Now, TEN YEARS LATER, I'm going to revisit that series of articles by doing two things:
•First, an update of the manual portables available right now.
•Second, an archive of the information written from 2005 onward on my old site to record the winding down of the manufacturing and sales of portables in the USA.
PORTABLES TODAY - FEBRUARY 2015
Incredibly, we find that one of the oldest names in the business continues to offer a portable manual typewriter on its website.
The Royal Epoch is available for $199.99 at Royal Consumer Business Products' website. This machine is manufactured for Royal in China by Shanghai Weilv Mechanism Company.
Manual Typewriter - available at Sharper Image for $199.99 and listed "in stock" today, February 10, 2015. This is the same machine as that sold above as the Royal Epoch. No model name or number is shown on the illustrations available. An illustration of the machine from the site (appearing here for archival purposes in anticipation of that date when this offer is ended) is below.
Machines using this name - which actually looks like a marketing scheme and not a name applied on the typewriters themselves - are presently listed two places and are the same machine as the Royal Epoch and that sold by Sharper Image seen above.
Hammacher Schlemmer lists the machine for $249.95 and as of February 1, 2015 listed it as being available from its New York store. However a check today February 10 shows the machine as no longer available. Thus, we've just seen the end of one line of distribution this month.
Skymall lists the machine for $249.95 noting that it is sold through Hammacher Schlemmer but says that the machine is presently unavailable.
The above applies to machines available in the United States directly to consumers.
Manufacturing of mechanical or manual portables in 2015 is, as was last reported on my old website, limited entirely to Shanghai Weilv Mechanism Co. in China, although this company is manufacturing (or at least advertising) several different actual mechanical designs. It is not known if it is making these all continuously or is making them in batches. The company describes itself as having two production lines, and employs less than 100 people. Basic models being made are as follows:
"Carina / Carina 2" series
These typewriters are based off of what had been sold as the Olympia Carina in days past; they're derived from Nakajima originally and are the same as seen above in this post except for the De Barth offering. Some variants of this machine are offered in black, some in white; some carry the ROVER brand name, and some do not. Carriage widths available are 11", 13", and 18". Below are shown the black "2013 New Model" with 11" carriage and the SM18 with 18" carriage.
Rover (IMC) Series
This series of typewriters is derived from the old IMC make in Italy, whose tooling was sent to China some years back. This machine is the intermediate size machine being made by Shanghai Weilv, and is available in 9", 9.5", 11" and 13" carriage sizes. The manufacturer claims to be able to supply 3500 machines per month. Below is one of the various ROVER branded machines of this mechanical series.
Finally, the smallest machine is that whose mechanical origin is the Silver-Seiko small machine, which at the last was made for Olympia as its Traveller C model. This machine is now offered in 9" or 9.5" carriage width as the Rover Traveller C, pictured below.
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That does it for machines being made right now. The Shanghai Weilv offerings may indeed be for sale outside the US through various retailers, but they're only available wholesale from the manufacturers in minimum lots of 1000.
Now, we're going to jump all the way back to TEN YEARS AGO, using archived information from my old site, to give a timeline of the decline of the actual retail sale of manual portable typewriters in the United States.
The Run-Down of Manual Portables in the US, 2004 - 2007.
As of mid-2004, machines still on the market included the Olympia Traveller C, and two offerings from Olivetti - the Lettera 25 and the Lettera 35l. The machines were quite different; the Olympia had a snap over lid, carriage shift, and the lowest price of the lot. The Olivetti machines were larger and heavier (although still of the "small" range of Olivetti portables) and incorporated segment shift, but had bag type carrying cases instead of a lid or actual hard case.
In the third quarter of 2004, both Olivetti and Olympia dropped their long running manual portables. In the case of Olympia, the end was complete; in Olivetti's case it immediately began importing machines from China which were advertised as the "Olivetti MS25 Premier." Interestingly the MS25 was actually imported under the same model number in TWO DIFFERENT mechanical variations - a machine based on the old Brother, and another machine based on the IMC/Rover manufactured by Shanghai Aeroengine Manufacturing. We noted at that time that the production of this IMC model had been taken over from Shanghai Aircraft Industrial Corporation who actually was a part owner of the new Shanghai Aeroengine firm; the product's brand name had been "Chang Kong."
At this time there had been machines advertised by Optima Erfurt as the Optima Traveller C, but these also disappeared when the Olympia Traveller C disappeared.
As of February 2005, also advertising manual typewriter manufacturing was Marshall Sewing Machine Industrial (located in Taiwan) offering its model MT-99 portable (a small machine resembling the Traveller C, but with a clear plastic paper tray on the carriage.) Ningbo Duodashi Manufacturing Co. in China was offering its DUODASHI brand machine; it said at the time it began production in 1962. Chee-May (Goh's) of Taiwan also listed many KOFA (Keeping Offices Fully Automated) models which included the Model 100 "mixto" or "Frankenwriter" whose design incorporated elements of two other previous machines (the main body of the old carriage shifted Triumph Tippa, merged with the carriage off of the bigger Olympia Traveller as made in Yugoslavia by UNIS, Sarajevo.)
|Jordi Traveler, Will Davis collection. "Model 100" rebranded.
In February 2005 the Olympia site still showed the Traveller C and two Carina models as available but since manufacture of the Traveller C was known to be terminated, these must have been backstock.
In December 2005 we noted in another update that the Olivetti MS25 Premier, and the Rover 5000 were both available through a number of channels. The perplexing thing (to some) was that either of these might show up as one of two different models.
The name "Rover 5000" was being used to cover two machines of different design, but which had the same number of keys, carriage width, and so forth. One was based on the old original Rover 5000 made in China. One of the old Rover 5000 machines is shown below for comparison.
|Rover 5000, Will Davis collection. Original series.
|Rover 5000, Davis Bros. collection, acquired brand new 12/2005
February 2006.... We discovered that the Signatures mail order catalog, offered by Starcrest Products of California, Inc. included a manual portable - the "Generation 3000." We sent for one.
|Generation 3000, Davis Bros. collection. Acquired new 2/2006.
The illustrations for the Generation 3000 included just a generic illustration of the machine with no name - a hint that the machines were offered under a variety of names and that a generic illustration was used. See below.
|Illustration in Generation 3000 inst.; Davis Bros. collection
At this time (Feb. 2006) the Carol Wright mail order catalog, which was loosely affiliated with the firm sending out the Dr. Leonard's Health Care mailers, also began offering the Rover 5000 typewriter.
For clarity then -- this Ideal (Jinan) design, based on the old dowel mounted key lever Brother machine, was being sold as the Generation 3000 (in black with zippered case), the Rover 5000 (in white with snap over case lid) and as the Olivetti MS25 Premier (also with snap over lid.)
We didn't make another update on this topic until December 2007, when we announced the discovery of an elaborate offering of typewriters under the FLYING brand name. The company manufacturing these was Zhangjiagang Feiteng Typewriter Co., Ltd. which was part of the Feiteng Group in China. Offered were models Flying 300, Flying 800A, Flying 800B, Flying 880A, Flying 880B, Flying 960A and Flying 960B, all of which were related to each other mechanically and the Flying 970 which appeared quite like the Olympia Traveller C.
At that time the Marshall Sewing Machine Industrial model MT-99 was still being offered in large lots through multiple export opportunity sources. Click here to see the link on Allproducts which is still active in February 2015 even though the machine is long deleted from the company's own site. Below, the Marshall MT-99 from the company's illustration. I have no idea whatsoever if the company ever actually manufactured more than a few of these machines.
At this time (December 2007) Shanghai Weilv Mechanism Company was only making machines based on the old IMC/Rover series that started in Italy, and only in two models -- the Rover 5000 and the Rover 8000. Some of the 5000 series machines were rebranded for Olivetti as the MS25 Premier. Ideal (Jinan) Machinery Co. Ltd. was only making the one model, which was being sold in the US through Olivetti (also as the MS25 Premier) and through various catalogs. The machine was advertised for a time on the Royal Consumer Information Products website but we reported in late 2007 that the machines had not actually been available. Olivetti still controlled Royal at this time.
Later years would see Royal split off into a private US-owned and operated company again... and now, in 2015 it is offering a mechanical typewriter over 100 years after the name appeared on the market. There's no telling how long this will last, but it continues to fascinate me that every time we think the market has totally ended in the United States, another attempt is made.
On the world front, by all appearances both Ideal (Jinan), Flying, and Ningbo Duodashi are out of production. We have no idea if Marshall Sewing Machine Industrial ever made any machines, really. Only Shanghai Weilv soldiers on with three different mechanical designs, and apparently at least some kind of contract with Royal. I'll keep my eye on things and make another update later this year.