My neighbor was getting rid of an old, broken typewriter that he had picked up at a garage sale. My daughter spyed it lying derelict on the curb as we were walking home from school. She begged me to let her bring it home and I reluctantly agreed. Despite the fact that we don’t need any more broken machines in our home, the simple mechanical beauty of the typewriter spoke to me and we hauled it inside. It weighed a ton – probably 25 lbs or more. Initially skeptical, my husband joined our fascinated investigation of the old thing.
On inspection, it was worse than it looked. It seemed irrevocably broken.
Major problems with our curbside rescue:
- Broken carriage drawband – my husband noticed some threads hanging from a broken strap under the right side of the carriage. The remainder of the torn drawband was still wound on the mainspring on the left side of the carriage. This resulted in the carriage not advancing when the keys or space bar were struck. Update: read about the fix.
- Frozen and stuck keys – the internal workings of the typewriter were a gloppy mess of oily dust. Almost all the keys were very sticky, failing to hit the platen roller or failing to return after being struck. A few of the keys were completely frozen, stiff and unmoving. Update: I cleaned them and got them moving again.
- Stuck margins – left margin was stuck near the center of the page and I couldn’t seem to adjust either the right or left margins. Update: I learned about KMC and how it works.
- Completely dried out typewriter ribbon – it was very crackly and dry. Update: I replaced the ribbon with 1/2″ nylon ribbon from the office supply store.
- Bell doesn’t ding as you near the end of the line. Update: I fixed the bell!
- Missing T key – the bare stem was rusty and sharp – could be painful typing “the”. Update: Swapped a key.
- Dirty type hammers – many of the letters were filled with gunk. Update: cleaned them up and now the type is much crisper.
It has been many years since I have used a manual typewriter. Growing up, we had an old Royal, probably circa 1940 on which I typed out many high school papers. I did not experience electric typewriters until I hit college.
My husband, daughter and I poked at the old typewriter, re-familiarizing ourselves with basic operations. Thanks to the internet, we found lots of general information on manual typewriter operation and soon we were able to identify many of the part names and functions.
Even in its broken state, we had a lot of fun with the typewriter. We manually pulled left on the carriage to make it advance and typed out faint messages with the keys that worked:
14 thoughts on “An Old Remington Rand Typewriter at the Curb”
I’m glad that you rescued it and have learned so much about it. It lives again! And others will benefit from your experience.
Thank you, Richard, for all the great resources you’ve put online. I definitely benefited from them.
That’s the same as my grandmother’s typewriter which I now have and will preserve.
Good to hear that you are preserving your grandmother’s typewriter. Our Remington KMC was our first typewriter and is still one of my all-time favorites – I love its smooth, solid touch.
I just purchased this same typewriter for my daughter. We were wondering the year on our typewriter. Model number is J1410983.
I think yours might be a 1948. I went to Typewriter Database and checked the serial number listings for Remington Model Standard No. 17 and KMC:
I have a 1947 Remington Rand machine that once belonged to the U. S. military. I bought it from an antique store. When I got it home, I fixed exactly the very same problems–only I replaced the entire set of keys with blank keytops. I use it to see how my touch-typing technique is holding out. I used to call this machine “the Blind Bat,” but now, with the gray of the keys and the black of the rest of the typewriter, I call it “Batman.” I’m even thinking of coloring the back of the machine a medium blue to match the Batman cape.
Batman – Ha!
My Remington Rand is still one of my very favorites – just 100% solid typing pleasure.
I recently got a Remington Rand typewriter, and when I attempted to look up the serial number, there is no information on when it was made.
The serial number is #J1158916.
Please help me find the info if you can. It’s not on the linked website.
Visit Typewriter Database and go to the Remington Rand serial number page:
You’ll need to scroll way down to the Remington 17/KMC serial numbers (I’m assuming you have a big standard typewriter that is similar to mine). There you’ll see this:
The first serial number that started the April of 1947 production was J1140425 and the first serial number for May 1947 was J1167904. Your serial number falls in between, so I would say that your typewriter was built in April of 1947.
Hey! I just wanted to say your page has been SO HELPFUL to me I recently also found one of these for free and used your posts on this machine to fix mine up, too.
That is really great to hear. I didn’t know much about typewriters when I found that first Remington KMC on the curb, but was fortunate to stumble upon the very friendly and helpful online typewriter community.
late to the program, but i really enjoyed reading your first post. and the ending, superb!
“The P and the O worked very well so we typed out “POOP” a lot.”
enjoyed your most recent post where i learned a painful truth, you cannot let a dismantled typewriter become Parts in a Box. [this] brings shame onto your entire family.
your writing is great. thank you.
Thank you, T! So nice to hear. It’s been six years since I crossed paths with that Remington Rand KMC – six years of typewriter puzzles and great fun.