Typewriters across America

The Mission: to drive cross-country to deliver a car, a bunch of junk, and two occupants to California

The Secondary Mission: to document typewriters across the US

My Sweet Ride: 2012 Ford Focus with new tires

The Players: a middle aged mother and a teenager with a playlist full of Panic at the Disco

Ports of Call: Maumee, OH! Coralville, IA! Grand Island, NE! Laramie, WY! Salt Lake City, UT! Winnemucca, NV!

my sick set of wheels

My traveling typewriter will be the  Olivetti Lettera 22 – it’s in fine fettle.  I should swap out the ribbon before we leave.

I will begin documenting typewriters here, close to my starting point:

Hospice of Northern Virginia Thrift Store
Falls Church, Virginia

$10 – cartridge style Smith-Corona

I brought the blue Electra 120 home for $10.  It seems to work fine except the ribbon is a bit faint.

Falls Church Antique Annex
Falls Church, Virginia

Cute Remington portable $64 – in working condition

This lovely Dreyfuss Royal QDL is $120 in working condition. It has an interesting keyboard with umlat, circumflex, cedilla, tilde, accents grave and acute, and upside down question mark.  I wonder: is this for Catalan?

After getting briefly distracted by local typewriters, I then focused my attention on packing up junk for the trip and making sure that our ship is seaworthy.

Tales from the Typer recently documented the anxious sense of loss when cellular data is not available on a road trip.  I laughed and nodded, but made a mental note to pick up my TripTik at AAA.

Obviously I am leaving my days of young hip badassery behind and have entered full-on Chico’s territory. I got my AAA TripTik.

So we begin our travels. A journey of 42 hours begins with the slam of a car door.  Onward. I don’t know what we’ll see along the way.

We go until we reach our depot.

House Call

A little over a week ago, I went down to The Shop at Flywheel Press to drop off the cleaned-up Underwood Jewell and to work on typewriters that needed maintenance before the big Love on the Run Valentine’s Day event.


I brought along a little repair kit with tools, mineral spirits and new ribbons. The ten or so typewriters at the Shop were in “sort of” functional condition. There were a lot of sticky keys. There were some unresponsive keys due to popped linkages. Many of the typewriters needed new ribbons. I brought red and black ribbons that I order in bulk from Oregon.


The Underwood Jewell is back in the harness

There was a SCM Galaxie that was missing a couple key tops. I made some temporary key tops for it so that fingers wouldn’t get stabbed during the Love on the Run event. I used synthetic cork – natural cork was a bit too crumbly.

I cut to the right size and shape with an utility knife:



I bet you can’t tell which two are replacements 🙂

These were temporary for the Valentine’s event. I bought some SCM key tops on eBay and swapped them out. They are a little yellow, but they look better than the cork.


Does anyone need a replacement SCM-style key top?  I have lots left over, so let me know.


The Curse of the Clevis

I believe that the y-shaped linkage that attaches to the individual typebars is called a clevis.  I had seen snapped clevises before on a SCM Galaxie with a cemented segment at Moe’s shop. A couple linkages had popped off because the typebars were immobilized in the segment, possible victims of WD-40 syndrome. Once the typebars were freed with cleaning, I was able to re-attach the linkage (with some difficulty).

This is what I am calling a clevis linkage:


This is how a clevis linkage should attach to a typebar:


Four out of the five Smith-Corona typewriters at the Shop had one or more snapped typebar linkages. I worked on a Pennecrest Concord (a re-badged S-C), two SCM Galaxies, and a Smith-Corona Sterling. I got most of them re-attached before the Love on the Run event.

This Reddit thread has some good advice for re-attachment of popped linkages: take a small, thin screwdriver and insert it into the “Y” of the clevis.  Turn the screwdriver to open the “Y” and move the linkage into position near the hole at the base of the typebar. Get the linkage into position and then rotate your screwdriver so that the “Y’ flattens and the linkage snaps to the typebar. I found it easiest to work from beneath the typewriter for linkages at the bottom of the segment( e.g. “G”) and from above for linkages nearer the top (e.g. “A”)

The Case of the Cloven Clevis

After I re-attached the snapped linkages, I saw that the “M” key on a SCM Galaxie had a broken clevis – it was missing half of the “Y”. What to do?


I think a thin piece of metal and some duct tape are in order. Stay with me here.


I cut the stainless tie strapping to a piece about an inch long.  Using a nail, I punched a hole in the end.


I then attached it to the broken clevis with duct tape.


This is probably the worst looking repair of my short career, but it’s working and the letter “M” types again.  It will get a full workout from kids at camps and classes, so we will see how this holds out over time.

The Love on the Run event at Flywheel Press was a great success:

My daughter and I stopped in at the event. There was a pleasantly diverse crowd of old and young – little tiny kids, college-types, parental-types, retired folks.  It was so gratifying to walk in and see someone typing out love notes on the Underwood Jewell.

My daughter found herself attracted to a script Olivetti Lettera 32.  She typed out a love letter in Cat language:


A Herd of Wild Typewriters

I really love Moe’s shop. She has such a superb eye for great junk.

I haven’t been in a couple weeks and Whoa, Nellie!  Moe has a new bevy of beauties to check out. Many have small fixable problems.  I’ll take at least a couple home to work on and then bring them back to Moe’s.

1949 Smith-Corona Silent

S/N: 5S101645
Works great. Comes with a case. A little stinky, but what a sweetie.


1920 Oliver No. 9

S/N: 852922
This Oliver has obviously lived a hard life. Dirty, rusty and corroded.  Drawband broken. Worst of all, it has been dropped on its head so it’s very squashed and typebars won’t move. Of course I want to take it home and clean it. Moe really liked the suggestion.  I think Moe is more likely to sell it if it looked better and actually typed.  However, people stopping in at the shop have been going nuts over this Oliver. We don’t see Olivers often here in California – people are quite struck by its strangeness.


L.C. Smith No. 8

Very rusty, corroded, very dirty. Drawband broken. Pieces in a bag are never a good sign. It should be fine though. Bonus: insane horse decal.


Underwood Noiseless

Love this thing. I want to take it home and play with it and look at its insides.


196x SCM Galaxie

S/N: 6T 540518
The typebars are glued to the segment as if someone poured cement or super glue all over the segment. Perhaps WD-40? Otherwise fine. Looks like a fun clean-up. UPDATE: I took it home for a couple hours yesterday and worked on the Galaxie’s frozen segment with denatured alcohol, gently loosening the keys. One of the key lever linkages had popped off when its typebar was in a frozen state.  Semi-pro tip: move the slug all the way to the platen, grab the linkage with a dental tool and re-attach in this position. Don’t try to re-attach from below; it will only end in tears.  Anyhow, the Galaxie is typing great now. So fun. Sorry, TWDB, no SCM datecode to be found.


1956 Royal Quiet De Luxe

S/N: B317581
Carriage not moving- ooops carriage lock on!  OK – all fine, just a little dirty.  Attractive color. This one will move fast. Has a cute tweedy case.


1940 Royal KMM

S/N: KMM-2590373
Dusty but functional.  Love the greenish-blue keys.  Must take home and clean. I want to compare it to my Remington KMC and see who comes out on top.


Home Dreyfuss Repair

Roia works at Mozo’s, and she is a super nice person.  She caught me on my way in and asked me if I could look at her daughter’s typewriter.  It’s a beautiful Dreyfuss Quiet De Luxe that had been working and then suddenly wasn’t.  I examined the machine. The keys weren’t making it to the platen and the space bar was nonfunctional. It was almost as if I were hitting up against a line lock or a mechanical obstruction.  There was an earring caught under the keys – perhaps something had fallen into the guts?

I told Roia that I wasn’t sure I could fix it, but I would look at it at home.


I brought it home, but I was a little nervous.  I like tinkering with my old junkers, but I have never worked on anyone else’s typewriter.

Amazingly, the internal mechanics of the 1948 QDL are virtually identical to my 1939 Royal Aristocrat with the exception of the margin release mechanism. Time for some comparisons.


click image to vewi larger

click image to view larger

After giving the QDL a quick blow-out to remove animal hair and dust bunnies, I set up the two machines on the dining room table and watched the escapement on key strike side-by-side.

What I noticed was that in the QDL, a pawl (?) or dog(?) in the escapement’s workings wasn’t darting in and out to engage the escapement wheel like it did on the Aristocrat.


I spent the evening pondering this and leafing through the D.E. Fox manual’s repair section on Royal portables.

I have a set of dental-like tools that I picked up at the hardware store for about $5. They are great for spring re-attachment and typewriter investigation.


I very carefully but very unscientifically probed with one of my dental tools around the escapement wheel and dog and then *BOING* the little pawl bounced into sight.  Suddenly the escapement was tripping and the wheel was turning and the typewriter was typing. Dumb luck. I threw a new ribbon in her and went to town:


I want to thank my 1939 Royal Aristocrat for helping me get the QDL running again:


This Dreyfuss QDL is quite a looker in her gray flannel suitiness.  I took some pictures before I returned the QDL to Roia.

Roia was really happy that the QDL made a comeback.  I sent the QDL home to Roia’s with instructions for proper care and feeding à la Type the Clouds.

I then spent a couple hours cleaning the Galaxie and when I dropped off the clean Galaxie at Moe’s, I brought the Oliver home with me for cleaning and repair.  Moe’s shop is closed on Monday and Tuesday so I have a couple days to get this thing sort of clean and mostly running.

I do have my work cut out for me. Look at how rusty and mashed this poor thing is:


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.

Inmates of the Junk Shop: Typewriters Doing Time

Here’s a look at residents in detention in my neighborhood junk shops near San Francisco. Unfortunately, I did not post bail on any of these beauties. Most of the prices were beyond my current cheap thrills limit. I lucked out with my first six typewriters – they were all free to very affordable.

I had some free time last week, so I decided to go typewriter sightseeing.  There were no typewriters at either Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul so I headed over to the town junk / antique stores. First stop: an antique shop with three typewriters:

196x Underwood 21

There was a huge piece of luggage that looked like it had a typewriter in it. I popped the case to check it out.



Oooh! Italian!


It sort of worked. I was unable to appreciate the fine Olivetti engineering since the keys were so gummy I had to manually return them to the basket with each stroke. The price was a non-starter for me and it was really HUGE for a portable.  This Underwood 21 is about as portable as my KMC – it would be better with wheels.

193X Remington 5
$95.00 – $125.00 (two price tags)


Neat looking typewriter with swell curves. Seemed to work (ribbon dried out so I couldn’t get a type sample), but there was something funky about the margins which I couldn’t figure out and the keys were pretty sticky. I do love the red “Self Starter” button:



1948 Smith-Corona Silent
Price unknown
S/N 4S204446


I love the looks of these, but this one was in terrible, terrible shape. Looks like someone must have sat on the keyboard as I could see the imprint of buttocks on the sunken keys. Carriage string snapped. Bent and gummed up keys.  I didn’t ask the price on this S-C Silent. I feel like I should go back and ask if only to put it in protective custody. When researching the Floating Shift mechanism online, I ran into a website where someone had made jewelry out of a Floating Shift key. 😦

Next stop – thrift shop down a few blocks away.

195X Smith-Corona Silent Super


In great shape and typed well. It had a San Jose business sticker:



193X Underwood Universal


Gorgeous machine in fine typing shape – with those nifty Underwood spool covers.

Now onto one of my walk-to neighborhood junk shops:

1970 Brother Echelon 89
S/N L0963629


This one triggers some heavy 70s nostalgia in me with that simulated wood grain trim – it’s the Country Squire of typewriters. It typed fine, but I wasn’t thrilled with the sound and feel. I do love those big chunky keys though. And the wood grain trim. Ah, the 70s!

And lastly to my favorite walk-to neighborhood store.  This is where I got my Corona Four, Skyriter and Torpedo. The owner is very flexible about pricing.


I could bring a lot of things home from this place if I had less restraint.

Here is a Burroughs cousin for $50:


I spotted this bevy of beauties:


Well, helloo ladies!

They were on a shelf almost out of reach.

196X Smith-Corona Electra 120
S/N 6LE2 -120200



I am generally not an electric typewriter person though I have bitter-sweet memories of the Selectrics of my youth. This Electra 120 is on the fugly side, but she won me over once I plugged her in – so much fun to play with.

1965 Olympia SG3
S/N: 7-1349732
Price: $30


This Olympia is a honey. Large Marge. I am worried that I might bring her home at some point. I kind of love everything about her except I couldn’t get the right margin to work. And she is HUGE – a mountain of a typewriter. I might be able to talk the junk store owner into a price reduction.  I am enamored of the double spacing key.


And she’s just filthy dirty.  I could spend so many happy hours cleaning up this Olympia.

196X Royal FP
No price


I couldn’t test this one as the ribbon was tangled, I couldn’t pop the lid and the left Magic Margin wouldn’t hold.  Another day perhaps.

Update: I stopped in an antique store in next town over yesterday and saw this:

195x Royal Quiet De Luxe
Price: $375.00


Wow – knock out color and very clean. The price is…more than I am budgeting for typewriters right now. The font is beautiful:


That’s all for my sightseeing – I added the Brother Echelon 89 and the Smith-Corona Electra 120 to the Typewriter Database as the database didn’t yet have photo examples of these fine machines.

Note: this post is partly inspired by Richard Polt’s Typewriter Safaris – they are very entertaining reads:

The Typewriter Revolution: Photo safari
The Typewriter Revolution: Sunday’s safari
The Typewriter Revolution: January’s safari and guessing game