actually. One fact many don't know is that these very early electric portables were not totally electric - some of the functions are still totally manually operated. The serial of this machine indicates it was made in 1958.

Smith-Corona Clipper. Serial 5C 419075. This is a 1959 machine, at the bottom of the line of large portables for Smith-Corona. It has no tabulator, no paper support arms, and two fewer keys than the contemporaneous Silent-Super and Electric machines we've just been looking at. However, note one obvious change on this 1959 machine; the logo on the front has been changed and is now no longer underlined. The logo on the Electric was also not underlined, either. We might then guess, roughly for the moment that the underline disappears in about 1958 or 1959. Of course, this is purely decorative and implies nothing about design- it's just a spotting feature. Note the keytops. Green, still T-section.

We just yesterday saw the Golden Shield Silent Meteor, which is in a modified body style that Dave and I have tagged as the "Chop front Super 5." This means that the ribbon cover has a flat front to it, instead of being rounded as originally designed. Now, many Sears (Tower brand) machines have flatter fronted top covers that are close to, but not always identical with, regular Smith-Corona branded chop front machines. In fact, Tower machines had the same style of top cover for many years, making one wonder if the chop front style was not just directly adopted by Smith-Corona to hold its own costs down a bit since it was a sure bet they'd be selling through Sears. With that in mind, let's go to Sears!

Tower Challenger. Serial 5CT 369487. Made for Sears, Roebuck & Co. by Smith-Corona. It's no mistake that I show this machine next; it's the Sears equivalent of the Clipper we just looked at earlier. Note the identical setup, with no tabulator, no paper support arms on the carriage and two fewer keys than the Silent-Super and Electric. Note however the very different looking profile used for the top cover; you will see this on the Tower Commander (with tabulator) and Tower President (like the Silent-Super) as well as other Tower models. It's very much like the chop front cover used on in-house branded Smith-Corona machines, but it isn't perfectly identical. If we assume that this machine's serial number is running in line with Smith-Corona's regular production, this machine is only a year or a year and a half older than the Clipper seen above. Let's move a bit later, and up the price scale a bit, at Sears for our last machine of this feature.

Tower Tabulator. Serial 5CT 440003T. Made for Sears, Roebuck & Co. by Smith-Corona. If the serial for this machine is also in line with Smith-Corona's production of its own machines, then it dates to 1959. Note the radically different look given this machine through use of a smooth finished paint, and the large chromed logo. What is interesting is that this machine has a serial that runs in the Clipper serial number range, and like the Clippers this machine has the 42-key keyboard and no paper support arms.. but it DOES have a tabulator, albeit a manually-set one. It is interesting to see, in addition, that the serial numbers for the Silent stop in 1957. It would appear that the construction features were blurred between the former Silent and Clipper, and the Silent serial number range ended. This is educated speculating, and more investigation is needed on this sequencing. However, we're on it and the results will continue to appear here.

That's it for our meandering through the Smith-Coronas for this evening. But keep looking back for MANY more!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Harry A. Smith No. 4

We've just spent an hour and a half unpacking something very special... and something that we're in an unusually good position to examine directly and comparatively. Rather than bore you all with text, let me take you along on the ride!

First we see the object at hand before unpacking. This is a Harry A. Smith No. 4, which is purportedly in its original shipping crate, with some tools and paperwork. Now, let's recall for a minute that there's no such thing as an 'original' Harry A. Smith typewriter unless it's the machine based on the Blick-Bar; thus, when we say "original" shipping crate we have to be slightly cautious. But nevertheless we've already got a good idea what we have here, so let's continue opening. This thing was bulletproof with what felt like miles of tape around it. Good packing job!

Here I've gotten enough of the outer cardboard packing and the tape pulled away to reveal one end of the wooden shipping crate. We can see a number on the crate; this is exactly what you'd expect given the knowledge that the machine inside is actually a rebuilt Victor. Victor shipping crates have the serial in this location. This one says 3544. That sure seems like an early serial number right off the bat, but let's go on.

Now we can see that there were as many as five stickers applied to the top of the crate, which are all but unreadable now in terms of any useful content. But we do see clearly that this is the product of one Harry A. Smith, 231 N. Fifth Avenue, Chicago Illinois who describes himself as "Rebuilder and Jobber of Typewriters." The term "jobber" as used back in those days most closely means "wholesaler" to us today.

Here we see the newly acquired machine (still in its crate) on the left, next to our Victor No. 3 and its original crate. Do you see what notorious "rebuilder" Harry A. Smith has done? That's right. He has chipped off the area of the crate that says VICTOR and the area along the bottom that gives the original location of manufacture. I am not too sure you can see this comparison anywhere else in the world - but look! It's clearly what has happened. The areas of the crate on the left are literally chiseled away. Amazing!

The seller said there was some original paperwork for the machine, not in the best of shape but present and discernible. We find a three-sheet, single sided set of instructions for, as is labeled, the "Smith Model #4" and there are also two fragments of an illustration used for parts location. Remember that all pictures here when clicked blow up larger -- and we'll provide another view of the diagram sheet such as it is below, much larger.

Notice the name "Smith" on the paper table. I only know of this decal or lettering variation on two machines; there was an Emerson at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which was shown in Beeching's "Century of the Typewriter" which had this exact label on its paper table, and then there is an illustration I have on my website showing a Harry A. Smith No. 12 (again another relabeled Victor) from an ad, which has this exact style of decal. So then, this machine is a Harry A. Smith No. 4 and it also has this label, being the third model I know of with it. I believe all other Harry A. Smith relabeled Victors have different paper table decals. If you know of one other that has this style, please let us know. Now back to the process.. and the picture I didn't show you which I took before getting the envelope of paperwork out.

I think all of you out there who have a number of standard antique machines, who are familiar with open sided frontstrikes and who have used packing peanuts know full well what this picture really means. For those who don't, this is exactly why it's now 10:40 PM as I am writing this and this is also why the ABC continuation won't appear until tomorrow.

Here I'm using the original cleaning brush, whose bristles are many decades gone and which is now really just a handle, to poke these C-shaped styronuts out of the machine. This would eventually take lots of machine inversion, three pairs of pliers, a linkage I found in the bottom of the shipping crate, and my stainless steel Zebra F301 pen to remove from literally every area inside this typewriter. I might never have seen peanuts so well compressed into a typewriter. Maybe. But hey- except for a bit of old paint loss on the top, this machine is in near-mint condition. I can't complain about the shipping- the machine's great.

Here is the inside of the shipping crate lid. Original felt still in place; note the semi-circular piece to hold the type bars down. Looks very much like it did when it was new. The outside of the crate has done its job protecting the inside and its contents over probably ninety years or so.
Harry A. Smith No. 4. Serial number 5324. Rebuilt and relabeled Victor Standard No. 2. Here we finally see the typewriter, without packing peanuts and dusted off but still needing a good cleaning. We can quickly see the open nature of Victor No. 1 and No. 2 machines; note the space bar on this machine that is not full width, and note the presence of a backspace key (the bar in the center above the keyboard -- not a tab key!) It's clearly visible where Harry A. Smith's workmen painted out the Victor name on the front, and the "V" emblem on the paper table and replaced these with Smith's own labeling. The machine is in great shape and the ribbon was even threaded right when we opened it up! The machine surely has not been used for many decades and probably hasn't seen the light of day in many decades either.

On the left, the Harry A. Smith No. 4, serial 5324. On the right, Victor Standard No. 3, serial 9573. In the future, I fully intend a part by part comparison of these two machines (Victor No. 2, Victor No. 3) and the Victor No. 10 you've seen in an earlier post on this site. This should be interesting to collectors who have never really compared all three, and will surely be to us. But for now the direct implication of this photo is all to obvious; Harry A. Smith's deceptive practices early on in his career could not be made any more obvious than they are right here. Not that he didn't straighten out and fly right -- he did. But this is the beginning of the story; how Smith did business in the first part of his career.

In the immediate future I hope to do a full roundup of the various Harry A. Smith Victor rebuilds, by serial and by model (both Victor and Smith model numbers) in order to determine just what was going on .. it seems there are now four identified Smith model numbers for rebuilt Victors. Whatever the case, it might be instructive and considering the labeling variations found on the various Harry A. Smith machines it will make for an attractive photo montage.

One final picture for now; the Harry A. Smith No. 4 sitting on its crate, next to the Victor No. 3 on its crate. We hope you've enjoyed this little trip with us and hope you'll look back again when we try to get more details on the various Harry A. Smith / Victor rebuilds on line.

Golden Shield portable

Many collectors and writers have noted the occasional appearance of either the larger desk model Smith-Corona portables, or else the smaller plastic bodied Smith-Corona portables, with the name "Golden Shield." Often these have attractive, extra decor not typical of that found on other relabelings of Smith-Corona machines. After years of having passed on these, I finally decided to get one for a look.

These machines will invariably say "Golden Shield" and "by Smith-Corona" on them, and this one as we can see says this on the front. (It is on the back of the carriage too.) There is also an attractive insert in the center, which has a small gold shield and the text "The Deluxe Line."

What is clear about this machine is that it is in the body style that we refer to around here as the 'chop front Super 5,' which indicates that the machine is overall a Super 5 series machine but one which has a top cover whose front is straight, and rather vertical, making it look decidedly chopped when compared with a conventional Super 5 machine. (Much, MUCH more to come on our whole line of collector designators for various Smith-Corona machines in later articles.) The only really unusual thing on the machine is the large paddle-style tab stop set/clear bar on the right. Other than decor, the machine is wholly conventional. This leads to one wondering why the labeling of the maker AND the distributor.

A bit of work here has found that Golden Shield Corporation was founded in March 1959 and incorporated in Delaware 3-11-59. Apparently the company's main place of business (offices, warehouse) was at Great Neck, Long Island, New York. The company essentially existed to distribute home equipment such as radios that it had designed, which were made by either itself or more often other companies. Many Golden Shield, or else Astrotone radios are found even today. The company had other product lines such as sewing machines, vacuums and of course, as we know, typewriters. We are pretty sure that this company itself did not survive the middle 1960's since it appears that its only registered trademark ("Astrotone") was sold to Magnavox in 1967. That makes us think that the company's life span was essentially 1959-1967 and that matches up well with the typewriters we see labeled as "Golden Shield." So then what Golden Shield was doing was having Smith-Corona specially decorate and label these machines, which it then distributed. It is interesting that the Smith-Corona name is not only so visible on these relabeled machines, but even on there at all.

Now we can take a look at the machine in our normal format!

GOLDEN SHIELD Silent Meteor. Serial number 5TG 21565. Will Davis collection. Manufactured by Smith-Corona for Golden Shield Corporation, Great Neck, New York. The model name of this machine is very interesting; this model is what had been, prior to the introduction of the "6 series" or Galaxie machines, the Silent-Super but after introduction of the Galaxie machines had various model names in either the old Super 5 body or the new chop-front Super 5 body. The incorporation of half the old model name, plus a new name never used by Smith-Corona makes the model name all the more interesting to collectors. Of further interest is the serial number prefix, which is "5TG." Surely the G is to delineate Golden Shield, since the 5T is exactly what one would suspect to find otherwise. The five-digit number is unusual, to say the least.

So there we have it! Another mystery solved- even if not a major one. This machine gets extra points in our book too because internally it's the same wonderful reliable Smith-Corona machine coupled with a very assertively stated decor on the outside. It's now my favorite of all the chop-front 5 series Smith-Coronas!

Book Review: "The Magnificent 5" / R. Messenger

The Magnificent 5 and 250 Other Great Things About Portable Typewriters .. by Robert Messenger. One hundred pages; soft bound. Published 2011 by the Australian Typewriter Museum, Canberra.

Our friend Robert Messenger has been, over the last several years, perhaps the most prolific, public and active proponent of collecting and researching typewriters on the vast Australian continent. Robert has formed a collectors' association there and along with Mr. Richard Amery, another of our friends, has done more than anyone in many years to get collectors elsewhere to understand what the whole typewriter scene, as it were, was and continues to be in his homeland. A very accomplished author, Robert has a writing style that is like an open road on a sunny day when you've just been presented with a convertible coupe. You just have to go; and with Robert, you just start off and find yourself ever accelerating.

Robert is very clear in his introduction about what this little book (in size only) is and is not - and reading his statement of what it isn't makes you keep reading instead of going to get a drink and a snack to have handy for when you put the book down. Once you're on board with the concept, you take a wide, fun and sometimes very tangential but always focused look at typewriters and typewriting from every conceivable angle. In this way, this book is completely unique in the field of collectors' books written for typewriter enthusiasts.

I highly recommend this book. Available direct at $20A per copy from the publisher.

Australian Typewriter Museum
12 Gormanston Crescent, Deakin 2600, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

Japy portable discovery

by Will Davis with assistance from Thomas Furtig

Recently, I was very excited to acquire a machine I felt sure I'd never seen before. This machine is clearly labeled as a Japy, but upon a bit of checking I quickly realized it isn't a Japy at all .. at least, that's not who made it.

JAPY portable, no model indicated. Serial number 511648. Will Davis collection. At left we see the machine in question; I myself, not owning a Gromina didn't recognize it at first but after having e-mailed Thomas Furtig I discovered that this is what it was. I quickly went searching in my array of machines for that later, very attractive Groma Kolibri I knew I had and waited for Thomas to tell me where to find the serial number. He did of course, and also sent along some observations and some photos of his early Groma Gromina. Let's take a look briefly at that machine -- which is in the earliest decor -- to see the root design and then we'll get on to what this odd relabeling might be all about.

Groma Gromina / serial number 503409 / Thomas Furtig collection. The serial numbers for the little flat Gromina begin right at 500000 in 1951 so that Thomas' machine is indeed very early. Thomas points out that the square red keytops are the first style, and that he also owns another one with the same keytops having serial number 504322 (although that machine is grey crinkle paint.) These machines are incredibly flat -- certainly in the Rooy class of vertical space. However, what is interesting is that the internal design is not any special piece of engineering in terms of tricky design to achieve the flat size envelope. The parts are just plain tiny. The machines employ primary key levers that all head from keytop toward the centerline and which end underneath the segment. Short links take the motion from the key levers to small intermediate rocker arms which directly drive the type bars on the opposite end of the first link by way of a gear tooth design very similar to that used in many Remington and Imperial portables. The amazing thing is not the design itself, but the miniaturization of the parts and the precision of manufacture.

At left, we see the burnished metal label plate applied to the top right of Thomas' Gromina. It appears that the little flat Gromina was not produced in what we might think of as vast numbers judging by available serial number records, even though flat typewriters were definitely in vogue in the 1950's. By the end of 1953 only 8000 machines had been produced.

While the official serial number records available seem to end short and are sparse, Thomas Furtig has informed me that the Gromina ran through two distinct forms -- the second looking much more like the later Kolibri than the first kind -- with the Kolibri beginning production at a serial number in the middle of the 500,000 range.

That takes care of a quick briefing on the root machine, the Gromina. Let's take a look now at the actual newly discovered Japy machine again and place it in some context.

Here for comparison to the label plate affixed to Thomas' Gromina is the label plate affixed to the newly found Japy, serial 511648. Let's note the shift to grey keytops on this machine with the body finished in grey crinkle paint; we can limit the change in keytops at least to between serial numbers 504322-511648. No other changes are apparent. This machine also matches one on the Elsters' site with a serial number of 511692.

Why was Japy, a well known maker in France, importing and selling the little Gromina with its own name on it? One has to wonder if German-made machines weren't somewhat unpopular in the immediate post-war era which might have led to attempts by German makers to get their machines relabeled for sale in France. Many German machines of almost all makes were relabeled in the post-war era at some point.

What would this machine have competed directly with in France? In other words, did Japy have a market niche that needed to be filled by a small, flat typewriter?

Absolutely it did. These were the days when the Rooy Portable was being sold - itself one of the most innovatively designed and manufactured flat machines of all time, and the only machine on the market whose case (or enclosure, if you prefer) was totally integral with the typewriter. This one feature is really the heart of the whole Rooy design -- the inventor, Borel, states this clearly in his voluminous patent material -- and this deliberate integration of typewriter and case which leads to (supposedly) the ultimate convenience in operation and storage is what makes the Rooy Portable my designated "Holy Grail" of portables. It is in essence the final developmental concept - tried only once. Surely, even if experienced typewriter men were not completely won over by the design and execution of the Rooy Portable they'd have realized that to concede the small flat machine field would have been damaging. Japy had no such machine in house; surely the Gromina, relabeled for Japy, would fit the bill.

Above we see the Japy relabeled version of the Gromina, dated to later than 1954 on the left. On the right is the larger Japy portable of the 50's in green crinkle paint. This machine is serial number 166216F and dates to roughly 1953. (I think the "F" might indicate French keyboard, which this machine has.) We can see how much smaller the newly found Japy is than the Japy portable (probably the model P18 in point of fact, by serial number records but also possibly called the Japy Personelle) and it's clear that this one-two combination is exactly that fielded for many years by Paillard (Hermes)and L.C. Smith & Corona / Smith-Corona. It is sheer luck that these two are so close in date. I'm sure everyone recognizes the machine on the right as belonging to the later Euro-Portable family design produced in many places over the years.

Thomas tells me that he's never seen another machine like the little Japy. Unfortunately we cannot perform any further identification on the machine other than the brand and the serial number because the thin long plate on the rear is totally missing from the machine. On the Gromina, it carries the manufacturer's name. We will have to wait until either another machine turns up like this one, or else some sort of advertisement or catalog appears showing the machine in Japy trim.

As a point of interest, I've placed my Groma Kolibri, serial number 603607 next to the Japy for a size comparison. The Groma Kolibri is a whole generation more refined, you might say, even including parallel key action and many improved details and features.

And that's it! We don't know anything more about this little Japy, which Thomas described as scarce. We'll certainly be on the lookout for any further information and if there is any to be had, you'll see it here.

Ten years ago...

Friends, it was ten years ago this month that I was very fortunate to begin a series of collaborations with noted German typewriter collector Norbert Schwarz. Norbert was the very first person from anywhere outside the United States who I worked with in developing new content; the article in question was the first attempted detailed presentation of ALPINA machines anywhere either in print or on the internet at that time. And Norbert has some great machines in that line, too!

At left, Norbert Schwarz's ALPINA SAFETY TYPER. This is a bank or office check writing machine that has a rough typeface that is meant to perforate documents for proof. In addition, this machine is also the very hard to find DT33 variant with decimal tabulator which uses the lowest row of keys as the decimal tab keys. Normal operation of the keys as you might expect leads to typing characters; but pushing the keys away from the typist, or in toward the internals of the machine results in decimal tabulator operation. An ingenious and so far as I know unduplicated arrangement. Norbert owns the only one of these I've ever seen or heard of.

Getting back to the brief story -- at that point no one was heavily promoting portable typewriters of any modernity whatsoever. As soon as the Portable Typewriter Reference Site began to take off and grow, Norbert very graciously posted on a forum that I had invented the hobby of collecting portable typewriters. I don't know about that -- Norbert already had a slew of them when we did that first article! -- but maybe if anything I made it acceptable with a serious and thorough, technically based approach and respectable with photo montage presentation and even maybe cool. But Norbert - and many others who didn't talk a lot about them - already loved some portables and looked for them too even if they never posted anywhere about buying them.

Norbert eventually connected me with two other very well known German collectors; Thomas Furtig, with whom I'm working even today on new material, and the late Tilman Elster. And there are others, too, who I've met online from literally all over the world as a result of having tapped into this "German connection."

Today... well there's just no describing all that has gone on in the intervening ten years since that first collaborative article. The Portable Typewriter Forum is the largest and busiest typewriter enthusiast venue in the world, the various websites have featured (with the help of MANY other collectors, authors, researchers, and photographers whose names are always stated) probably more "new to print" makes and models than any other sites, and with my 'usual suspects' we've written some very well received technical and historical articles. All the members of the PTF, and very especially all the friends I've collaborated with over all these years have been on board from over ten years to just now and everyone can contribute as this wonderful hobby of ours continues to expand -- and as the acceptance of all machines of all ages and types widens out too.

And let's not forget my brother Dave and my Dad who also are on board with this madness and who can be seen posting articles here (Dave) and many posts and responses (my Dad) on the PTF. They make this all the more fun and interesting.

Well, enough reflection. No resting on our laurels here. Stopping to smell the roses is all right, but I'd much rather get on with TYPEWRITERS. So buckle up everyone and get ready for a literal SLEW of posts today and tonight in celebration of my Ten Years of Collaborative Articles. (I made that title up, just now. It's really just a ten year anniversary of major research articles on the net.) You will see the next installment in the ABC series too, so stay tuned.

POSTSCRIPT, March 7th: Thomas Furtig has informed me that he also owns an ALPINA Safety-Typer! With any luck I'll be able to get his opinions of this machine, and some photos, in a future presentation.