The analysis I’m not hearing about the 2024 presidential debate that is stunningly striking to me is that Donald J. Trump was asked twice about childcare and twice about the opioid crisis and all four times he actively chose to use his time to defend attacks on himself rather than address these major issues facing millions of American people. It is painfully obvious to me that he only has one constituent that matters to him—his own ego. Trump fails the test of basic empathy and humanity time and again.

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.

Users of the early Henry Dreyfuss Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Typewriters

Now that I’ve got exemplars of both the 1948 and 1949 Henry Dreyfuss designed Royal Quiet De Luxe (QDL) typewriters, I’ve been delving into others who would have used these iconic machines.

The 1948 obviously has a very distinctive black frame with dark gray hood and highlights with the black stripe across the front where the badge is. The QDL’s were distinguished from their less expensive Arrow model brothers by the presence of a tabulator and the attendant tab key in the top right of the keyboard. 

The 1949 and early 1950 version of the QDL were given lighter gray bodies and the black band across the front was replaced by a chrome strip which encircled the ribbon control levers on either side.

According to the Typewriter Database and exemplars there, the Quiet De Luxe had a re-design of the shell near the end of 1950, somewhere around serial number 2,000,000 (between 1974816 and 2064139). The hole in the hood/ribbon cover was enlarged, the chrome strip across the front was removed in lieu of chrome “wing” inserts for the ribbon control levers “except on special-order and some foreign keyboards.”

Based on the photos of Royal QDL and portable users collected by Richard Polt on his website at https://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/typers.html, we can now separate out some Royal portable users to more closely specify which models from which years they were using. 

I started with Vladimir and Vera Nabokov. The two photos [1] [2] taken at different angles by Carl Mydans for LIFE magazine in September 1958 clearly show a light gray machine with a tabulator, the iconic hood, and the distinctive chrome strip of the 1949/early 1950 Dreyfuss Royal Quiet De Luxe. It would be nice if Vera’s hands weren’t covering up the distinctive space bar at the front of the machine’s frame, but the look and style of the case bottom the typewriter is sitting in are also consistent with the 1949 model. Incidentally, the Mydans photoshoot was just weeks after the American release of Lolita in August 1958. It was the first novel since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks.

Similarly because of the distinctive features/colors of the 1948 vs 1949/early 50 models, we can put both Alistair Cooke and James Michener down as 1949/early 1950 QDL owners. Their machines also have the distinctive all gray bodies with black spacebars integral to the frame, chrome strip on front, and definitely have tab keys.

Of those in the Polt’s list, only Theodore Sturgeon has the original Dreyfuss redesigned 1948 Royal Quiet De Luxe. This photo isn’t as clear and a museum card is covering up the black space bar. We also don’t see the cutout on the hood because of the angle of the photo, but the overall coloring, the black stripe on the front, and the chrome ovals of the ribbon controls are definitely there as is the tab key in the top right of the keyboard. Better pictures could help solidify the identification, but other QDLs were different enough in shape that I’m reasonably confident here.

Of the other Royal portables Polt has listed, Marlon Brando‘s photo will need more research, but his machine doesn’t appear to have have a tabulator based on the bare silver bar on the back where the tabulator stops would have been attached, so it’s currently misidentified as a QDL. (Edit: Some later 50’s models hid their tabulator functionality underneath the paper table, so perhaps it could have been a QDL.) It could also possibly be an Arrow, a Companion (no tabulator), the related ‘F’ model, or an Aristocrat which was also manufactured with a tabulator. Stephen King’s photos [1] [2] aren’t clear or detailed enough for me to make an easy determination other than to say they’re not from 1948-early 1950. Anne Sexton’s definitely looks like a Royal portable from the later 1950s but needs more research. It’s definitely not from 1948-early 1950 either. A possible determining factor is that hers doesn’t appear to have the typical margin release key on the right hand side which was typically placed 1/2 way between banks 2 and 3. 

For other Royal fans out there, I’m curious to hear what you think about these identifications? Which is your favorite: the 1948 or the 1949/early 1950 version? Or do you prefer those from the later 1950’s?

Certainly Glynn Turman’s portrayal of Chiron, a centaur, in Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2023) is an homage to Moses Gunn’s portrayal of Cairon in The Neverending Story (1983). Though Cairon was a humanoid in the movie, in the original book Michael Ende had the character as a centaur.

Acquisition: 1953 Smith-Corona Silent Typewriter

I’ve been wanting either a 1950s Series 5 Smith-Corona Silent or Silent-Super for a while now to better support some of the regular use of index cards in my daily work. Both models came with standard three roller paper bails as well as two adjustable paper fingers on top of Smith-Corona’s traditional two metal paper card fingers found next to the ribbon vibrator assembly.  This means that I can type not only more easily on index cards, but the process is far quieter and also allows me to use more of the card’s surface area without as much work.

I’ve seen variations of these machines in untested/unknown/poor condition selling at auction for $50-150 dollars recently. (I saw a really filthy/poor condition and not fully functioning Sterling, the Silent’s little brother, with a disintegrating ribbon in a vintage shop last month for $150 as their rock bottom price.) In clean, working condition these can easily be north of $150, especially if they’ve been serviced and had their platens replaced ($300-450 is not unreasonable here.)

I was thus thrilled to see this one listed as a “Vintage Smith-Corona Typewriter” for auction this past month. The fact that GoodWill left off the Silent’s model name in the auction title gave me great hope that it would be overlooked by most hunters. My luck paid out handily when I ultimately won the auction for a paltry $23.00!  Things got even better when the machine showed up on my doorstep incredibly well packaged and in far better condition than I might have hoped. 

It has easily jumped to the top of my collection as my daily use typewriter.

Angled view from the right hand side of a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter in brown crinkle paint with green plastic keys.

Design

Without even cleaning this up, it was almost immediate to see why Tom Hanks gushes over the Smith-Corona Silent.

An index card typed on a Smith-Corona Silent typewriter that contains a quote which reads: 
"If I had to keep only one typewriter, if I had to get rid of them all and only had one left... There is a version of this Smith-Corona which is the Silent Smith-Corona. (...) Somewhere around whenever they started making this, the Smith-Corona Silent and various other models that have the same silhouette. The rise on the keys is just almost perfect---going from an N to a Y requires almost nothing. The size of the type is not too big and not too small. But listen to the solidity of the action. (types) This is a solid, solid piece of machine. That's got beautiful highlights like the stripes here and there. The colors are good. I love the green keys. I would probably say that this with a good case would be the one typewriter I would take. And that's why it's kinda out (on my desk) right now. I rotate this one into use an awful lot (clack, clack) I confess. (clack, clack as he types)" 
---Tom Hanks, in California Typewriter, 2016

Like Mr. Hanks, I’m a fan of the smooth curves, the low-slung body design, and who wouldn’t love the two sets of racing stripes on the hood. I’ve always been a fan of the dark brown body color matched with green plastic keys. The six light green-yellow keys on the sides of the keyboard and the similarly colored Smith-Corona injection molded plastic badging on the hood provide some nice contrast as do the matching numbers and hashmarks on both the margin scale and the carriage front scale. And almost better, this model has a brown plastic spacebar which matches the body color incredibly well compared to some others I’ve seen which seem terribly mis-matched. The slightly cupped key caps have a lovely gleam in contrast to the matte finish of the crinkle paint. The chrome margin stops have red arrows that almost look like exclamation points and were designed to be simple to move and set. 

Close up of the paper table on the back of the Smith-Corona featuring the model name "SILENT" in light green lettering next to a shiny chrome thumb-actuated margin set with a bright red exclamation mark-like pointer arrow.

Overall condition

My particular typewriter, received on 2024-06-01, was in about as great a shape as one could expect a second hand typewriter picked up at a thrift shop to be.

The serial number 5S-409288 places the manufacture between December 1952 and December 1953 based on data from the typewriter database. Assuredly it was made in 1953. Based on my very basic linear manufacturing birthday calculation using data from the Typewriter Database, I’ll celebrate the Silent’s birthday as May 4, 1953. This means that it’s just past 71 years old. The rock hard platen can certainly attest to its age.

The typewriter came with what appear to be its original metal spools and a monochrome black ribbon which seemed to have a bit of life left in it. While the original owner may have manually rewound ribbon onto it, given the generally good condition of the machine, the evidence might suggest that this had only one owner who gave it relatively light use. Since for all intentions this is going to be my primary daily machine, I opted to unspool its original ribbon for use on a monochrome machine later and broke out the brand new reel of bichrome black/red nylon ribbon I just got to have a fresh ribbon ready to go. 

The machine internally was in broadly good shape, but needed some very light cleaning. There was one slightly sticky key, but simply working it for a minute or two got it free and clear without needing to break out the mineral spirits.

The only significant issue the typewriter has out of the box besides some light dust and dirt that needed cleaning was that the shift lock has a tiny bit of play to it which requires adjustment so shifted capitals line up properly with their shift lock capitals.

Keys

This Silent has 49 keys in molded plastic with a small indentation mean to hug the fingertips. It’s a standard QWERTY-based U.S. keyboard for 1950s typewriter. The 42 primary keys are dark green with light green glyphs. On the outsides of the keyboard are lighter green keys including the shift, shift lock, and backspace (labeled with a right pointing arrow) keys on the left and the right shift, margin release (labeled “M-R”), and “TAB” keys on the right hand side. The spacebar at the bottom is in brown plastic to match the typewriter body 

Close up of the U.S. style typewriter keyboard on the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent

Close up of the H, J, and N green plastic keys on the keyboard with the focus on the dirt and dust stuck to the metal just behind them.
Is your keyboard a dirt and dust magnet?

Table level view of the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent  with the light keys focused on in the front.

Other Functionality

It didn’t come with one, so the closest manual I could find online was a 1951 mid-sized portables manual which seems pretty close to the functionality of this Silent. 

While drilled out to accept screws to keep the space locked up and hidden on related models, this Silent is missing those screws and has a fold-down paper table which conveniently hides the tab sets on the back of the machine. The tab sets here aren’t the traditional sliders, but instead are detachable (and thus potentially lose-able) metal clips which slide in and out with some modest friction on a comb-like metal tab bar.

The platen knob on the left hand side has a permanent variable spacing pull knob 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 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 behind this switch is the sliding switch to control the single, double, or triple spacing mechanism. 

Like Smith-Coronas of the 4 and 5 series, this machine has a platen centering lever on the front right side of the carriage. When pulled up it centers the carriage and disengages the escapement and prevents both spacing or typing. This is useful for quickly storing the typewriter in its case, however it doesn’t prevent the carriage from being manually pushed from the left hand side toward the right. This means one needs to take some extra care of the machine with packing up for shipping.

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

The platen is reasonably swappable and has a platen release lever, but to use it, one does need to flip back the hinged paper table. After this, the platen lifts up at an angle and can be pulled out with just a small wiggle. No small/odd parts were packed into the left side of the platen assembly to worry about falling out when removing the platen. 

I had seen the infamous Smith-Corona “Page Gage” on 1960s models, but was surprised to see it pop up on a 1953 machine. The functionality is a cleverly marked ring on the left side of the platen with marks to help the typist know when the bottom of the page is coming so that they can provide consistent top and bottom margins for their pages. The type gives six lines to the inch, which also helps in counts for margins.

Case

In general the case is about as good as one could hope for a machine from 1953. The case is firm and solid and the material covering is still solid and tight. A light wipe down brought most of it back into almost new condition. The top of the case with the handle required the most work as it had apparently been stored upright; as a result, it had a fairly thick layer of dirt and grime.

Interior of a the bottom of a Smith-Corona typewriter case with a burgundy interior and wrapped in a yellow and brown cotton tweed-like material. We see a close up of the thumb lock and bar mechanism which holds the typewriter safely in the case. Of not, the interior is very dirty and dusty and has several dust bunnies in the corner. There's a prominent white mark where the foot of the typewriter has sat. Full view of the interior of a very dirty and dusty typewriter case with a burgundy interior. Close up of the handled top of a typewriter case layered with dirt, soot, and grime. Next to the handle is a small finger-sized patch which has been cleaned off showing the stark contrast of the grime to a yellow and brown fabric. The detached bottom base of a Smith-Corona typewriter case from 1953. The bottom interior is a deep burgundy red with metal cleats in four positions at the four sides of the case. The front cleat is attached to a metal bar which extends to the left front side where a thumb lever is used to allow the front cleat's locking mechanism to be actuated. A clean and lovely yellow and brown flecked fabric covered typewriter case for the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter sits on a wooden table.

Typeface Sample

This machine has an elite typeface with 12 characters per inch (my favorite, and likely what Tom Hanks was referring to when he said the type was not too big and not too small). The machine has a bichrome switch as well as a stencil setting.

Cream index card with red lines that contains a typing sample that reads: 1953 Smith-Corona Silent
Serial number: 5S-409288 
Elite typeface, 12 CPI, portable, bichrome, U.S. keyboard, segment shift 
234567890- qwertyuiop asdfghjkl; zxcvbnm,./ *#$%&'()* QWERTYUIOP ASDFGHJKLO ZXCVBNM,.? the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. A VERY BAD QUACK MIGHT JINX ZIPPY FOWLS.

Close up of the type at the end of the typebars on a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent

Sound

Here’s a sound sample of inserting a sheet of paper, aligning it writing a sentence, the bell, and a return on the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent:

 

This is a sound file of the keys being lightly pressed without hitting the ring or platen and then the light plunk of them falling back onto the felt rest inside the basket. It’s almost like the soft patter of rain.

Photo Gallery

Below are some additional photos of my favorite new machine.

1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter with brown crinkle paint, two sets of brown racing stripes on the hood, and green plastic keys. It sits on a wooden mid-century library card catalog and next to an index card with a typeface sample

Angled view from the right hand side of a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter in brown crinkle paint with green plastic keys.

Close up of the paper table to the top row of keys of the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter. A black and red bichrome ribbon is threaded into the machine which has a black anodized segment.

Close up of the light green plastic Smith-Corona badge on the hood of the typewriter.

Close up view of a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter fills the frame. There's a glint of light on the green plastic typewriter keys.

Font oblique angle down onto the keyboard, hood and carriage of a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter

 

A deconstructed typewriter sitting on a towel on a wooden table surrounded by the brown steel body portions, screws, typewriter ribbon reels, screwdrivers, pliers, and brushes.

Angle down onto the left front side of a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter showing the thumb release lever of the case used to remove the typewriter from its yellow case.

A brown typewriter with green keys in it's bottom case half sitting on a wooden dining room table. Behind it is the other half of the case which has been removed at the hinges. In the background are the chairs around the table and a library card catalog with an indistinguishable typewriter on it.

Unboxing Photos

A large brown shipping box with several fragile stickers on it sitting on a concrete porch next to a white wooden stick railing

Another porch shot with the typewriter case removed from the shipping box full of crumpled brown paper. The yellow hard case is wrapped with plastic wrap to protect it.

A 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter still in the bottom portion of its case sitting on a dark wooden coffee table with some potted plants on the front porch.

The hood of the 1953 Smith-Corona Silent typewriter is up and we can see the brown felt padding inside as well as a view into the typebasket.

Acquisition: 1950 Remington All-New Portable Typewriter

The Remington All-New wasn’t on my typewriter collection list until I ran across it randomly in the typewriter database where I fell in love with some of the photos. Then only days later, I had the opportunity to pick one up out of New Mexico for a terrifically under-valued $21. I’m currently in the midst of cleaning it up a bit, but this may be one of the most beautiful machines I’ve ever seen. Given the similarities to the Remington Quiet-Riter, which I already enjoy, it was a no-brainer acquisition. I don’t think I could have designed a typewriter to pair with my McDowell & Craig Executive Tanker desk if I had tried.

A gray metal Remington All-New typewriter sits on a blue writing drawer on a double pedestal tanker desk in gray with blue drawer fronts and a glass top.

Design

The Remington All-New sits in the cusp between the shiny black typewriters of the 1940s and the industrial crinkle-painted 1950s and 60s portable American machines. The sleek gunmetal gray and curving lines are just stunning to me. 

The rounded hood of the machine reminds me of the streamlined silhouette of Henry Dreyfuss’ 1936 design of New York Central Railroad’s streamlined Mercury train. This is underlined as I also own a boxy 1949 Henry Dreyfuss-designed Royal Quiet De Luxe which was first released in 1948. 

Angle down onto the left side of a Remington All-New typewriter showing off the hood of the machine which has a hole in the shape of a serifed capital letter I from which the typebars would emerge to hit the platen.

Given that Remington only manufactured this typewriter from 1949 into 1952 before releasing the very popular and ubiquitous Remington Quiet-Riter in 1950, and the similar but somewhat less ubiquitous Letter-Riter and Office-Riter models which all ran into the early 1960s, it seems like the shifts in the model over the first year (1949-1950) were a live engineering test for these later models. There are lots of subtle little changes in all the documented models of the All-New over the first year including in the cases. My particular model has an interesting tin-y sound on occasion and has old cream-colored masking tape on all the internal metal panels and one black taped section on the hood. Some of the versions I see in the typewriter database have two black patches of tape, presumably for some level of soundproofing. Later models of the All-New go from flat paint to the ubiquitous crinkle paint of typewriters in the ’50s and ’60s. This makes me wonder if engineers discovered that this particular thick paint treatment helped to dampen the sound of these typewriters in addition to the felt which was often glued into the ribbon cover portions of most typewriters in this time frame. 

Remington All-New Typewriter opened up with the platen removed.

Overall condition

My particular typewriter, received on 2024-05-23, is in great exterior condition with respect to those I’ve seen in the database. There are certainly some scrapes and scuffs, but these are also easier to see on flat painted metal. The case certainly has seen better days. 

The serial number AT-1997444 places the manufacture in February of 1950 based on data from the typewriter database. The “T” in the “AT” portion of the serial number indicates that the machine includes a tabulator, which not all of this line did. This means that next February 2025, my machine will celebrate it’s 75th (or diamond) birthday. 

The serial number on the Remington All-New is on the metal frame on the right hand side of the machine between the bichrome lever and the right spool cup.

Mine didn’t come with one, but the closest manual for this model that I can find is a 1951 version of the Remington Quiet-Riter.

Mine came with only one original Remington ribbon core (ring) and one ribbon cover. The matching set were missing, but a prior enterprising owner had tied the (now dried) black ribbon into the auto-reverse mechanism on the left hand side to jury-rig the ribbon set up. Fortunately I have an extra  spool sitting around, though I’ve opted to use a plastic universal spool with a removable core to be able to properly spool up new ribbon (blue/green bichrome) onto it.

View into the grungy typebasket of a Remington All-New typewriter. The typebars are dirty and grimy and need cleaning. The right ribbon spool has an original spool cover which is missing on the left as is the original metal ribbon ring. The ribbon is obviously old and heavily worn and not well wound. On the inside of the ribbon cover/hood is a patch of black tape on the right hand side and several strips of yellowed masking tape on the left.

The machine internally was in broadly good shape, but needed some cleaning. The segment and typebars required two rounds of treatment with mineral spirits to get the sticky keys working properly. It wasn’t nearly as dusty as other machines I’ve gotten with similar vintage.

View into a freshly cleaned and gleaming segment and typebasket of a Remington All-New typewriter with a freshly installed blue/green bichromatic ribbon.

I’m still not quite sure what to do with the white masking tape on all the internal portions of the machine’s panels, so I’m leaving them at present. Given their placement (everywhere!), I’m reasonably sure that they were all put on in the factory. 

In taking apart the carriage to give it and the platen and rollers a good inspection and cleaning, I noticed the variable line spacer was a bit sticky, so I cleaned the mechanism out and lubricated it a bit before putting it all back together. 

The bichrome lever is missing its original gray plastic finger cap, something that seems somewhat common in the All-New. Perhaps I can swap with one from the margin sliders which are hiding underneath the paper table?

The type and alignment were all in good order, so I didn’t need to effect any changes there.  

I’m terribly tempted to strip and refinish the exterior shell just for fun, but it’s in such good condition, I’ll let it slide for the moment. It seems like a great machine to potentially plate with chrome (or silver, gold, or even platinum). I’m also half tempted to do a dark matte blue similar to the sort of scheme I’ve seen on some cars recently (Tesla comes to mind).

The case is in far worse condition and crying out for restoration of some sort. More on that below.

Keys

The 1950 Remington All-New typewriter has 50 hefty gray keys with doubleshot plastic so that light yellow plastic indicates the key functions. There are both left and right shift keys as well as shift locks. The margin release (labeled “M.R.) is on the top right and the backspace (labeled with a right facing arrow) is on the top left. There is also a right side Tab key opposite the tab set/clear lever which is on the far left side of the keyboard. The right side also has a select lever with labeled 1, 2, and 3 settings for the key pressure control. The spacebar runs the full length of the bottom row of ten keys.

Focus onto the full keyboard of a Remington All-New typewriter. We just see the Remington logo on the hood and a 50 key US standard typewriter keyboard. The keys are very chunky, solid-looking pieces with light yellow lettering. There is a long curved spacebar at the bottom. There are shift and shift locks on both the left and right sides.

Close up of the dark gray typewriter keys on the top two rows. Of interest are the $ and 4 which aren't directly over each other as on most number keys, but they're staggered at an angle.

Other Functionality

The carriage has both left and right release levers. There’s a variable line spacer button in the center of the left platen knob and a related line locating lever for making it easier to do sub and super-script while keeping the line spacing the same. There’s a switch for single and double spacing. The carriage also has a traditional paper bail with two rubber rollers. The typing point includes a permanent card finger on the right hand side. The ribbon vibrator has two vertical posts with metal pivots which trap the ribbon in what is Remington’s quick ribbon changer set up (one of the easiest methods of changing ribbon I’ve seen). 

There’s a tabulator included with a tab key on the right side of the keyboard and a switch on the left hand side of the keyboard for easily setting or clearing tabs. These work like the later “Miracle Tabs” of later Remingtons, but this model isn’t labeled with that feature name. Margin stops are manually set with sliders hiding underneath the paper table. Sadly there’s a small metal tab in the middle of the carriage rail which prevents the setting of margins all on the right or the left, which becomes an issue when attempting to set both margins on the right hand side with index cards in vertical orientation. This can be remedied by centering any paper in the middle of the platen for margin settings.

Close up of the right margin stop inside the paper table. It has a black plastic slider and the indication of the number setting is made by a half-moon shaped cut out in the metal assembly. Just in front of the slider are dozens of metal fins which are used for setting the tab stops.

There are shift keys on both the left and right as well as shift locks on both sides as well. The machine has a segment shift to decrease finger fatigue. It’s not as light as some of my Royals or Smith-Coronas, but it may improve a bit with some cleaning.

The All-New has the traditional Remington portable auto-reverse ribbon switches from the mid-century in addition to a manual switch on the front left side between the hood and the keyboard. Opposite this is the traditional blue/white/red switch for the bichrome and stencil settings. A labeled (1, 2, 3) variable touch setting lever is also to be found on the right side of the keyboard. It seems to be attached properly and functioning on my machine.

The ribbon cover/hood is hinged on both sides near the carriage and has a clever gravity-based set of hooks which limits how far it opens to prevent it crashing into the carriage. I think it’s a better design than the later method on my 1957 Quiet-Riter which I don’t like as well.

Missing from this model, but available on later Remingtons is a paper guide for more easily inserting and aligning paper.

Case

This machine came with a wooden case covered with yellow and brown striped fabric. Sadly it’s fairly stained and the fabric is beginning to peel off of the bottom of the case. Given the stained condition of the fabric, this may be a good candidate for removing the fabric and replacing it. I’ve not done this sort of restoration before, so it may make an interesting experiment. Before doing that, I might try an experiment to see if I can steam clean it, particularly since the peeling parts are generally intact and I might be able to glue them back down. The original fabric does have a nice “dapper” feeling

The interior green fabric is heavily worn and has a few places which are completely worn through.

The back of the bottom of the case has two metal tabs into which the typewriter fits and there are two metal lever locks at the front of the case. All of these seem to be in proper working order.

The external fittings seem to be in pretty good shape considering their age. Alas, as ever seems to be my lot in life, there was no key to the case’s lock.

Based on other examples of the cases I’ve seen in the Typewriter Database, there was a prior variation of the case which had a press button, but the design was such that it generally scratched up the front metal bar of the machine just in front of the spacebar. Apparently that wasn’t the best design in the long run. It bears noting that the size and general design of my particular 1950 case is almost exactly that of my 1957 Remington Quiet-Riter, so obviously the change in form factor was deemed more desirable from a use and engineering perspective. The change was also solid enough that Remington continued it for nearly a decade.

A yellow water-stained typewriter case with a black bakelite handle

Angle down on the bottom and sides of a Remington All-New water-stained typewriter case with the fabric starting to peel off the bottom of the case.

Opened typewriter case with a green interior. Sitting inside it is a rounded Remington All-New typewriter in gunmetal gray with dark gray keys. The two are sitting on a rustic wooden dining room table with a library card catalog just visible in the background.

Close up of the metal clamp fitting that locks the Remington All-New typewriter into its case.

Side view of Remington All-New typewriter sitting in a case with a green interior. The profile accentuates the curved nature of the typewriter's hood.

Close up of the stained and aged green interior of a 1949 typewriter case.

Typeface Sample

This machine has a pica typeface with 10 characters per inch. The machine has a bichrome switch as well as a stencil setting. It bears noting that the % and ¢ on this machine are simply divine. They make me want to do more calculations on the percentage of small change.

Typed sample on a yellow library card index-style 3x5 inch index card with red lines which reads 1950 Feb Serial number: 1997444 Remington All-New Portable Pica typeface, 10 CPI, bichrome, US keyboard 234567890- qwertyuiop asdfghjkl;¢ zxcvbnm,./ "#$%&'()* QWERTYUIOP ASDFGHJKL:@ ZXCVBNM,.? the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Sound

Here’s a sound sample of inserting a sheet of paper, aligning it writing a sentence, the bell, and a return on the 1950 Remington All-New:

Photo Gallery

Most of the photos on this page are “before” photos, so please “pardon the dust” and grime.

Opened typewriter case with a green interior. Sitting inside it is a rounded Remington All-New typewriter in gunmetal gray with dark gray keys. The two are sitting on a rustic wooden dining room table with a library card catalog just visible in the background.

Close cropped photo of a gunmetal gray Remington All-New typewriter with its dark gray keys

Close up of the hood and carriage of a Remington All-New typewriter. Crisp Remington logo is featured on the hood.

View into the right side of the carriage of a Remington All-New typewriter. The carriage is pushed to the left providing a view of both the gray platen knob and down into the typewriter's body where one can see the bell

Angle down on a Remington All-New typewriter with the ribbon cover open to feature the typebasket and ribbon cups. The carriage is shifted to the far left.

Angle from the front left down onto a gunmetal gray Remington All-New typewriter

View from the left rear corner of a Remington All-New typewriter looking at the return lever, the black platen and a peek into the typebasket with the ribbon cover/hood closed.

Angle down onto the rear of a Remington All-New typewriter with a shadowed view into the typebasket and the typeface.

Straight on view of the rear of a Remington All-New typewriter. On the bottom half is a logo that reads Remington Rand Inc. Patented in the US and Foreign Countries Made in the U.S.A. At the bottom of the machine are two open metal slots on opposite sides into which metal tabs on the case would be used to stabilize the machine for carrying.

A view of a Remington All-New typewriter from the right rear corner. The carriage has a dark gray knob and metal side cover which contrasts with the lighter gunmetal gray body paint.

View of the bottom of a Remington All-New typewriter. We see the bottom of the keys and the many dozens of thin metal bars connecting the keys to the typebars. At the bottom is a metal plate with a variety of adjustment screws for properly aligning the typewriter. We can just make out the round shape of the bell at the bottom of the machine. There are four rectangular rubber feet at the corners of the unit.