View down onto a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter with a gray body and green keys sitting on a polished wooden table.

Acquisition: 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Two months ago at the end of April, I saw a Royal QDL for sale for $9.99. The temptation was just too much to own what appeared to be a mid-1950s model typewriter for such a pittance. The gray body with the green keys was appealing. I was already a fan of my 1949 Royal QDL designed by Henry Dreyfuss. I was totally unsure of the condition, but it didn’t look half bad from the photos I saw at the time. 

Naturally the seller totally botched the shipping, didn’t lock the typewriter into its case or provide any internal packing materials, so it was left it to rattle around inside its case as it wended its way across the country from Indiana to Los Angeles. There was some damage, but I’ve managed to carefully repair the worst of it this past weekend as a way of celebrating National Typewriter Day.  This beauty entered my collection on 2027-05-07.

Front view of the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter sitting on a wooden table. Extended up in the back are the V shaped metal "ears" of the paper support.

Now that I’ve got it cleaned up and adjusted pretty well with a new ribbon spinning around inside, I have to admit it may be one of the most solid machines in my segment of typewriters. 

I’ll admit that the mid 1950s Royals don’t seem to be the most sexy or desirable machines out there from a collectors’ perspective. As a result they’re often available at bargain basement prices like the almost $10 I paid for this one. But on the other hand, they’re sturdy and reliable, and make really great machines for the money. If you’re new to the typewriter game and want to actually type on a regular basis, you really can’t go too far wrong with one like this. I’ve now picked up three for incredible pricing and all of them have been highly workable right out of the box. 

If it helps, this popular model of typewriter was the machine of choice for Alistair Cooke, Clifford Odets (ca ’57), Marlon Brando, General Claire Chennault (ca ’57), Stephen King, James Michener (’49/’50), Edward R. Murrow, David Niven, Anne Sexton, and Theodore Sturgeon (’48).

Design

Naturally as a 1955, this machine follows the striking redesign of the QDL by Henry Dreyfuss in 1948. While it doesn’t have the same stark angular shape as the ’48-’50 models it still follows his general template, but with green and white doubleshot plastic molded keys instead of the glass tombstone keys. As a 1955 model it’s got just about all the bells and whistles a manual typist could ask.

Overall condition

Despite the rattled shipment cross country, the machine was generally in good shape for its 69 years around the sun. The keys all worked reasonably well, and the interior wasn’t great, but also wasn’t as dusty and dirty as some machines I’ve acquired. One of the biggest areas of wear is the numerical scale on the paper bail. The exterior was quite dirty, but cleaned up nicely with mild detergent and water. I could probably go back and be more aggressive with it, but there is something nice about leaving a bit of the patina of use. There are a few scuffs and the decals are in generally good shape though a touch faded on the back. My general experience with these Royal decals is that they don’t do well with water or even the lightest cleaning, so generally I leave them alone.

The serial number RA-3010220 places its manufacture between January 1955 (2,977,900) and January 1956 (3,177,500). Based on my very basic, unscientific linear manufacturing birthday calculation using data from the Typewriter Database, I would celebrate this QDL’s birthday as February 28, 1955. For the die hard movie fans, this means it might have been the sort of contemporary machine that George McFly might have used in Hill Valley on November of that year to write some science fiction.

The typewriter came with modern plastic universal spools and a monochrome black ribbon which seemed spotty at best, so I quickly opted to replace it with new bichrome black and red ribbon which better suits its functionality. I do wish I had the original metal spools. 

Typebasket and ribbon spools of the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

The machine internally was in broadly good shape, but needed some very light cleaning which went fairly quickly with some mineral spirits. I’m generally happy now with the overall alignment of the machine. When typing at full speed I do occasionally get some piling up of letters, but it’s infrequent enough that I’ll let it go for the moment.

I want to play around with both the touch control and the speed control settings before I tinker with the alignment any more. I still want to experiment a bit with the Magic Margins on this machine some more, particularly as it has both left and right and my other Royals only have the automatic functionality for the left hand margins. This QDL has a medium weighted segment shift.

The return lever was a bit sticky but easily cleanable and repairable. The space bar was at a bit of an angle, and I had some issues with it when re-attaching the body panels which caused both the space bar and the keys to bind and not work. Forming the spacebar a bit got it not only back into the body, but functioning properly as well as square with the world again.

I also want to properly polish up the keys and give a final tweak to the level of the ribbon so the bichrome is perfectly aligned.

Keys

This Quiet De Luxe has 49 keys all in the same green plastic with white lettering. It has a standard QWERTY-based U.S. keyboard for 1950s typewriter. The left and right shifts, and left shift lock are blank. The “BACK SPACE” key is in the upper left and the “TAB” key is in the upper right. The margin release (labeled “MAR REL”) is sitting between banks 2 and 3 on the right hand side. The spacebar at the bottom spans the length of about 7 of the standard keys.

Close up of the green plastic keys and white lettering of the keyboard on the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Other Functionality

It didn’t come with one, so the closest manual I could find online was a 1952  manual via Richard Polt’s website.

The “RA” serial prefix introduced “Speed Control” motor tension control, similar to “Carriage Control” on the Royal standard model HH. According to the Typewriter Database this feature vanished with the end of the RA prefix QDLs in 1956. I’ve only tinkered with this feature a little bit, but hope to circle back on it in the future.

View down into the left side of the typewriter carriage on a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe. On the outside of the machine on the far left is a black thumbscrew knob which attaches to an unseen metal rod which actuates a gear that attaches through the hub for the typewriter's drawband just above the gear. Just above this is a small indicator wheel which appears to be set at about 3.5.
Looking into the right side of the carriage is a worm drive and a numbered indicator numbered 1-5 and controlled by the black thumbscrew on the left side of the machine.

The back of the machine has a spring loaded paper table which is actuated and held by two metal hooks. The right side of the paper table had taken a hit (probably in shipping) and the hook on the right hand side had become disconnected. A bit of forming and patient work got it reconnected and it now seems to be functioning as expected. 

Right side of the paper table opened up and featuring a metal bracket which holds the table cover onto the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

This QDL has a tabulator hidden underneath the paper table. It’s set manually using several sliding blocks along a metal bar.

The opened paper table on the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter. We see metal bar inside it with six sliding metal tabs.

The platen knob on the left hand side has a permanent variable spacing push button on the outside which allows the platen to turn freely. For temporary variable spacing of the platen (often done for subscript and superscript characters) there’s a black thumb switch on the left just to the right of the carriage return. Once those characters are typed, flip the switch back and the platen re-engages at the same spacing set up as before. Just to the left of this switch is a sliding switch to control the single, double, or triple spacing mechanism. 

Angle on the left corner of the carriage on the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter. From the left are the return lever, the black plastic platen knob, the lever for the spacing controls, the black plastic Magic Margin button, and a lever with a black plastic thumb rest for the variable platen control

There is no sign of a carriage centering or locking mechanism.

The back of the paper table has an embedded spring loaded pair of metal rabbit ear-like paper supports. 

This model has a variation of Smith-Corona’s “Page Gage”, but will require some thinking about to use properly as it doesn’t seem as straightforward as S-C’s version.

This machine did have some felt on the main body panels, but none under the hood or in the paper table, and not nearly as much as some of the 1950s Smith-Corona machines.

Close up of the graded markings on the platen of the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter

Case

The case for the typewriter is a sturdy, relatively thick fiberboard covered in yellow tweed-like fabric on the outside with a smooth green interior. There is a solid metal cleat in the back to which the rear of the typewriter can be inserted and there are two metal cleats with clamps that hold the front sides of the typewriter down. There is a thumb lever on the left rear hinge of the case which allows the top to be separated easily from the bottom. It has some scratches, marks and wear, but nothing out of the ordinary for a case of this age and use.

The top of the case has a traditional U-shaped bracket for holding papers, but there are also to metal brackets on either side to help hold the typewriter in place while the case is closed. One of them is a long flat fin which helps to push the return lever and hold it in while the case is closed. 

The hardware on the case seems to be in good condition including the chromed lock and the black Bakelite handle. Naturally, though the lock works as expected, this machine didn’t come with an included key.  Finally the case has some rubber feet on the “closed bottom” configuration, but seems to be missing the feet for use with the case open. I’ll see if I can’t pick up something period appropriate to remedy this.

1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter and it's opened case with a green interior sitting on a wooden table.

Green interior of the bottom portion of the typewriter case

The top of a typewriter case in closing position. A flat metal fin mounted to the case pushes against the return lever of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter as it closes.

Thumb latch is being pulled away by a finger to allow the hinges of a typewriter case to be pulled apart

Oblique view from above of a yellow and somewhat worn typewriter case with a black handle

Typeface Sample

This machine has an pica typeface with 10 characters per inch and a traditional bichrome switch as well as a stencil setting. 

3x5 inch index card with a typing sample that reads: 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Serial number: RA-3010220 Pica typeface, 10 CPI, portable bichrome, U.S. keyboard, segment shift; tweed hard case, key 234567890- qwertyuiop asdfghjkl; zxcvbnm,./ "#$% &'()* QWERTYUIOP ASDFGHJKL:@ ZXCVBNM,.? the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. A VERY BAD QUACK MIGHT JINX ZIPPY FOWLS.

 

Close up of the cleaned type face and typebars of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter. There is a happy bit of gleam with the faintest hint of ink usage.

Sound

Here’s a sound sample of inserting a sheet of paper, aligning it writing a sentence, the bell, and a return on the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe:

Photo Gallery

Below are some additional photos of this lovely Quiet De Luxe. There are some additional photos of this typewriter taken apart into pieces from a prior post about cleaning and repairing portions.

Frontal table level view of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Focus on the hood and carriage of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter

Typebasket and ribbon spools of the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Angle on the Touch Control settings on the left side of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe with it's hood open. Also visible are a chrome button on the front which allows the hood to be open. Just behind the touch control is a metal lever for switching the direction of the ribbon.

1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Close up of the left corner of the carriage on the 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter. From the left are the return lever, the black plastic platen knob, the lever for the spacing controls, the black plastic Magic Margin button, and a lever with a black plastic thumb rest for the variable platen control

Close up of the ribbon vibrator of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe and a small silver card finger in the down position.

Close up of the ribbon vibrator of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe and a small silver card finger in the up position.

Table level view of the left side (profile) of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Table level view of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter with it's paper support ears extended.

Table level view of the right side of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Angle down on the right side of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

View into the typebasket of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter with the hood open.

Angle on the front chromed Royal badge and some of the green keys of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Close up of the bell and clapper looing into the bottom of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

View of the complicated mechanical bottom of a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter

Sitting on a wooden card catalog is a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter in gray body panels with green keys.

Published by

Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

6 thoughts on “Acquisition: 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriter”

  1. @mattypenny Based on reports (read: complaints) from family members, most mechanical keyboards are quieter than these old typewriters. When it comes to mid-century typewriters there are varying levels of what they considered “quiet”. Many manufacturers added felt padding and custom rubber washers to their machines to dampen things down, especially for companies that had dozens of machines in a typing pool which could be quite loud.

    Alternately, I have heard stories of companies piping in typing noise into their workspaces as a means of creating both ambience as well as trying to help up the level of productivity—presumably as an aural form of “body doubling”. I won’t bother to mention the ever-growing ASMR space…

  2. @bradenslen Thanks. I am hitting the upper limit on collection space as well as bandwidth to use them all in a regular rotation. I did manage to pick up an Olympia SM3 for $11 recently and I’m on the lookout for one or two bulkier standards, so one or two are going to have to go sooner or later. At least they’ll leave me in far better condition than they arrived. If I keep this up at my recent rate, I’ll have to open a typewriter repair/sales store.

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