As the world hurtles faster and faster toward an all-digital age — of non-printed books, non-stamped mail and film-free cameras — we begin to look fondly upon objects that have outlived their intended use. The Brownie Hawkeye camera with its now quaint knobs and lenses, the vinyl record with its oversized cover art and plainly visible grooves — objects such as these have become charming mementos of days not-so-far gone. Although the obsolete design object has always held currency for the collector, few have become as symbolic or as cherished among everyday people as the typewriter.
A word processor without all the nasty distractions that come along with a WiFi connection, the typewriter is comfortingly simple and bare bones. With satisfying tap-tap-taps, exciting dings! and sometimes a gentle hum, typewriters conjure a collective romantic vision of days past. John Steinbeck didn’t write East of Eden sitting in Starbucks on his MacBook Pro with his pumpkin spice latté in hand. Indeed, no vision of our most iconic writers would be complete without the trusty typewriter. Whatever one’s reason to love it, the typewriter has emerged as an object of desire to many a design enthusiast.
Janine Vangool, editor of Uppercase Magazine, is no stranger to typewriter love. The author of the forthcoming tome, The Typewriter: A Graphic History of The Beloved Machine, Vangool has amassed quite the collection — not only of typewriters but of all sorts of typewriter-related ephemera. Although she seems to have an eye for any well-designed token of the typewriter age, Janine does confess to having a favorite. “Royals are my particular favorite,” she says, referring to the Royal brand of typewriters produced from 1906 through the 1970s. “I have the Quiet Deluxe in turquoise, pink, red, grey, and teal.” Throughout its long history, the Royal typewriter company not only pioneered several important technologies for typewriting, but also produced a wide range of stunning, multi-colored products and promotional material — pure eye candy for any typewriter fan. For more images and history about this fabulous brand, continue after the jump! — Max
Images and captions courtesy of Janine Vangool and Uppercase’s Typewriter project.
Above image: Miss Magic Margin proclaims, “Everything you write looks better; and it’s a wonderful time-saver.” “You’re pretty wonderful yourself,” Santa replies. The Royal Portable was touted as 1939’s most exciting Christmas gift . . . and it looks like Santa agrees.
The Royal Typewriter Company was founded in 1904 by two business partners: Edward B. Hess and Lewis C. Myers. Although the two were strapped for cash, the advances they had pioneered with typewriter technology (a friction-free one-track rail, a new paper feed and complete word visibility, just to name a few) caught the eye of the wealthy financier Thomas Fortune Ryan. After receiving a substantial investment from Ryan in exchange for partial control over the company, Hess and Myers introduced their first typewriter in 1906. Produced in a relatively small machine shop in Brooklyn, the Royal Standard Typewriter stood apart from its competitors because of its unique “flatbed” design (most typewriters at this time featured an upright design).
Royal’s typewriters proved incredibly popular and, in order to keep up with demand, the company soon moved to a larger facility in Hartford, Connecticut. Here, they would continue to produce their typewriters well into the mid-twentieth century. In addition to featuring a number of trail-blazing new technologies, Royal Typewriters were also notable for being portable and incredibly durable. Because of this, the president of Royal purchased an airplane in 1927 for the sole purpose of parachuting more than 200 typewriters to distributors along the eastern seaboard. Shockingly, only ten machines were damaged during this publicity stunt, a testament to the brand’s promise of “ruggedness.”
The Royal brand changed hands several times in its later years. In 1954, a few years after introducing its first electric typewriter, Royal merged with McBee, a manufacturer of accounting machines. In 1964, Litton Industries purchased what had at that point become Royal McBee. Two decades later, the Italian typewriter manufacturer Olivetti gained control of the company. Olivetti remained the owner of Royal until 2004, when the company parted ways and became, yet again, a private American company. Today, Royal has set aside its typewriter production and refocused on printers, calculators and other office supplies. Although Royal’s typewriters might now be in the company’s past, they will certainly not be forgotten any time soon.
Above image: The rugged Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable from the early 1960s offered a choice of six exciting colors, matched to suit your personality. “Perhaps you’re a bit frivolous? Ah, love that pink! And what neat-looking letters it turns out for you!” “If you’re the cool and collected type, maybe blue’s the one you want. And it’ll help make B’s into A’s.”
Above image: The Royal Electric may be massive, but you only need the lightest touch — illustrated here with a piece of candy cane — to depress its key. “In fact, the going is 13 times easier on a Royal Electric than on a non-electric typewriter,” highlights the ad copy. (1960s)
Above image: Apples — and Royals, like this Safari model — are good for you. 1965.
Above image: Janine Vangool’s Royal Quiet De Luxe in smooth pink. This model was first introduced in the mid-fifties and was a very popular model then — and now.
Above image: Some Royal typewriters on display in the UPPERCASE studio for a typewriter event a few years ago. Each tag included a little history or story about the machine. “All my typewriters are working,” Janine notes, “each with its own endearing faults and sticky keys.”
Special thanks to Janine Vangool of Uppercase for allowing us to feature images from her fabulous collection of typewriter ephemera. To learn more about Janine’s collection and to contribute to her upcoming typewriter book, please visit the website for The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine. Also, check out the fantastic video that Uppercase put together below!