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, 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?

Collective Nouns for Typewriters and Typists

The traditional collective noun for a group of typists is a “pool”, but this just doesn’t seem as creative or entertaining as many collective nouns can potentially be. As a typewriter collector it would be more fun to have a clever collective noun for a group of typists at a type-in. Similarly it would be nice to have a name for a collection of typewriters themselves. 

So toward this end I thought I’d brainstorm for a moment to make a few lists of potential ideas for both. If you’ve got ideas, please add them to the comments. There’s no need to try to come up with an “official” collective noun as use in daily life, writing, and throughout the typosphere will ultimately determine a winner through actual usage. Some words are double-listed as they could refer to either.

What do you call your collection?

Potential Collective Nouns for Typewriters

  • Radiance
  • Tabulation
  • Segment (no one’s every done collecting, are they?)
  • Sheaf
  • Clatter
  • Flourish
  • Sounder
  • Chatter
  • Ream
  • Basket
  • Font
  • Aureole (for the Smith-Corona enthusiasts)
  • Roost (especially when stored and displayed on shelves)
  • Parenthesis
  • Return 

Potential Collective Nouns for Typists

  • Pool (traditional)
  • Claque
  • Vibration
  • Riot
  • Mayhem
  • Commotion
  • Symphony
  • Exclamation
  • Shift
  • Chattering
  • Touch
  • Drumming
  • Sonority
  • Tumult
  • Thriving
  • Applause
  • Manual
  • Carriage
  • Clatter

What could we be? Are we a vibration of typists? Maybe we’re a thriving of typists? A Touch of Typewriter Collectors? Please add your ideas to the list below…

Bulk Order of Typewriter Ribbon from Baco Ribbon & Supply Co.

Having surpassed the 10 typewriter mark in my collection, I felt it was time to invest in some more serious typewriter ribbon for the “fleet”. There are some purveyors charging in the range of $10-20 for typewriter ribbon (and yes! people do still sell and buy typewriter ribbon!)  I’m pretty sure by buying from closer to the source that I could drop the price down significantly and potentially save the money toward repairs, new platens, or even other machines. 

Naturally the first stop was Richard Polt’s site, where he lists a handful of purveyors. I’ve heard good things in general about Baco both from Richard and Joe Van Cleave as well as others in the past few months, so I took the plunge and ordered a full reel of 660 yards of nylon black/red typewriter ribbon for $65. It should keep all my machines inked for quite a while. 

Given that the typical standard/universal spool will accommodate 16 yards, this should be 41.25 spools. This also brings the price down to a far more economical $1.60 per spool versus the much higher level others are charging, particularly since I generally self-wind my own ribbon onto original metal spools and don’t need the additional plastic waste. It also has the added benefit of supporting the efforts of Charlene Oesch until she decides to retire. 

If you’re in the market, here are the basic details to call and place an order (she specifically doesn’t have and doesn’t want a website), but she’s definitely still in business, carrying on in the tradition of her father since at least 1949:

Baco Ribbon & Supply Co.
Charlene Oesch

1521 Carman Road
Ballwin, MO  63021 United States
+1 (314) 835-9300
+1 (536) 394-5475 (fax)


Baco takes both credit card and PayPal and ships within about a day via USPS in the United States. 

Current offerings/pricing (subject to change):

  • 660 yards (full reel) of nylon ribbon in black or black/red for $65
  • 330 yards (half reel) of nylon ribbon in black or black/red for $45
  • 550 yards of silk ribbon in black or black/red for $220
  • 295 yards of cotton in black or black/red for $75

With some lead time, she can do other colors if necessary, though she typically doesn’t keep those in stock all the time according to our conversation today. She has the option to pretty easily do blue, green, and purple in single colored reels. 

I could be in for some blue/green or purple/green ribbon, which I imagine she could pull off if anyone wanted to go in on a reel or so to make it worth the time and effort to set it up. Let me know if you’re interested. Similarly if someone wanted to split an order for silk, I could be game for that too. 

Have you tried other manufacturers? Who is your favorite bulk ribbon supplier? 

Now I’m off to find some grommets and a custom pair of pliers for them…

Yellowed catalog page with photos of 5 portable typewriters labeled A-E with blocks of corresponding text below to describe them all and provide their list prices. The headline over the description reads: PORTABLE TYPEWRITERS.. NEW post-war models

Digging into some typewriter pricing history, I found a copy of the 1949 Sears Spring/Summer Catalog, which lists a version of my 1949 Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter (Sears SKU: 3 NM 4584T with Pica Type) for $95.08 on page 285. 

Converting 1949 dollars to 2024 using an inflation calculator indicates this is now worth $1,247.75. Considering that I got it for less than the original sale price in 2024 (including shipping) and that it works as well now as it did then, I feel like I got a pretty solid deal.

For comparison the competing portable models in the catalog included:

  • Royal Arrow $84.48
  • Smith-Corona Clipper $84.27
  • Smith-Corona Sterling $89.57
  • Remington Portable $84.27
  • Remington Portable with Tabulator $89.57
  • Underwood Leader $63.40

They also listed the Tower, a standard size desk typewriter, for $99.00 saying it was just a few dollars more than the portables.

For further comparison, the prior year, the 1948 Smith-Corona Clipper, a model of which I also own, was listed for $76.85. Adjusted for inflation this would be $995.96.