The Girl from Dresden: Erika M

Foster Typewriter Update: Some weeks ago I swung by my favorite junk shop to check the status of my foster typewriter, the Royal KHM.  Moe the store owner told me that the Royal KHM had sold almost immediately for $50 to a guy who was thrilled with it and was taking it with him to Thailand.  I am pleased on many levels: it went fast; the guy who bought it loved it; and the Royal KHM would now be living abroad. There is at least another 75 years of typing in that Royal KHM and now she gets to see the world.

Another machine that arrived recently at Moe’s is a 1940 Erika M with serial number 867592/M. It’s a beautiful thing (despite a missing key top) and types beautifully. I didn’t bring it home as it is way too clean and functional for my tastes. 🙂



It has a QWERTY key board, but German characters and a £/$ key.


Serial number is located under the space bar: 867592/M which makes it a 1940 Erika M.


There’s a Heidelberg dealer’s label on the inside of the case:


And how did this German girl get here to Moe’s junk store in California? With a QWERTY keyboard. Perhaps this was “war booty” brought home from Germany.  The key tops are different colors suggesting replacement at some point. However, the “Y” is the same color as the German characters. I examined the type slugs carefully and the slugs that may have been replaced seem identical to the other slugs. If re-soldered, whoever re-soldered them did an expert job.


The name Dresden fills me with some sadness, bringing to mind the bombing of the city in 1945.  I recently re-read Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five – it’s really more absurd and disturbingly tragic the second time around. Vonnegut drew on his experiences as a POW in Germany and his unlikely survival of the firebombing of Dresden. The events of Dresden haunt both writer and his main character – how do you make sense of an experience like that? How does a city recover from devastation on that scale?

Like a Tralfamadorian, I will turn to happier moments in time: Moe at the junk shop had a 1920 Underwood Models 3,4,5 user manual for me. I don’t have an Underwood, but I would never turn down typewriter ephemera.


Unfortunately, it’s missing its front cover with its machine diagram, so it’s limited in its usefulness.

Happily, it does have the address of Underwood Typewriter Company printed inside (30 Vesey St., NYC) and a nice picture of the building inside the manual.


What does 30 Vesey St. look like today? I like to put that kind of thing into The Google.


It appears that the building still stands and there’s a deli next door. I would love to wander around 30 Vesey and see if there is a forgotten closet full of typewriter-related stuff. Maybe I would find the cover to my Underwood manual.

Also, in other happy news: the Royal Aristocrat is still holding up.  Her JB Weld Steelstik attached key tops are hanging in there.  I sent her across the street to the neighbor’s house where the resident 9 year-old and a bunch of friends did field testing of the machine. I am planning to bring the Aristocrat out for the street block party later in August. We have about twenty kids on the block between the ages of 2 and 12 who will be testing the keys’ structural integrity and typing up a report.

15 thoughts on “The Girl from Dresden: Erika M

    • I forgot to try the double space! I understand that it’s one of the few portables (the only?) to have a double space key. The double space key on my Olympia SG3 is such a fun feature.


  1. Michael says:

    Thank you so much for spelling “its” and “it’s” correctly. It makes your writing easy to read and understand instead of forcing me to read it twice to interpret the meaning. That “Unfortunately … usefulness.” line is so clear. Brava! (I am not joking or being sarcastic.)
    Michael Höhne


      • Michael says:

        Inspired by Gertrude Stein’s comment about the boring city of Oakland … that “There’s no there there.” …. we have:

        I went down to where our gang usually hangs out at their cafe but they had all gone. There’s no “They’re there!”


        When the expected winter storm did not occur in Gumfrey County, the residents checked in nearby Atlas County and found their snow there; they’re … speechless.

        You’re welcome to your enjoyment of these gems of yore.

        == Michael


  2. Lordy, people actually pay attention to “its/it’s/its'”? That’s one I only have the vaguest notion of the various meanings of, so I’m sure my writing offends.

    PS: Such a pretty Erika, perhaps someone should throw it on the floor so you’ll consider adopting it. 😀


  3. Whoa! What a dream machine that Erika M would be for me. It’s on my wish list, particularly with a QWERTY keyboard. (Maybe 3% of German machines have that configuration, I don’t know why.)


      • Schyller Hall says:

        Thank you so much for getting back to me 🙂
        I figured as much. Would you happen to have any advice on how to locate one, where to look? I’ve searched eBay and etsy and Craigslist, but I wonder if I’m not looking in the best places?

        Thanks again!


      • This type of typewriter is rather rare in the US, but they will pop up from time to time on EBay, etsy, and Craigslist. You can find them more often on Ebay from international sellers – there is a lovely Erika M now on eBay offered by a seller in Poland.


      • Schyller Hall says:

        Yes I’ve seen the ones available now, but thank you for your input 🙂
        Well I suppose i will just have to scour the local thrift stores until I find one!

        Thanks again and take care


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